'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
SHOULD ELDERLY DRIVERS BE RE-TESTED?
Approximately every other day there is a story in the morning paper about a driver who lost control of his car and crashed. Sometimes these accidents occur on a desolate stretch of a state highway late at night, with the car careening off the roadway and smashing into guardrails or trees. Usually the driver of the vehicle is young—and very drunk.
Sometimes these accidents occur in a crowded parking lot in broad daylight, with the car careening over a sidewalk and smashing into the lobby of a beauty salon or a convenience store. Usually the driver of the vehicle is elderly—and very insistent that there is something drastically wrong with his car (besides the fact that it is now parked on top of some shelves in Aisle 5). Specifically, the problem with the car is that it wasn’t smart enough to realize when the driver stomped down on the gas pedal he really wanted to stop. Dumb car.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to bad-mouth elderly drivers. And I’m certainly not calling for driver’s license restrictions or periodic testing at the Department of Motor Vehicles. That’s all we need over there, longer lines of people waiting to be tested. (As is it now, when 16-year-olds go to the DMV to take the test and get their driver’s license, by the time they’re finally done, they’re often eligible to join AARP.)
Besides, even if I were calling for elderly drivers to be re-tested—which I’m not—it will never happen. Since senior citizens are the only people who vote nowadays, there’s about as much chance that politicians will pass tough senior driving laws as there is that they’ll pass a law requiring 25-year-old waitresses to pay for 70-year-old millionaires’ prescription drugs. (Oh wait a minute, they’re already doing that one.)
The main reason I’m not calling for elderly drivers to be re-tested is because I’m related to some elderly drivers. They may not be able to see the road anymore, but they can still read the paper. And if they read a column by me calling for elderly testing, I’ll be written out the will so fast it’ll make your head spin.
Also, I’m refraining from bad-mouthing senior citizen drivers because I plan to be one someday. And I think that day is going to arrive a lot sooner than I once thought because the passage of time seems to have accelerated. I went from my mid-twenties to my mid-forties in what felt like no more than five years. (Wow, I just went from my mid-forties to my late-forties while typing this sentence.) At this rate I should hit my late-sixties in, oh, about 20 minutes.
I can just imagine it now: on the day I turn 70, a new senior driver testing law finally goes into effect, a law inspired in large part by the brilliant and persuasive column I wrote over 20 years earlier. (Hey, I said I was imagining. If I’m making it up, I can at least pretend I’m brilliant and persuasive, right?) And in honor of being one of the leading voices calling for this new law, I get to be the first one to take the test—which I proceed to flunk miserably when I mistake Aisle 5 in a Dairy Mart for a parking space, and promptly have my license revoked.
So, in case you didn’t catch it earlier (especially you, Mom and Dad), I am NOT calling for a law to test the driving skills of senior citizens. Instead, I am calling for legislation which is much more practical and which will be much easier to pass: a law requiring auto manufacturers to produce only inflatable cars with a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour.
We won’t be able to get around quickly anymore, but at least there will be no more car crash stories in the newspaper every other day. And best of all, I won’t be written out of the will.
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