Parallel Universe

By Jack Newcombe

February 22, 2013 5 min read

The ABC television show "Lost" began with a plane crash and ended six years later as 13.5 million viewers watched the finale trying to decipher what had really taken place.

In the first episode (and in many subsequent flashbacks), a jumbo jet flying from Sydney to Los Angeles fell from the sky, crashing into what turned out to be a mysterious island.

For six seasons, the survivors of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 traveled through time, battled polar bears and even managed to move the island. The viewers of this hit show were treated to 121 episodes of character development, love, revenge, morality, mortality, forgiveness, fate, existentialism and the afterlife.

Specifically, throughout the final season, the show referenced what appeared to be an alternate reality, where the same characters were on different paths from the one the viewers were used to seeing. In this parallel universe, a con man would be a cop, someone with no children would be a divorced single father, and an unlucky lotto winner would meet the love of his life even though she died in an earlier episode.

The show provided as many questions as it did answers, which is exactly why so many people liked it. The popularity of "Lost" was a rebellion against the known.

Too much in life is predictable. We predict presidential elections. We have weather forecasts 10 days into the future. We can predict to the minute when planes traveling thousands of miles will land. We know whether a wide receiver has two feet in bounds with almost complete certainty.

What we do not know is why there were polar bears on a tropical island (Relax, hard-core "Lost" fans. I am aware of the show's "explanation."), and that's OK.

However, given the fact that we are able to predict and know so much, subsequently helping our lives run more efficiently, why aren't we able to get more people to learn how to parallel park?

It is more worthy of head scratching than the fact that a smoke monster lived on an island and killed people.

For those who live in rural areas where parking is not an issue and for the generally uninitiated, parallel parking is when cars park parallel to a curb -- or in a line one after the other. This seems easy with ample space to maneuver, but when there is a car in front and a car behind, it takes some skill to squeeze into the middle spot.

I have noticed that the ability to parallel park is not stressed so much as it should be.

To get a driver's license in California, you need to know the speed limit when approaching a railroad crossing (15 mph), but you do not need to know how to parallel park. That is arguably more difficult to understand than the explanation of the parallel universe in "Lost" (a quasi "purgatory" for the characters).

The difference is that "Lost" was a television show produced for the viewers' entertainment, which translated into weird stuff happening a lot of the time. On the other hand, knowing how to parallel park should not be afforded that same luxury of ambiguity. "Lost" was meant as an escape from everyday life and the known world. Unfortunately, people have that same attitude when it comes to knowing how to park.

This is not a rant against poor parkers, but rather a public service announcement. It is meant to help those who are less fortunate than those of us who take pride in being able to fit an SUV into a tight spot without love-tapping (gently hitting another car).

If you know how to parallel park, that's a good thing and something of which you should be proud. If you do not know how to parallel park, the first step is admitting you have a problem. The second step is doing something about it by learning how.

Just like riding a bike or surviving a plane crash, the only way to really learn anything is to do it. That said, the next few sentences should give you a head start.

The most important thing in parallel parking is confidence. Know that you can and will get into that spot. Once you've got your mind right, line up your mirrors with the car in front of you. Put your car in reverse, and move (slowly, slowly) straight back. Right before you're about halfway into the spot, start turning the wheel toward the curb. Right before the car gets so close to the curb that your wheels touch, that's when you cut it (dramatically turn the wheel in the opposite direction). At this point, you're either in the spot or you're not. Feel free to straighten out with some Austin Powers-like back-and-forth maneuvers until you're good to go.

Finally, don't be afraid to start over. Quitters never win, and winners never quit. If you took a bad line getting into the spot, pull out and line up the mirrors, and then give it another shot from the top. Who knows? Maybe your alternate self in a different universe is awesome at parallel parking.

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