Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Learning to act right (47)… Repetition revisited… a comforting failure??
Torrey Orton
Jan. 27, 2015

Learning to park, again


For five months I’ve been learning to park again! That’s on the back of 55 years’ experience on three continents in two modalities (left and right), and 5 months of rear video and audio assist. The new car was measured for fit with our off-street parking space, passing by about four inches greater width than its predecessor. Length about equal. The space in question is like an on-street parking space, but behind an automatic sliding gate parallel to the street and about 1 car’s width wide by two cars’ lengths long.


It’s that four inches I’ve been learning to command with quite intermittent success. Here’s the achievement standard: when I get the angle of entry correct and the closeness of passage bearably delicate (i.e. – failure to rub off door panel paint on the driver’s side gate post and front fender paint on its opposite number) a best of class single-go entry to the parking space with no back and fill moves will result. This I have managed about five times in these five months. The rest (almost one go a day) have been variations on two or three back-and-fills to be able to close the gate with me and the car inside it.


…but I’m not getting it right


Now I might have thought I would get this right, since I’ve always been a high performance parker, till now. And this is why I’m writing. I’m not getting it right but by chance almost. I’m not finding the right path and then repeating it, I’m just repeating the looking for it! Weird.


Why not trial and error the path, as any sensible person including me does when learning something new? Why not notice the front and rear markers for the right place to start the approach to the gate? Why not notice the point at which the turn to enter the gate has to begin to optimise the entry space for backing in?


I don’t know why not for all these except that I started trying to park here with the assumption that I would progressively get it right and that would include the implicit signals for the required moves. This assumption, in turn, involves an implicit assumption that the learning will occur without trying, so to speak, which is often enough true when an action has to be repeated, whether we learn it or not. This is not, therefore, a short term memory problem, which I have plenty of and reliably expect. For them there is a treatment: conscious repetition of the prospective memory item by doing it over a couple of times, or even better by writing it in the pocket notepad I always carry for such events.


This is a mistaken assumption problem supercharged by my resistance to the facts above – namely I keep getting it wrong way above what normal evidence-based practice should allow. I could say I’m enjoying the potluck approach I’m taking and the evidence for that is I don’t get irritated about messing it up. And so, I could say I should get irritated and there’s something wrong with me that I don’t. But I’m not irritated and any reader of my blog posts can tell when I’m irritated about something.


A comforting failure??


Maybe there’s something comforting in the repetition of my approach, which is wrong about 90% of the time on the above numbers? The comfort being the promise of a small challenge which has a high failure rate and low salience. Much less than an expected change of street lights when I’m close to the end of a cycle on a normal progress on a normal street. At those I get a small charge of disappointment that the fates of timing have corralled me again.


Not so the pathway to the safety of my home. I can say now that maybe this is a presence exercise undertaken without intent, but under the thumb of necessity, as the best are. Evidence in search of a theory is also a scientific process. Hmmm.



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