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Senior Correspondent

Is It Time to Throw in the Keys?

Is It Time to Throw in the Keys?


I’m thinking of giving up driving. I haven’t told anyone because I’m not sure I’m ready to go through with it, but maybe it’s time. I was 87 in November.

The other day I read in The New Yorker that a fellow in Canada who was turning 80 had been forced to take a driving test, though it wasn’t just a driving test but also a vision test connected to a reading test and conducted in a friendly way. Another 80-year-old man had to surrender his license, never to take the wheels of a car again.

I got my driver’s license in Massachusetts when I was 16. My parents sent me to a driving school to prepare for the test. My father was uneasy because I showed no flare for mechanics. He was nervous whenever I got near his car — the car was our bread and butter, he said time and again.

My father spent most of his time away from home on the road drumming up trade for his flooring business. He did pretty well considering it was the Great Depression. There was always plenty of food on the table, and now and then, there was money for a maid.

When  I first got my license, I did little driving for many years. After the Army and college, where I did almost no driving, I wound up in Eureka on the Humboldt Times. I bought a used car, a pre-war Chevrolet. From 1955 to 1956, I spent a carless time working my way around the world. When I got back to Eureka, the Chevy was still parked at the paper where I’d left it.

A few years later, I took a job with one of the TV stations in town where I did a lot of driving. In 1963, a fellowship in journalism got me to Columbia in New York where a car was a pain in the neck. For vacations, we rented. When I took retirement and left New York in 1992, we returned to the Bay Area and drove a new Honda Accord off the showroom floor.

In the last year, the same Honda was stolen one early winter night by some jerks. It was recovered by the cops the next day. The car needed some fixing. The damage was repaired, but something else happened — I’d been assaulted, violated. I was furious and frustrated, but there was nothing I could do about it.

A few months later, I was backing out of my driveway in the Honda. Traffic was heavy. I hit the accelerator and smashed a car parked on the street. The car was totaled, but the young woman at the wheel was wearing her seatbelt and escaped unscathed.

The experience gives me pause. Unlike the theft of the Honda, there is something I can do about it.

This article originally appeared in the San Leandro Times.

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