Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Quandry That Driving Presents

The light changed. All cars were stopped and the green shone steadily telling us that we were free to approach and make the turn onto the local highway. But the blue car in front had a driver who hesitated as he approached the road, swerving slightly and then stopping at the light. He looked left to see if all traffic had stopped. No question there was no oncoming traffic because we had already been waiting as he crawled up to the roadway.

Stopping again and craning his neck in a counterclockwise direction, he pulled himself up using the steering wheel as thought it were a bar. The seat was low, too low for him and no cushion provided the needed extra height. Slumping back again, he tortuously worked the steering wheel clockwise using a pushing motion from the left. It was all an exercise in will and indecisiveness that caused cars to bunch up behind him, eager to get through the intersection and on their way.

Horns blew as he swerved into the left passing lane and then regained his position in the right one--the very lane where the Saturday bike groups would be nudging each other for position. Regardless of the rules of the road, these bike warriors would spread their pack out, never riding single file, and dismiss the concerns of passing motorists.

The bikers would cruise through the red lights along the way and careen around almost blind curves in the pursuit of their exercise until one or two, on odd weekends, would be hit by a truck or a car. Occasionally, one would get a flat tire and retreat to the side of the road with a friend or two to initiate a repair. Sometimes the flat would cause a minor leg injury and this, too, would need attention.

Today, their danger lay in a smallish man with a nervous tic and a prevalence for indecisive driving. He would find it difficult to see the front fender of his car or the width of the lane and the side view mirror would not be his friend. A misstep on the two pedals at his feet could mean a labored roar of his tiny car as it lurched forward, forcing the vehicle behind to screech in a maneuver worthy of any Le Mans driver. It would be close but he would remain oblivious and continue on his intended path to the store. The goal was near and that was all that mattered.

Snaking along the roadway at well below the speed limit, the car again swerved and hit the curb as it lurched into the parking lot where the fast food chicken store was just opening their doors. The car slipped into an open spot, taking almost one and one-half spots in an entirely predictable manner.

This part of the journey was over. The path to the counter was clear and he shouted his order to the woman, never allowing that he was not the first in line. He was, after all, a regular customer and the others would have to wait.

It was the arrogance of old age or the entitlement for having lived a life of hard labor. Whatever it was, he wore social blinders and would never deign to remove them. After all, they served him well as did his thick glasses and bald pate. He wore them like armor and each drive, each purchase was another conquest.

His physician, mandated to report any driver who no longer had the requisite skills to be a safe navigator of a car, let him slip. Who was there to drive him if he were denied? How would he get to the stores? He was a widower and the physician's reluctance was further heightened by knowing that the car was his only access to things he needed physically and mentally.

The license was safe until the day he would, inadvertently, put his car into reverse and end up in someone's living room, sitting in a car that was no longer drivable. Then it would be over.