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The One Where You See I’m Not Exaggerating My Driving/Parking Anxieties

I had a dinner meeting last night at a restaurant I’d never been to in a part of town I’m not familiar with. I knew Donnie knew where the place was so I asked him. He was able to easily tell me where it was as it related to a job I used to have, and that’s all any normal person would need to know. But me? I had a follow-up:

Okay. But I need to know the best way to get there without taking a left onto, or off of, University.

He told me the easy path 99% of Huntsvillians would have taken to also avoid that situation.

Eh. But then I have that scary merge situation. I think I’ll go around Research park and take a right at a light instead.

So. When you’re telling me how to get somewhere, my ideal route has the following characteristics:

  • NO merging during any – even moderate – traffic level. I’m good at merging before 7am or after 8pm. Other than that? NO MERGING.
  • NO left-hand turns without a green arrow. And don’t give me one of those intersections where it’s SOMETIMES a green arrow but OTHER times “yield on green”. Nope. Green arrow or RED. Those are my options.
  • NO right-hand turns onto 4-lane highways without a light during the aforementioned traffic times.

Obviously, if you’re crossing town, finding a route with those characteristics is impossible. But I come as close as it IS possible. I didn’t take the interstate last night. I only stayed on the controlled access highway until I knew I’d have a mild-traffic level merge OFF of the highway. Then I took a regular road with tons of lights (I do not mind lights! They are my friend!) all the way across town where I weaved through our research park to come out on the correct side of the big highway to turn right (at a light) on the road that would allow me THEN to turn right into the restaurant.

It took me 45 minutes. It would have taken Donnie closer to 30. Of course, I always allow for those kind of time differences to give me peace of mind. I actually would have even gotten there earlier but the restaurant light wasn’t on so I didn’t know for sure I was in the right place until I pulled up a map.

BUT! It doesn’t stop there.

My anxieties about driving to unfamiliar places have also increased recently. One of my friends who lives in South Carolina was in a bad car accident a few weeks ago, and it has really made me conscious of the need to drive safely. The last time we spoke, she was in the process of contacting personal injury Attorney Bert Louthian, as she is convinced that the crash was not her fault. I hope that she can find some kind of resolution, as it must be a very difficult position to be in.

My driving anxiety is actually so bad, that I dread the idea of going on a long drive. The very thought of driving more than an hour just terrifies me. If I can avoid it, then I will. I would much rather I get someone else to do the long drive for me. I’ll ask my friends or family if I have to. If no one is available though, then maybe I should just consider using a car shipping company like Cars Relo (click here to see their website). That would be really helpful if I needed to get to somewhere far away and I needed my car if I was in that area. I don’t mind short drives, so if I was planning on taking my car on holiday with me, then using a car shipping company to get my car there, would be an ideal situation.

As for my own driving habits, I also need to know about the parking situation. First and foremost? Is there enough parking that I can find a spot in the back where I can pull through? If it’s one of those alternating lanes/alternating directions/slanted-spot lots? Then I need to know it will be empty enough that I can feel safe in the back, getting in and out of my spot. The shopping center where E used to work had that type of lot AND it had tons of restaurants so it would get SLAMMED at meal time, so I avoided it like the plague. Even if he desperately needed something from me, I would wait until a non-peak time.

If it’s a parking lot that is often full and there’s not a way to pull-through? I’ll probably find a nearby lot and walk. Seriously. I did that meeting someone for lunch once. Donnie told me where the place was, I kind knew and felt confident the parking lot would be my nightmare. BUT! I also knew it was adjacent to a craft store in a bigger shopping center with GREAT parking so I parked there…AND WALKED TO LUNCH.

You have no idea how many times I park SO FAR away from my destination, just so I can avoid a high-stress parking situation. But then? I enjoy a peaceful walk!

I know this all seems CRAZY. But the truth is? It is following these type of protocols that give me peace. I avoid situations where I have to make judgements based on OTHER people’s driving patterns. I don’t have to turn left with the fear that the person coming at me might be speeding and therefore will get to me before I cross the intersection. I don’t have to merge assuming someone is going to let me in when instead they might prefer running me off the road. I don’t have to try to back my big van out of a lot so full that I can’t see if anyone is coming. I actually have several regular parking lots I visit that I’ll back into if it’s not crowded, just so I can pul forward when I leave. I do this at the kid’s school because the parking lots are empty when I get there, but full when I leave.

All of these criteria seem stressful, but they actually help me avoid stress. I didn’t get worried at all driving across town last night. No high-stress turns or merges. The 45-minute drive and stopping at 20 traffic lights? That doesn’t stress me out at all like it does my husband.

And when I got there and saw they had plenty of pull-through parking? I was the happiest camper in all the lands.

9 thoughts on “The One Where You See I’m Not Exaggerating My Driving/Parking Anxieties”

  1. I don’t have any driving anxiety (yet! that I know of!), but, I do not enjoy parking. Finding a “pull through” ranks up there with finding some Hershey Kisses you thought you had already eaten. My new minivan (Honda) has a backup camera. While I don’t rely on it entirely, it has made getting in and out of parking lots much easier (although it didn’t stop me from backing into our massive garbage can two weeks after we bought the car…).

  2. I’ve been reading your blog since the early days. As a measure of how long, I remember reading about your left turning anxiety. I was at my boyfriend’s house and said “SEE! I’m not the only one!” We broke up in 2005.

  3. I had a wreck when I was 16 because I turned left in front of someone at an intersection. It was completely my fault; I didn’t have the green arrow. I was following my mom to take her boss’s car somewhere and I was trying to stay with her. I had never even heard of a ‘leading green,’ so when the police officer snarkily asked me if I had one I just said, “What?” Ever since then I have been afraid of making left turns, just like you. I went to college in one of the bigger cities in NC and I learned how to get every place I needed to go without making a single left turn. I can’t merge into traffic at all without freaking out either. So I understand what you are talking about.

  4. I hate pulling out of a parking lot and crossing multiple lanes of traffic to get in the correct lane. I will always try to find an exit or side street with a light so I can use it to get where I’m going. About 7-8 years ago I pulled out in front of someone and caused a major wreck. It was raining and I never saw them. I live in a rural area and don’t go to “the big city” much so I don’t have to worry about it so much.

  5. Wait a minute…(and I hope this doesn’t stress you out, but I’m asking for clarity) when you talk about “pull through” spots, are you then driving the wrong direction down an aisle when you pull through?

  6. You and I are SO alike in so many ways! I have lots of anxiety with driving and parking. My foot used to shake so badly when driving that I couldn’t keep it on the gas pedal! Thankfully it’s gotten better, but I still have lots of issues with merging and parking.

  7. No! Those are the slanted/one-way alternating row lots I HATE b/c you CANT pull through! I only pull through on the regular 2-way kinds.

    My Publix has the slanted 1-way slots but it’s empty in one section so I can park and still see clearly enough to not get stressed out backing out. Sometimes I can even just pull through to leave b/c I park so far away from the door no one is in those spots 🙂

  8. I had a wreck that was smaller than it could have been because I misjudged someone’s speed trying to turn left. That’s what has scarred me for life!

  9. Are you going to have a car when you visit Orlando? If so, you really, really (no, really) need to plan on Donnie doing ALL of the driving. I don’t think its possible to do what you described here. Even the parking – I consider the slanted/one-way alternating rows the “normal” parking lot. Thinking it through, I can think of places where we have the ones you consider normal, but then they are usually the old ones that have tiny spaces and too little capacity for the location.

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