Motormouth in the Midlands
Driving daze: When should your freedom end?
Time to let go
“Didja’ ever get one of them days
When nothin’ goes right from mornin’ till night
Didja’ ever get one of them days”
Elvis Presley immortalised those words on his Jailhouse Rock album in 1960 and if you were a teen or a twenty-something back then, that which follows could be aimed at you.
Do you ever get days when passengers in the car you’re driving grip the overhead grab handle with whitened knuckles, pray softly so only they can hear or grumble at you to “slow down,” or “be careful, for goodness’ sake?”
Do you ever have “oops” moments when the car you turned in front of, apparently with loads of room to spare, arrives with blaring horn a lot sooner than you anticipated? Have you ever sailed through an intersection without registering that the light is still red or that you missed a stop sign?
Didja’ ever miss the turnoff to home or briefly forget where the supermarket is? Do you suffer traffic fools badly? Ever had some rude pecker in the next lane hooting at you, then realising that you were drifting into his path? And what about the little scrapes and dents you cannot recall inflicting? These are just a few of the warning signs; signs that you’re becoming one of the doddering old fools that you cursed when Elvis was King.
For example do you creep like a tortoise at 40 km/h when everyone else is flowing along at 60 – or are you just being careful? It’s a matter of interpretation. Your viewpoint has taken a quantum shift since those heady days when you were bulletproof and your driving licence was printed on stiff cardboard with your photo stapled to it. Remember that? Oh dear, you’re in worse trouble than you thought.
Before your children stage the intervention that will see them appropriating your driving plastic, ripping your heart out and stealing your freedom, try a few of these:
Consciously take charge of your life by shutting off the autopilot. There’s a time to fret over the messes your children are making of their lives, or how Muriel was rude to you. There’s another time to realise that driving demands all your senses being finely tuned in to the task at hand. Look where you’re going; let that oncoming car go by before entering the main road; leave other road users, including pedestrians, enough space to do what they’re doing; be aware of what’s happening around you; look out for and obey, road signs and traffic signals; keep your eyes moving; watch all your mirrors; conduct a silent running commentary on what you will do if the kid playing alongside the road suddenly runs out in front of you or if that taxi shoots through the intersection rather than stopping.
Look after your eyes. The five-yearly traffic department check at licence renewal time isn’t nearly thorough enough. Have your eyes examined by a registered ophthalmologist, one who will test for latent eye diseases and defects and then recommend a course of corrective action. Cataract removal, laser surgery and lens replacements are now commonplace. And if your eye care professional supplies you with corrective eyewear, use it. Vanity can be a killer and at your age it’s inappropriate. No one, not even Muriel, will judge you for being sensible.
Keep as physically fit as you can. Gym and Aqua classes repay themselves many times over. Some medical aid schemes actually bribe you to go. Walking is cheap. Make your GP your friend. Ask him or her to look out for signs of approaching mental deterioration and suggest treatments.
This short article cannot cover all the variables and what-ifs, nor can it provide answers to every situation, but if it helps to delay the inevitable intervention a while longer it will have succeeded.
If you don’t win the showdown, there are still alternatives. Arm yourself with a support base or move closer to where you go regularly. Many retirement homes provide shuttle services. Taxi fares can work out cheaper than owning and maintaining your own car. Have you thought of ridesharing with that fitter person next door?
Owning a car and being able to drive it, when and where you like, represents your last shred of independence. What’s unacceptable is for it to be snatched away prematurely. But you also need to accept, eventually, that it has been a good run and might be time to let go. You don’t need “one of them days.”