Friday, September 4, 2015

Coffee Brake: Folding ‘Em

This week's Coffee Brake is brought to you by By K2 Mystery Car who writes:

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

Kenny Rogers – “The Gambler”

If you’re like me, you’re dealing with or have dealt with the issue of aging parents and their increasingly questionable ability to drive safely; when to take the keys to their freedom away is a very tough question, especially if they’re being unrealistic and difficult about it.

For me, it started years ago. Mom never liked to drive and suffers from vertigo; driving for miles out of the way to avoid bridges was common and expected. Dad was always a defensive driver but when he started maintaining a speed significantly lower than the posted limit, things started to get really hairy. The danger of this behavior was illustrated to me one day; we were tooling along a city street (they also avoided freeways as much as possible, did I mention that?), me in the passenger seat, at half the posted 40 mile an hour limit.

A lifted truck with the exhaust poking skyward, belching fumes into the atmosphere from the bed came zooming up on his bumper. I could see it in the rearview mirror if I craned my neck but I didn’t need to because he began revving his motor, surging ever towards our bumper. This behavior went on for a moment or two, Dad completely oblivious to the yahoo behind him. Finally, I said to him, “Dad, there’s a dude on our bumper who seems quite anxious to pass us. Why don’t we just pull over and let him go by.”

He replied, “Oh no, we don’t need to. We’re not in any hurry.”

“I know that Dad, but he clearly is and I’m pretty sure a gun rack comes standard with that truck of his; plus a Confederate flag, apparently.”

“Fine; if that will make you happy. I don’t see the problem.”

As if on cue, the guy starting honking his horn and swerving like he was dodging a peace rally.
Dad pulled over but it obviously wasn’t fast enough for Mister Local Yokel; as soon as we were over he swerved in front of us and slammed on his brakes, his gigantic, compensating-for-who-knows-what phallic symbol of transportation fishtailing to a stop about 20 feet in front of us.

I’m not sure what he was expecting and it was clear that my Dad was a citizen of the senior variety but when he saw my ugly puss, he stopped screaming at us and climbed back into his truck and screeched away, his rear axle jumping like a schoolgirl at a Taylor Swift concert. He never stopped screaming obscenities.

That was 15 years ago and, unsurprisingly, things haven’t gotten any better. I’ve tried to stay out of it because it causes mucho friction and I don’t like being the bad guy even if it means saving lives. Actually, that’s not entirely true; I’m fine with that if it ends in a positive result but in this case it just caused a lot of ruckus and no resolution.

But I can’t help that every time we go over to the folks’ place, I notice even more damage to the car, clearly caused by poor driving skills.

One possibility would be to mandate a simple eye test and a 10-minute skill evaluation for all drivers over the age of 78. To alleviate even more strain on our DMV system, the eye exam could be administered by any participating eye doctor and the drivers who pass would obtain a certificate or coupon of some sort. It’s a thought; maybe the eye doctor lobby could get behind it.

Of course, all of this begs the question; are you ready to hang up the keys when the time comes? Have you thought about the possibility that your driving days may be over sometime in the future and what sort of plan do you have in place when that day arrives?

Let us know what you think!


  1. Another possibility....


  2. My plan is to get a self-driving car when they become affordable. This will likely be well before my driving ability drops to an unsafe level.

    1. Yeah, but then you have to worry about this happening.

    2. I have better things to do during my daily commute than minding the brake and tiller. Such as taking a nap, checking my email and pouring whiskey all over my naked body. (thanks Louis C.K.)

  3. Public transit if I don't die young enough to leave a good looking corpse.

    1. It's too bad much of the public transportation system is not geared towards the elderly.

    2. Depends on where you live - but yes, if it comes to that, there will be some relocation involved.

  4. Hate to say it, and it's quite selfish, but in trying to be realistic, I imagine I'll be like your Dad one day....I love's freedom....they can have my keys when they pry them out of my cold, dead hands!

    1. Unfortunately, I think many people would heartily agree with. The question is how many innocent people you might injure or kill in the process.

  5. K2, your pictures sure bring back memories regarding my Father, who had a stroke and was hellbent on driving after his recovery. My brothers and I talked to his primary physician, who agreed to ask the CA DMV to send him a "Request for Re-examination". When it arrived, he was pissed, but we told him that if he passed, no harm no foul. Of course he did not pass the examination. He did understand that he was at least given the opportunity to pass, and I think in someways was able to accept it a little easier later on. He passed away about two years later, but would, from time to time, ask us to take him back for another shot. It was sad, but I am so thankful that he wasn't in a situation to harm himself or others.

  6. I suppose I will continue living on dirt roads away from most of humanity (and culture I would also note). Then the trick is just keeping it between the borrow ditches and dodging most of the 4-legged critters. Failing eyesight, however, will make it harder and harder to avoid the black free-ranging steaks on legs that share the road at night in my parts. Perhaps a slower speed would be warranted....

  7. Personal anecdote here, related. My now departed grandfather was getting up there in the years. He had already worn out what he anticipated to be his "last car" (a 1981 Dodge Diplomat) and was in the market for something else. My father, his son, was offloading his '95 Thunderbird SC and long story short, my grandfather basically demanded that my dad sell it to him at $1 below low dealer trade-in (~$6000).

    So, my 73 year old grandfather with advanced Parkinson's disease, who frequently took his snowmobile on the interstate at 100+ mph when there was enough snow (and consequently ran from the state police so often that they stopped chasing him and just waited for him at home), was now in possession of a vehicle that in 1999 was still faster than most others on the road from the factory. Keep in mind that this was before you could buy a grandpa spec Camry that went 0-60 in 6 seconds.

    That Thunderbird was so hairy that my dad, probably the best driver I know (still), had his hands full in the rain. So I kind of expected my grandfather to pack it into a guardrail or tree at the first corner he encountered. Yet, every time we visited his house I was shocked to see that the vehicle was still in perfect condition, no dents, no dings, no nothing. Way to go grandpa, I thought to myself as he talked about the new blower pulley he had installed, the bigger injectors, the exhaust, the new intake, the fatter tires on the back...

    Then one day it was gone. My grandfather, now 75 with his Parkinson's worsening by the day (he passed away at 78), had this to say for it:

    "You know Ryan, as I was racing this kid down Route 1 the other day going well over 100, I realized that it probably time for me to hang it up... that maybe I'd injure someone, or myself because my reflexes just aren't that good anymore... so after I went hard on the brakes and let the kid pass me and run into the speed trap I knew was there just as you get into town at the bottom of the hill, I went to the police station and turned in my license and got rid of the Thunderbird."

    I thought to myself, "wow, what a selfless thing to do, sure makes easier on us, not having to have the 'give me your license' talk with him."

    Then my grandmother piped in, "why don't you tell him all of the story? they pulled you over too, took your license and impounded the car, THATS why you don't have your license or the car anymore... you're worse than a teenager, you know that?"

    My grandfather just smiled and rolled his eyes.

    1. Well told story and a good laugh for a Friday afternoon

    2. RyanM -- great story, sounds like your grandpa was the real deal. I hope to be half that cool when I hit 73.

    3. Thanks RyanM, as I enter the age of wisdom I really enjoyed that story.

  8. My Dad has always been one to let maintenance items lag, so in addition to getting older, his current car probably needs some front end work (he doesn't think it's a problem, but I could barely keep it between the lines if I was on or off the gas pedal at all). If his dad is any indication he'll probably stop driving about when he starts forgetting how to or all the cars stop running. Probably the latter given their condition.

  9. I will never make it to 78 ! My Granny who bought her first car @ 67 yo a VW Bug a 4 speed no less was all the above,
    car was stolen a few years down the line she bought a Datsun 1200 an auto this time she gave it to my sister, was shocked to see the car when she brought it back to another state the car had been hit on every corner and painted and repaired by Earl Schieb terrible @ best work.

  10. Some seniors are pretty good drivers not all the youth today or any body texting is a far more menace !


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