By John Morrow
Life is but a highway, and all the men and women merely drivers. And one man in his time drives many vehicles.
It all begins when a young boy, fearful and unsteady, first finds his balance on a two-wheel bike. Suddenly, with legs pumping like skinny pistons, he reaches speeds that make him giddy with delight. He soon discovers that a hockey card strategically secured within his spokes by a clothes pin will generate the sound of a roaring engine and certainly boost his speed even more.
Sometime in his later teens he enrolls in driver’s ed and slides into the driver’s seat of a clunky, beige sedan. A scowling, middle-aged gent with a clipboard rides shotgun, his right foot poised to jam the instructor’s brake into the floor when he sees certain death approaching. The new driver, hands clamped at 10 and two, spins tires with too much gas and nearly puts his passenger through the front windshield as he tests the floor pedals for the first time. But soon, he’s cruising and loving it.
Soon after, new license in the hip pocket of his jeans, he makes his first solo drive. Speed, confidence, and skill – but mostly speed – steadily increase. Tires squeal, sporty mufflers roar, heads turn in admiration. A couple tickets later and insurance costs start rising faster than the interest on a payday loan.
The mature driver is serene. He knows he’s better on the road than 99.9 per cent of the rest of humanity. With seeming effortless motion, he weaves through traffic, beats red lights, and can parallel park in one try. But his early years of joyful driving have been replaced by mundane trips to work, shopping, and kids’ soccer games. Deep in this man’s heart burns the desire to return to the driving thrills of yesteryear.
Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, Mature Driver metamorphoses into Midlife Crisis Driver. Armed with all the driving skill he has accumulated through the years, he cruises solo in a shiny red sports model that costs about three times what he paid for his first house. Sadly, when the top is down, the wind catches his comb-over revealing his bald pate, shinier than the detailed chrome on his bumpers and custom wheel covers.
Drivers of a certain age ease their right foot up off the gas pedal – way up. (Maybe you’ve driven behind one for a 47-minute, 13 km trip?) Stories of fuel conservation become heroic yarns to be shared over coffee with fellow like-minded seniors. They would be wonderful drivers if only they could hear the steady clicking indicating that their left turn signal has been on for the last five blocks.
And then one day our man (or woman) reaches the final, seventh age of driving – the electric mobility scooter. At maximum speeds of 20 km/h, the geezer proudly scoots along the roadway, flag aloft for visibility, oblivious to the line of traffic forming in his wake. Maybe he recalls the freedom and exhilaration of that first pedal bike ride so many years ago. As you impatiently try to pass, don’t forget that one day you too will probably be cruising scooter-style.
John lived in Port Stanley in the ‘60s and moved back 10 years ago after retiring from a career in education. You can find him most mornings sharing coffee and wisdom with friends at a local coffee shop. John enjoys writing about the humour he sees in everyday life.
Read other columns by John Morrow.