BATEMAN: Geezer Alert – They’re coming for your keys | Way of life
Be warned, fellow geezers: someone might be coming for your keys soon. Or at least for that electronic gadget that starts cars these days.
I know, because I went to get my mother’s keys. Or at least my brother did: she was 90 at the time and had no business driving.
“But I only drive to the grocery store and the hairdresser,” Betsy Bateman pleaded when Chip and I suggested she sell her Buick and give up her driver’s license. So we gave in. We shouldn’t have.
A few months later, mom missed a turn on her way to Safeway and found herself up on a median strip in Payson, a mountain town more than 80 miles from her Scottsdale home. She had no idea where she was.
The courteous Payson police didn’t even name her, and a tow truck driver took her home. But Chip told Mom that the cops ripped her license off for good. It was the long-awaited end to Betsy Bateman’s racing career.
The moral of this story? Don’t be my mother. In her final years of driving, she was a danger to herself and others. She should have stopped driving much sooner.
That said, I don’t want to give up my own license anytime soon. I have a GT Mustang and a 22 year old Toyota Tundra truck, which I love to drive. So I won’t return my keys. At least not today.
Without wheels, I could no longer live on Yankee Hill, my home for nearly half a century. I should find a place where the post office, grocery store, and pharmacy are within walking distance, bike ride, or at least Uber distance.
Or hope that by the time I die, electric cars will be so advanced and safe that I can hop in a Tesla, pull the blanket, fluff up the pillow, set my destination for Phoenix, and wake up in Scottsdale Stadium at time for a Giants Spring Training Game the next day.
But I don’t think that will happen. So I rationalize: “As I get older, I buy faster cars and drive them slower,” I pleaded, arguing that I’m a much more careful driver than I was 10 or 20 years ago.
But an offhand comment from a Sonora Ford mechanic got me thinking, “I heard a Mustang pull into traffic on Hwy 108 a few days ago and got boned,” a- he declared. “I thought it could have been you.”
“Me??“I reacted. “Why the hell would he think that? Do I usually have to go to the dealership for service? Am I laying rubber when pulling? Or is it just because I’m old?
It’s most likely the latter: I know my driving abilities aren’t what they used to be (although my judgment may be slightly better). I already have friends who don’t drive at night, and if I had the choice, I too would prefer not to.
I just hope I have the good sense to stop driving before I become a hazard to the road. If my kids say, “Dad, it’s time,” ideally I’ll listen, sell my car and truck, get off the hill, and settle into a much more confined reality.
At the same time, I know it will be a major and unconditional surrender of independence. Few of us want to raise that white flag. Instead, some of us will insist our adult children overreact and that, despite evidence to the contrary, we are still safe drivers.
A friend of mine actually cut the battery cables off her 93-year-old father’s car when he wouldn’t listen to reason. I don’t want to force my own kids to do it – at any age.
Instead, I believe the state should do this dirty work: DMVs nationwide should require people 75 and older to pass a road test every two years and revoke our licenses if we fail. This, at least to some extent, would help our grown children off the hook.
But understand this: only a of our 50 states requires geezers my age to take driving tests for license renewal: Illinois.
In fact, my mother had failed the Illinois driving test twice and decided not to take the third test. Instead, she applied for a license in Arizona suitable for the aged, where she had a winter home.
Grand Canyon State was fine with a driver over 90 on its roads and issued him a permit. Then she went to Payson.
Yes, California and many other states have anti-rat laws under which you can report potentially dangerous drivers and enforce DMV driving tests. But these snitches are often adult children, who once again find themselves in a lose-lose situation with their aging and grumpy parents.
So why not make driving tests mandatory across the country for drivers over 75? Maybe I’ll even ask for such a test when I walk into the Sonora DMV to renew my license – although state bureaucrats are unlikely to agree.
Yet these mandatory road tests and resulting non-renewals could make the roads safer for all of us. Even for us unlicensed geezers taking an Uber ride to the grocery store.
But we seniors are living longer and there are more and more of us. So we are a powerful lobby, and millions of us probably don’t want to take or even tolerate mandatory driving tests.
New Hampshire, like Illinois, used to require testing for people over 75. But his law was repealed – although reports showed it had reduced accidents involving older people. discrimination.”
So does this mean that not allowing 14 and 15 year olds to get licenses is also age discrimination?
Bottom line: Yes, I will be watching my own riding abilities carefully as I move into and into my 80s and then 90s.
But if I ever head to the Sonora Safeway and end up in Bridgeport, I’ll hand over my keys without arguing.
Next week: My petition for an exception to this rule.
The belated flirtation with motorcycles turns out to be fortunately brief
My mom called them “killer cycles.”
And my dad was clear: as long as he covered my tuition, Hondas, Suzukis, Kawasakis and, God help us, Harleys were absolutely off limits.
Instead, Dad promised he would buy cars for my brother and me when we enrolled in college. By then, he thought, we would be mature enough to take responsibility.
When Chip and I became freshmen, he realized we weren’t “mature enough” yet. Until we were, dad said we had to use our feet, or maybe bikes to get around campus.
Then I proved Dad right about this coming of age thing: With money hoarded from a summer job, I bought a Honda 160 Scrambler from a bike shop in Palo Alto, and I didn’t. I didn’t bother to tell the parents.
I had a lot of fun: I regularly rode a 160 on the Coast Range to Santa Cruz and San Gregorio on the weekends and used it to get to class from my off-campus digs.
But about a month later, the Palo Alto Honda store—for reasons still unexplained—sent a service receipt to my parents’ address in suburban Chicago. Something dirty and smelly then hit the fan.
By paternal order, I immediately sold the 160. But with the proceeds from the bike and some extra help from them, my aggrieved parents bought me a used 1963 VW Beetle for my off-campus ride.
Then I forgot about motorcycles until my late 50s – which is really not a good time to start riding. However, I first bought a Yamaha dirt bike, then a Kawasaki W650 (my favorite), and finally a Honda Shadow 1100 touring bike.
The Kawasaki handled like a dream and had tons of acceleration. Once I hit 100 while driving east on Hwy 4 outside of Farmington. But 650 wasn’t enough, so I bought the Shadow – with an engine almost twice as big.
Meanwhile, my aging parents cringed from afar, worried that their equally aging son was still far from reaching that elusive “sufficient maturity.”
Then, in my 60s, I got smart: I didn’t ride Hondas much, but I wrote more and more Democratic Union stories about geezers reliving their youth by getting back on Harleys and taking the road.
And by “hit the road” I mean literally: those old guys, with reflexes almost certainly not what they had been, were crashing and crashing hard. Death or serious injury was the price to pay for these unfortunate trips down memory lane.
It made me take a step back: I realized that I wasn’t riding my bike enough to practice well, but just enough to get into serious trouble. So I sold the bikes.
The guy who bought the highly sought after Kawasaki paid me in $100 bills. Which caused a brief adrenaline rush—and one that was nowhere as dangerous as speeding down Highway 4 at 100 on the bike I was unloading.
By then my dad had passed away, but mom was very happy that I had finally given up on the killing cycles.
Contact Chris Bateman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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