My husband is the Sri Lankan equivalent of Jason Bourne. I’m serious, and I’m not just saying that because I have an unhealthy interest in Matt Damon. You can put my husband in any vehicle, of any size, in any city in the world, on any side of the road and he will immediately and effortlessly know how to start, drive, navigate and park said vehicle. The only other person I know who can do this is Jason Bourne, and may be James Bond (but I don’t really know James Bond).
Twelve years ago, the first time I drove with my husband, he took me to a cafe in Notting Hill and he casually reverse parallel parked his 1970’s fire-engine red Mercedes, with one hand and in one go. [Actually, it was his mother’s Mercedes but you never see Jason Bourne borrowing his mother’s car when he’s being chased by the CIA.]
At the time, I was ticking off a mental key competency matrix I have for the perfect mate. “Must be able to reverse parallel park” got a big tick. [Months later his mother showed me baby photos of my (future) husband and he got another big tick.]
My husband’s competence in this area, and my complete incompetence, was recently brought to light when we were test-driving 7-seater cars. The birth of Newborn had precipitated a radical reassessment of our infrastructure needs, including the inevitable purchase of a 7-seater.
The challenge for us was to find a 7-seater that was big enough to hold our family of six (including 2 baby seats and 2 booster seats), a pram and a grandparent; but small enough for me to actually drive without getting motion and altitude sickness.
We tried them all.
There were the SUVs – more stylish than armoured tanks but only slightly smaller. These are the black, shiny cars you see in Tom Clancy adaptations, and they are usually driven at high speed by the CIA, in convoys, through the streets of some war-torn backwater. They can also be seen on the mean streets of Primrose Hill, Notting Hill et al, driven by mummies on the school/soccer/ballet circuit. I was able to drive the SUV (after my husband gave me a hand climbing into it). However, I was not able to park the SUV. I’d have a better chance trying to reverse parallel park the Millenium Falcon in an asteroid belt.
At the other end of the size spectrum, we tried the station wagons. These cars were just big enough to hold our 4 children but all luggage and grandparents would have to go on the roof rack.
We finally settled on what is known as a “people mover”. My husband had terrified visions of piling the children into a Partridge Family-esque mini-bus but the people mover wasn’t quite as bad as that. His dreams about owning a Masserati have been postponed for his mid-life crisis, and now we all pile into a Citroen C4.
My husband drives it easily, and he could probably engage in a high-speed car chase with the CIA through the streets of Moscow in it. I still forget how to start it, stop it, find the indicator or control the rear windscreen wipers. However I can drive it, and, with rear vision guidance from all of the children in the backseats, I can actually park it.