There are two times in life when a senior behind the wheel can put fear in the hearts of other drivers:
The first time is when you are a senior in high school – a time of life when your senses are keener and your reflexes faster than anybody else on Earth, but you are at your worst when it comes to judgment, attention span and avoiding the distractions of cellphones and sexy pedestrians.
The second time is when you become a gray senior driver, doomed to slower reflexes, weaker eyesight and unable to hear a cellphone ring even if you’re stupid enough to answer while driving. (Mind you, we elder seniors still notice the occasional sexy pedestrian but we are less likely to see them while peering through our cataracts.)
And so it was that my 73-year-old wife and I, at 75, spent the day in an AARP classroom brushing up on defensive driving and other common-sense rules of the road.
High school seniors eventually outgrow their shortcomings as drivers while we elders gradually become overripe in our skills. And if you live long enough, you enter a time when society expects you to hang it up and depend on public transit. But in much of this society, the response to that expectation is, “What public transit?”
The galling aspect of that neglect is that most people my age remember a time when trains and buses were widely available in communities large and small throughout the nation.
Many other nations provide a fully developed public transit system to this day. Italy, for instance. Some years ago, Sharon and I realized that we didn’t really need two cars. We both worked within walking distance of our jobs. So we rid ourselves of the expense of a second car. That freed up enough cash to buy us a couple of weeks in Italy every two or three years, including rustic hotel rooms, mounds of spaghetti, plenty of pizza and souvenir T-shirts with pictures of the tower of Pisa, the pope and Sofia Loren, of course.
So we call Italy our second car. That’s ironic because we have spent a total of seven months over the years visiting Italy and we have never rented an automobile. We don’t have to. You can easily go almost anywhere in that and many other countries without driving a car.
So why would a person want to drive himself on a highway occupied by Italian drivers hopped up on pizza if he can spend that time sitting in a bus or train watching the scenery pass by?
A modest resurrection of bus and train service has begun in this country in recent years. But that’s a sour subject because the senior citizen population is booming now – a population that includes people who really should be getting out from behind the wheel but who are still left high and dry without adequate transportation in much of the nation.
The greatest cause of auto mayhem is the slow pace of Congress, state legislatures and cities when it comes to providing seniors with an alternative to driving.
We all want the most feeble grandmas and grandpas to get out from behind the wheel, but if they do and they want a ride to the grocery store, the doctor or the city where there grandchildren live, they’re often out of luck.
If it comes to that for me one of these days, I’ll try to make it back to Italy from time to time where the only wheel in my hands will be a large round pizza that I will be parking in my senior pie hole.Bill Hall can be contacted at email@example.com or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501