Tuesday, 26 March 2013

"He's lost his

licence," she told me softly as her husband shambled off.
I was in the chemist getting several prescriptions filled for "oldies". My morning pedal to the shops was punctuated by several little "flags" sticking out of letter boxes - a sign that one of the elderly people on my regular route needs me to get something for them. 
I don't do their main shopping but I will go to the chemist or the post office or do something else essential.
This couple live on my route too. She has not driven a car for six years now.  She had the sense to give up after having a very minor accident (her fault) in the car park near the bank. I can remember her saying at the time that it was fortunate nobody was hurt and that it was a sign she should give up her licence.
Her husband has clung to his. For the last three years his driving has been erratic. He has become lost between his home and the shopping centre and his home and the doctor's surgery. His wife has travelled in the car with him but kept her eyes closed for the entire journey.
His daughter stopped me in shopping centre before Christmas and asked me what I thought. I told her he definitely should not be driving but we both knew the consequences. There is no public transport between their home and the shopping centre and it is too far for them to walk. Their daughter has never learned to drive so she cannot transport them. 
The doctor was not prepared to make the necessary move. I know they, understandably, hate giving people bad news and "You are not fit to drive" is the sort of news nobody who has been driving all their adult life wants to hear. Most doctors seem to avoid doing it for as long as possible.
But last weekend I observed this elderly man driving down the wrong side of their street. Admittedly he was going very slowly but it was the wrong side of the street. He was alone in the car. As I watched one of the neighbours stopped him with a frantic wave. 
They gave me a look which said, "I'll deal with this." 
I left them to it and pedalled on. I knew it was not the first time.
Yesterday I heard the rest of the story. The neighbour somehow encouraged him out of the car to look at something. He left the keys in the car. The neighbour's son drove the car back to its carport and the keys were conveniently "lost" by the old man's wife. The doctor was rung. The relevant department was rung. The licence was cancelled. 
They could do it this time because the neighbour's son took a picture on his mobile phone. The evidence was there. 
"They say I can't get my licence back until I've had my eyes checked," the old man told me a little later. His wife gave me a sad little shake of her head. Her husband won't be going anywhere behind the wheel of a car again. 
"I think dear," she told him gently, "That we might get a little letter box flag like Spiros. Cat says she will come to the chemist for us if we need it. It will save a trip and petrol is very expensive these days."
Yes, I would rather pedal in the heat or rain than have him run into me on the wrong side of the road.


Allison said...

Cat, I was asked many years ago who I most admired. I couldn't answer then because I just don't normally think in those terms.

I have my answer today. Thank you for being you.

catdownunder said...

That's very kind of you Allison - I am afraid this time it was done out of self-preservation as much as anything else. A car coming straight at you like that - even slowly - is rather alarming.