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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Off the grid: What I wouldn’t give for a minivan

By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

I need to start this with an apology. You know that jerk who has been taking up two parking spots with an arrogant encroachment over the line, as if the giant vehicle deserves more breathing room? That’s me.

I have always considered myself rather a good driver. Yes, I sometimes roll stop signs and I tend to bump my cruise control up just past the speed limit.

And it’s true that there have been no survivors in my several traffic encounters with ungulates. But otherwise, I’ve a fairly clean record.

My bad parking habit is a mere anomaly in my vehicular history, I assure you.

It all started when I was flying down the highway with a car loaded with family, camping gear, a brown dog, three bikes and “Anne of Green Gables” ready on the stereo. Some unlucky man who rolls stop signs – even more than I – drove right out in front of us. Had it not been for my stiff cup of coffee and mountain biking reflexes, the poor dear would have become but a memory.

In an instant, my happy little Subaru world was smashed to oblivion. All airbags deployed. All humans and dogs in the cars survived with but minor bumps and scrapes. As an experienced trauma survivor, I adeptly mitigated the emotional turmoil by eating a bag of jalapeño cheesy poofs and drinking an entire bottle of wine for dinner that night while I mourned the loss of my car. For the record, I generally abstain from alcohol and cheesy poofs, and now I am not really sure why. Despite totaling my new car and watching my husband and children face an existential crisis, however brief, I felt pretty damn great that night.

The two haven’t made the self-care list like “hot tea” and “gratitude journaling,” though those only seem to fill me with a sense of self-righteousness. We loathe the gratitude journalers of the world even more than the bad parkers. And tea is just the sophisticated but soulless incarnate of a real beverage, like coffee.

Now that we have clearly established that none of this was my fault, let me further explain. Until my new car is ready (it is apparently lost somewhere on the railroad between Indiana and Idaho), I am forced to drive my husband’s truck.

I don’t know who designed trucks, but they are not made for squatty Norwegians. The optimal car for a Norwegian is a riding lawnmower. Maybe a go-cart if it has a Breathalyzer on the ignition (at least in my family).

The problem arises prior to driving. For me to place myself in the cab, I have to open the door and back up approximately 10 paces before launching a sprinter’s start, arms and legs flailing about, and managing enough momentum to catapult myself into the front seat.

I flop on the upholstery like a confused sea lion, grapple for anything I can – cup holders, seat belts – and drag my dangling legs in behind my convulsing body. Whatever fell out of my pockets along the way is left as a sacrifice to the parking lot gods.

Once I am in the truck, my forehead parallel to the middle of the odometer, I initiate a lengthy ritual of adjusting all settings ad infinitum. It begins by raising the seat as far as it goes, which only helps me see over most of the dashboard so I have a good view of the windshield wipers, not that I know which button operates them.

Whatever is in front of the truck still remains a mystery to me.

I have to move everything from the mirrors to the lumbar support before it makes sense to start the ignition. If I discover I’ve forgotten anything in the house, like my wallet, I don’t bother fetching it because getting out requires either the Jaws of Life or an inordinate amount of patience. I basically can kiss the windshield and there’s a steering wheel pinning my hips.

While there are surely pictures of my parking jobs all over the internet, I have surprisingly not yet been pulled over by the police for suspected underage driving. Every time I pull into a parking spot, I am inevitably sticking 4 feet out in one direction or the other, or placed neatly on top of someone’s choice landscaping.

People shake their heads at me as I begin to walk away, assuming my intention is to just leave the truck the way it is. They seem only slightly more compassionate when they watch me turn to get my running start and leap back into the seat for a second or third attempt that gets me mostly within the lines.

This is all karmic payback for the number of times I have disparaged the soccer mom van and her quaint bumper stickers. I am ready to make atonement by whatever means necessary, even stick figure families if that helps. In the meantime, keep posting pictures of my parking – they’ll serve as a warning to others.

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