Driving Stories

© Stella Kalaw

Backing out of the parking space seemed to be the easiest thing to do since I own a manual transmission car in the Bay Area. I mean, how complicated could it be, right? My first instinct was to press down on the stick and then shift to R. The car jolted forward. I did this several times. No luck. I could feel the sweat forming down my back. I took a deep breath."No worries. Just take your time," my sister assured me. I paused and tried to think. The only analogy I could come up with was the difference between racking a Canon vs. a Nikon zoom lens. Pull the lens barrel towards you with a Canon to zoom in while Nikon does the opposite thing. Could this analogy translate to my dilemma? So, I pulled the stick shift and moved it to R. Voila! Problem solved.
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At St. Paul De Vence, I got stuck exiting a parking garage. When I drove out, I stared at the ticket machine trying to figure out where to stick my credit card but there was only one slot which I assumed only took the paid ticket. Luckily, there were two lanes so I was able to leave my car in one while other patrons could pass in the other. I ran to what looked like the parking office. I cupped both hands and peered through them into the window. I saw an older gentleman at his desk. I walked in the door. "Excusez moi, Monsieur..." He looked up. I showed him the ticket and a euro bill. "C'est automatique..!" He replied. I turned my palms up and shrugged my shoulders. He pointed at the exit and I knew the building had a few floors. I signaled with my hands.. 1, 2 or 3? He signed back with 1. "Merci." I said. I turned the corner, located an elevator, and searched for the ticket machine to pay. I felt like I was competing in the Amazing Race trying to find the next clue except Phil, the host, would not be standing at the exit to inform me that I won a trip. Once I was done paying, I raced back to the car, took a few seconds to catch my breath, then inserted the ticket in the slot. Ah, freedom!
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I stopped at an automatic toll booth to pay for my ticket heading back to Cannes. I reached inside my pocket for the coins that I previously counted before I left Vence and dropped them in the (very large) basket. The barrier did not go up. I looked at the machine and it told me I lacked .10 euros. A line of cars was starting to form behind me. I reached again inside my pocket and felt the missing coin. I threw it in haste and missed. Oh, s**t! I could not believe it! I saw it bounce and heard it land on the road. I scrambled to find more coins. After a few minutes which felt like an hour, a lady wearing an orange vest approached me. "Bonjour, Madame." she said. I was able to produce (2) .5 euros to show her but the machine would not take anything less than .10 euros. She smiled and exchanged them for me. She dropped the coin in the basket."Ahh, merci, Madame!" I said and pressed hard on the gas pedal.