I RECOGNIZE THE PASSAGE OF TIME can revise one’s pace with the world. It is expressed in this simple disclosure: I am no longer a fast driver. Not as boringly slow as an older brother, but nonetheless, I have in fact slowed my pace.
Many of you will recognize this with some depth of appreciation, at least if you are at all seasoned and came from one of our busy metropolitan regions. Keeping pace in your car was about survival.
My father, as he moved into his eighties, began new driving behaviors that hinted more at obliviousness; quite different from my slower driving habit. His manners were expressed in his backing up in parking lots until he hit something - anything. The “beep, beep, beep,” on which he had come to rely on in his previous company car was no longer featured in his new Cadillac. His car’s rear bumper was blemished with dents, scrapes, and missing paint; a vast array of marks in many colors and swirls - telltale of his running into objects. Cars, shopping carts, barriers, and earthmovers - they all knew his bumper. And always the bump came with his verbalized, “Oops!”
I was concerned for his well-being, but terrified for the safety of the general population. I had hoped brother Fred would take charge in finding a solution - not in a million years was that going to happen. Dad passed on in his mid-eighties still in possession of his Michigan driver’s license and battered Cadillac. He stayed just below the radar, and I mean, just barely.
My own driving routines earlier in my life were a product of being in a hurry, a bit maniacal might be an understatement. The problem as I viewed it: Other cars were always in my way. These issues can best be described and illustrated by recalling a fantasy that Dave Hain, an old friend of mine would bring to life with what he called the “Death Ray.” Dave had the device mounted under the hood of his car and could employ it at will; it was incredibly efficient and would liquidate any car of its choosing. The beam came from under the front grille. It just vaporized wayward cars in a puff of white smoke. It allowed Dave the needed relief from going nuts in the busy traffic that was continuous in Southeastern Michigan. The Death Ray was of course all fantasy, but somehow imagining its existence helped reduce tension with its deployment. That was its magic. I always wanted one.
As further evidence of my own earlier frantic pace, I recall honking my car horn one afternoon repeatedly at a dim-witted driver at a busy intersection not far from my house. I admit here it was not as effective as Dave’s death ray. To my surprise, I soon discovered that the target of my rage was my oldest son Rob. He was at the helm of his mother’s new Jeep. He was still fresh with his new driver’s license and showed such cautious ways. He just sat there many cars ahead of me without moving the vehicle, unfamiliar with the yellow blinking arrow signaling to advance forward to complete the left turn. Hello? Under some genetic predisposition not of my order he remained cool as a cucumber. Traffic didn’t bother him, even as cars were stacking up behind him; cautiously he waited to proceed until he felt infinitely safe. He never acknowledged the beeping horns. That was Rob.
I spin these tales about driving as stark contrast to the newer person I have become. Now I calmly sit in my vehicle and watch the hurried cars in their perpetual motion on my highways in northern Michigan. I am indeed a slower driver, allowing me to take in and appreciate the scenery that is rich and resplendent in my region. I have indeed discovered the benefits of driving at a slower pace, and with luck, I may make it into my eighties if some idiot doesn’t slam into me.
I just talked to Rob after he read this and he shared a confession with me. His seven years of city life in San Francisco and Denver brought forth a latent trait. He now admits to beeping his horn quite regularly. That’s my son.