“Oh shame, oh ignominy, oh shit.” These are the words of frequent commenter Lo, who is a kick in the pants, on the eve of her 84th birthday. It isn’t the birthday that bothers her. It’s that she has to take a driver’s license exam again. Several things come to mind. One, 84 isn’t what it used to be. For much of my life, 84 was old. I knew 84-year-olds. They said “oh dear,” and “oh my,” and if they ever said “oh shit” it would trigger a fatal epizootic. My mother wouldn’t have said “oh shit” if she were on fire, but she never made it to 84, so maybe she had it in her, after all, but it hadn’t had a chance to ripen.
So I realized that Lo is not, in fact, of the same generation as the 84-year-olds of my youth. She is virtually my contemporary. Put another way, I’m old. There are differences. Lo is worried she might disgrace herself by failing the written exam, wherein you are expected to know things like how many feet before an intersection you need to put your blinker on. I used to know how many when I was sixteen, but it never meant anything to me. I could write “100 feet” like nobody’s business, but I didn’t have much of a feel for how far that really was. And now I just fling on the blinker to let people behind me know I’m pondering a move, and might slow down or speed up or slam on the brakes and crank it to the right at any time. Then I leave it blinking in case I might want to crank it again later.
They like to test old people for driver’s licenses more often because they tend to take a more ecumenical view of the driving terrain, making fewer distinctions between, for instance, the brake, the accelerator, the correct lane, the oncoming lane, the sidewalk, and the path to rapture. One’s just as good as another; some are louder.
Lo isn’t worried about her actual driving. That’s another difference. I am one shitty driver. I don’t know if my shitty driving is a sign of age, because it’s nothing new, but on the other hand I seem to be getting shittier. One of my problems is that while I’m driving somewhere, my mind is on an entirely different road trip. This leads me to spring out of my car with my hiking boots and binoculars only to discover I’m in the parking lot at Costco. I like to think that my problem is I have a more developed right-brain than most, and other people like to suggest that my problem might have a pharmaceutical solution. I’ve got a good sense of direction, modified by a bad sense of attention, so I’ve had to learn coping skills. I can locate any address, but I can’t do it until I turn the radio down. Similarly, I can’t drive in the dark without Valium.
The fact is, the highways are filled with honeybees doing the waggle-dance and arrowing to their destinations; while I drive with a moth’s sensibility, my imagination providing the porchlights, adrift on a night-jasmine scent of confusion. If it’s true that what’s important is the journey and not the destination, I’m golden. I never get anywhere.
My reaction times are not a sign of age. They were always shitty. My strategy of being in poor shape at age twenty has served me well in that I rarely have cause to mourn my own deterioration. I don’t drive much worse, either, although it used to take more alcohol to achieve the same degree of crappitude.
Beyond these limitations, there is the matter of my vision. It was never good, and when I was sixteen I got contact lenses that put galloping haloes on all oncoming headlights, so that it looked like Glinda the Good Witch was barreling down on me with her entire book group. Since then I have abandoned the contacts for glasses, but something has happened that has removed all objects from sight after sundown. Probably global warming. If it’s raining, the world disappears even earlier. Dave once followed me back from picking up my car at the dealer, at night during a terrific downpour, and he straddled as many protective lanes as possible in my wake, with flashers, flares, klaxons and a case of panic diarrhea, as I slalomed over the road. He was attempting to communicate “CAUTION: STUDENT MONKEY DRIVER AHEAD.” It was a major highway but as far as I could tell it had no stripes, no shoulders, and evidently no police presence. It takes a special kind of fearlessness to hurtle into the void at 55 miles per hour; mine is the terrified kind. At this point, if you invite me to dinner, you’re best off making it an early one, unless you want to feed me breakfast too.
On some of the better roads, they’ve installed bumps on the shoulders to let you know how close you are to dead. They’re there for folks who might have fallen asleep at the wheel, but I’ve found them helpful while I’m wide-eyed awake, to funnel me back into my lane. It might be time to hang up my license. Coping strategies for driving deficits are all fine and good, but Braille really shouldn’t be one of them.
Love it. And really, really love the word crapitude. May I borrow it? Often?
I don't like night-driving. And , since I live in the tropics, with torrential downpours and poor visibility most of the summer, this means I don't like driving for 5 months. (I escaped and went to New York last summer. That helped.)
My night vision has deteriorated a lot over the last decade. I don't drive at night. If I had the kind of life partner you do, who keeps an eye out for you in dire situations, I might consider it. Thank you for considering Valium a coping strategy for night driving!
That picture of you getting out of your car at Costco dressed for hiking made me laugh out loud.
oh, you are funny. And I just signed up for Lo's blog too.
I drive like that. Is 63 old? I am worried about passing a driver's exam because it would be in Ukrainian. I have no depth perception (the difference between a brown noser and a shit head) and cannot tell if the holes in the road are 1/2" deep or 8" deep. Baaaad in this part of the world.
to think that in my old age I've been trusting you.
Of course, I'm an excellent driver. Dad lets me drive slow on the driveway. But not on Monday. Definitely not on Monday.
By the way…love you AND Lo. Two of my weekly essentials. I'm as single-minded as Raymond about that.
I can relate to the whole shooting match: haloes (my graduated lenses do them in triplicate), everything disappearing after sunset, turning the radio off to think straight, all of it. God love ya, as the country folk say in these parts. I think when I get to the point of having to redo my driver's test, I'll just sell up, move into town, and walk. But in my heyday, I loved to drive. And in the daylight, I still do.
I had cataract surgery in both eyes a few years ago. I could read without glasses again for a couple of years and I rediscovered the blue spectrum, but I couldn't drive at night for those halos. More than any other of the insults of aging, that disability made me feel old.
Finally put it to my opthalmologist that my night blindness was a life-threatening issue he should bill insurance to fix. No coverage for halos, apparently, so he prescribed drops I should "try" when I was going to drive at night.
Since you share my problem, I'll bet you can tell me why I never bothered to fill the script.
Well, I laughed out loud before 10 a.m. A major accomplishment. I had no idea my deteriorated night vision was caused by global warming! The eye doctor tells me my halos around the street lights and oncoming headlights are caused by cataracts, which aren't yet bad enough to be fixed.
So, at night, I ask my husband to drive. He is 68 but apparently is immune from worsening eyesight. He can see oncoming traffic just fine. It's the curbs he runs over he has problems with.
I always say that the first thing I'd do if I won the lottery would be to sell my car, and hire someone to drive me everywhere. Too many people here inside the beltway now, and they don't know how to drive! I used to like it. Now I have to have to radio on in the background at all times for moral support! My night vision is still pretty good, but I have to wear shades during the day or I steer toward the big black floater that's been plaguing my right eye for almost a year now. Fun! Elaine
My mechanic turned the radio up in my car to fix that ping in my engine. If I turn the radio down to think in order to drive, does that mean my car is broken again?
Whew! This is the best argument for improved mass transit that I've heard in a while.
And that's why I don't drive. I'm actually making the world a safer place.
This is soooooo hilarious, and I can relate sooooo well! Luckily, I'm a small town gal, so my mothing around just means I have to drive around the one way streets a few more times and not, say, take out the whole of Portland on the freeway to Powells.
Oh,shit…….Murr…….you have honored me beyond belief by not only quoting me but by basing a whole blog on my driver's license agonies….and a superb one at that.
Thanks are not enough but that's all I've got.
And a gazillion more thanks for coming up with my favorite new word…"crappitude"…..a total winner. You are golden.
I, too am a horrible driver. Unfortunately I have the attention span of a flea on crack, always jumping from one thing to another. Sometimes I forget that I'm the one who's actually driving the car. That never ends well.
I could not have, and didn't, put it better myself, Carol. And Lo? The pleasure is all mine, especially since you said "Oh, shit, Murr." Don't tell my mom.
With a reaction time of about twelve minutes, I gave up driving some time ago for the safety of both me and the hundreds of drivers aroimd me.
After reading these comments, I think most of you should join me.
Wonderful essay, Murr, and I love Lo (wasn't that a 50s television show?).
Charlie loves Lo! Charlie loves Lo!
Good idea, Professor Worm. We should all get together and sit.
Your blog is, hands down, the funniest one I follow. You have a gift.
Oh, my dear… I'm streaming fluids here from nearly every orifice. This is hysterical. Probably because I relate to is so much. At night, I creep along at at 15mph because I can't judge distance worth a crap. Those headlights could be miles away or right on top of me. Your guess is as good as mine. Also, because I'm afraid I'll hit a critter. I just hate seeing dead critters in the road. So I try not to drive at night if at all possible. Fortunately, I live in the country where I don't encounter much traffic — but a whole lot of critters.
Maybe they should develop some special alert system to broadcast on the radio when you get in your car. It would be a public service.
I'm a Driver's Ed instructor for teens. Our instructor cars have to say "Student Driver"on them. However, I do think we should change it to Student Monkey Driver". I'll suggest this to my boss, thanks for the idea!
As my 16 year old nephew said to me one day, "Aunt Jayne, do you know you're breaking the law driving in flip-flops?" Seriously? I don't remember THAT on a driving test! And driving at night? I'm right there with you Murr… avoid it if at all possible. Night and rain… yep, bring on the Valium!
I wish my 85-year-old mother in law had to take a drivers test. She was always a bad driver, and is getting worse. On two lane roads she insists she can drive in the middle of the road if there is no dividing line down the middle.
When my mother moved to Oregon she had to take the written drivers test. She decided to answer the questions EXTRA safe; so like in multiple choice "What is the correct speed in a school zone – 25, 20 or 15mph?" She picked 15mph because it was EXTRA safe. Coming to a complete stop at a yellow blinking light; EXTRA safe. The problem was that anything other than the right answer on multiple choice is WRONG so she FLUNKED and had to take it again.
I just had to renew my drivers license this month. They wanted proof of my birth, proof of my SSN, proof of my address… they only thing they didn't ask for was a stool sample… which I would have given them, by the way! I had a vision test that lasted 4-seconds and I was done! I'm Hell on Wheels for another decade.
Girl, you are freakin' hilarious! Thanks for the visit and for alerting me to one of the funniest blogs out there!
When I moved to Washington, they made me take the driving test and I flunked. But the poor guy took one look at my valid Oregon license and said, "Guess there's nothing I can do to keep you from driving as long as you have this" and approved my license. I've been living a lie ever since.
But valium? The stuff turns me into Jabba the Hutt. No way do you want me driving on valium. I'd have better luck on Scotch.
Hi, Murr: sorry to have taken so long to return your visit to my blog. I'm a pretty good driver, though my daughter will no longer drive with me, for some reason. (My son and his family take their bicycles EVERYWHERE, so they don't drive with me, either.) Fortunately, I'm not old enough to have to take an annual drivers test.
Costco parking lot with binoculars and hiking boots? My kind of person!
Your blog is hilarious. I'll be back.
My grandmother got her first driver's license and a used Studebaker when I was about 12. Not known for her patience, she got a ticket within a week… for passing in an intersection. According to the report, she was going 5 MPH and the old lady she was speeding past was going 2 MPH.
Incidentally, she was not one to say, Oh Dear. One of her favorites was "Shit fire and save matches!"
A woman ahead of her time, I suppose.
Crappitude! You're my hero!
Those bumps on the shoulder? Here in Canada, they're divots in the pavement, and they actually serve double-duty. If you're on a long drive, you can intentionally drive over them for extended periods. This gives you a nice "vibrating chair" effect.
Note: Do not do this if I'm in the car. I will undoubtedly make inappropriate comments, noises, or faces. Or all of the above.
My very best friend taught me about 30 years ago the concept of parking by Braille. I haven't forgotten it.
"My strategy of being in poor shape at age twenty has served me well in that I rarely have cause to mourn my own deterioration."
I decided on this approach when I was about eight, and I learned it from my hero, George Burns. He was old all his life, so age had almost no grip on him. As a result, I am, at 58, as limber as I was as a teen, and my stamina is only slightly less then it was in my prime.
You can come my way any time, Murr–breakfast isn't a problem.
Now that little rumble strip that jiggles my fillings loose?