On the streets of Old Town, an exotic, mysterious and even frightening ritual still survives. It is known only to the inhabitants, but they sometimes will share their secret with a novice newcomer, when the need is great enough. Recently I was initiated into this strange tradition. As valuable as it might have been in enhancing my professional performance, I hope never to try it again.

True, I had become fairly adept in my youth at this obsolete art. But when the shocking requirement faced me more recently, I fell into a panic and was forced to beg relief. Fortunately it was provided, by one of those people who seem to know everything about their own communities. I refer, of course, to Realtors, who have even mastered the mystery of parallel parking in Old Town.

I was there on Royal Street to tour a house listed for sale with Susan Gray Chambers, an especially charming member of this delightful tribe. I walked for blocks looking for a parking place.The home had its own three assigned spaces, of course, but the owners had already taken them.

My appeals at first seemed to have been answered, when I found an empty space at the front of the row, only to hear a bus driver honking furiously at me to move on before I could enter the area. At this point, in sheer desperation, I headed for a public parking garage, only to find that these spaces too were filled.

At last, however, I returned to the site to see fortune smiling down at me. So did Ms. Chambers, as she waited in front of the luxury townhouse. I wanted too, near the middle of the street, awaiting further instructions. At first, she motioned me to turn the rear wheels a LITTLE more to the left, tactfully declining to mention that I would have had plenty of room to park anything smaller than the Starship Enterprise, especially with my sub-sub-compact Scion.

No luck: I wound up striking the rear curb again, while giving thanks that it had not been the front fender behind me and that would, in fact, have surely turned out to belong to the Chief of Police. After one more try, I threw in the towel completely. Could she PLEASE park the car, I begged, since it had probably been a year since I had even tried to store a car in anyplace but a parking lot or garage?

With a Realtors proverbially pleasant manner, she happily obligedwhile presumably trying to hide the fact that I might as well have been asking her to zip my quilted coat up for me. (In fact, a fellow crafts-story customer really did offer to do that once, explaining that she had gained the experience as a kindergarten teacher, but that is another shameful story for another day). I, in turn, promised to practice my parallel parkingwhile always listening for that fatal crash of glass.
The house we were visiting more than made up for the sheer trauma of trying to park in front of it. Since it was a historical home, though, I could not keep myself from wondring if it would have been any simpler to parallel park a horse. At least the cars dont bite each other. Usually.