Monday, December 05, 2011
The weekend's headline
The magnitude of what happened cannot be overstated. It started with a fenderbender, an ordinary fenderbender, really, if the driver in question hadn't been 92 years old. He was minding his own business down Main Street when he sideswiped a truck and ripped out much of the plastic side of his '92 Olds, left it naked as his First Parents, no available leaves to hide the sin. The Olds ran, but it looked perfectly awful. Do people buy new cars at 92?
Ten days later, after nine sleepless nights, he drove home a new (used) 2000 Ford Explorer, 120,000 miles on her, his first new (used) car in years.
Now a new gallery of dashboard bells and whistles made that Explorer seem to him like the NASA Challenger, so he studied the handbook to make he understood every switch until, without knowing it, he hit the alarm button on the keys. The Explorer went suddenly berserk--lights flashing, horn honking, right there in the garage of the old folks home where he lives. He was sure the whole place was going livid, but he had no clue how the madness started or, five minutes later, why it ended. It just did.
Later, totally frazzled, he went out to garage once more, just to make sure that new Explorer was bedded down peacefully, and not kicking up such a horrible fuss again.
All of that meant yet another sleepless night.
For a couple days he just stayed away, kept his distance, as if that new white SUV had a dangerous mind of its own.
A letter arrived. That traffic ticket made some government official wonder about his driving abilities and ask questions that could be answered simply by his passing the standard driving tests--written and road. Come in on Friday, the letter commanded.
More sleepless nights. "There are mountains and molehills," he was quoted as saying,"but when you're 92 there aren't any more molehills." Should he just throw in the keys and quit driving, thereby sentencing himself even greater isolation? Self-reliance is, after all, a great American principle. All his old folks buddies shook their heads in sadness--no one wanted to give up their wheels, but all of them knew they'd have to sometime, if the grave didn't get them first. What to do? What to do?
His son-in-law thought he should take the test but told him I didn't think he'd have much of a chance. After all, at 92, he'd never taken a drivers test, bought his first licence from the county court house for a couple of bucks. He'd never gone to high school, which meant the man had never really taken a test since the Depression, except for one day in 1942 when some First Lieu-y determined this Iowa farm boy was a real catch for the Army motor pool. Look, I'll be honest--I didn't think he had a ghost of a chance. He'd never used a keyboard, never filled in a balloon with a #2 pencil. How on earth was he going to pass? No way.
More angst. Should he even try? Maybe it was time to read the handwriting on the wall and just quit driving, rather than go through the humiliation. He asked a friend of his, a retired cop, who told him simply to give it up, new Explorer or no new Explorer.
We honestly didn't know what he'd do or what to advise him.
He went in on Friday as told, called first to tell us he was going to take the test. He'd been studying that drivers book, and he figured he take his best shot. I would have bet most of what's down here in the basement against him.
By mid-afternoon, he called again. He was perfectly legal. He'd passed. Everything. Flying colors. Both tests--written and road. I'm not making this up.
Just one question wrong--in that whole test, he had just one question wrong! I couldn't have done that if I were locked in the courthouse alone with the answer book.
My father-in-law is legal. He can drive. Like I said, the magnitude of this weekend's events cannot be overstated. He passed. He had only one wrong.
"Now I can read something else for once," he said, when he told us.
Yes, you can, Dad. Yes, you can. Besides, check out the garage--you got a brand new used Explorer. Just don't hit that red button.
It's a story for the ages.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 5:13 AM