A while back I realized I needed to sort some things out and started seeing a therapist about once a month. Last week I was early for my appointment so I sat in my car and enjoyed a blueberry scone with a cup of coffee. As I was listening to the radio a loud scraping sound suddenly overwhelmed the news announcer and my jar rocked with a sickening jolt. My scone flew out of my hand and hot coffee spilled on my pants
“GODDAMMIT!” I yelled.
Leaping out of my car, I saw a beat up old Honda driving away at about six miles per hour. “Sonavabitch!” I muttered. My vehicular assailant wasn’t even going to stop.
It must have been funny to watch, but I jogged after the car and caught up with it at the traffic circle. Peering through the scratched and dirty windows I saw an elderly couple sitting inside. About what I figured. I rapped on the passenger side window and it rolled down.
“You hit my car back there, sir,” I said to the driver.
“Oh?” the man said.
“Did you know you hit me?”
“I knew I hit something,” he replied weakly.
“Sir,” I said, feeling the anger inside me ebbing, “You’re supposed to stop when you hit someone’s car.”
“We’re sorry!” the man’s wife yelped. “We’re sorry!”
Judging from the car, I knew this couple didn’t have any money. I figured this car was their only lifeline to the outside world – doctors’ appointments, food shopping – that sort of thing. I have elderly parents and I understand how important it is that my father can still drive.
“We’re sorry,” the woman said again. Then couple looked at me plaintively. They wanted me to forget about it.. They knew the jig was up. They wanted me to let them go.
“Do you have insurance sir?” I asked.
“Then let’s go back to my car and let the police sort this out.”
The man seemed very confused and started to drive away. Figuring he was going to rabbit, I took a picture of his license plate with my phone. Then I called the police. After a few minutes the old man pulled up in his heap. “There’s no damage,” he said. “It’s not bad.” Sure, there was a nasty scrape on my bumper and a small crack, but not enough to get mad about. No one was hurt. But that wasn’t what I was worried about.
A cop came and I told them him what happened as I handed him my paperwork. “He hit you while you were parked there?” the officer said, shaking his head.
“I don’t care about the car,” I said. “The guy didn’t realize he hit me until I ran after him.”
While the cop was doing his thing I called my therapist. “Look out your window,” I said.
I watched the curtains pull back and the therapist’s face appear in the window. “What happened?” he said.
“Some old guy hit me while I was parked. I’ll be late.”
“Take your time. Don’t worry about it.” Considering what my therapist charges, I wondered if he’d prorate my session.
Whenever there’s flashing lights and sirens people gather. I noticed one bystander glaring at me. Maybe he saw me chase the car and thought I acted like an asshole. Who knows? Maybe he had an old father too. Then the old man got out of his car. He could barely stand. I felt like a shit.
“I hate doing this,” the cop said, handing me back my paperwork, “But that guy can’t drive anymore.”
“What’ll happen?” I asked.
“I’ll send in a report and the state will make him take the driver’s test again. If he fails they’ll take his license away.”
Accident report number in hand, I walked up to my therapist’s office and sat down in my customary chair. Grey haired and slim with a healthy Florida vacation tan, the shrink was around my father’s age. I picked him partly because of that. Talking about my problems with someone younger than me would feel weird. When I went to the podiatrist for a tendonitis flare up last week I was chagrined that the doctor looked like she had just got out of high school. Reverse ageism I guess.
“Steve” the shrink said. “I saw that guy from up here. He was a mess. He shouldn’t be driving.”
“I know,’ I said. “I just hate to be the reason he loses his license.”
“Next time it could be a person. A kid.”
“He wanted me to let him skate,” I said. “But I couldn’t for just that reason.”
Staring out the office window, I knew that old man’s life was going to be diminished. But if he ended up seriously hurting or killing someone then a whole lot of peoples’ lives would be diminished too. It was really a no brainer – but that didn’t make me feel any better.
Sitting in my chair, I began to talk about what’s bothering me. People say age brings wisdom but that’s often a load of horseshit. Some people, smug in their grey hairs, use old age as an excuse to not change. They’re in for a rude shock. Growing old means you’re going to encounter things you’ve never experienced before. If you’re not able to roll with those changes then growing old is going to be a shipwreck. I’m far from old but I’ve caught a glimpse the rocky shoals ahead. I don’t want to sink.
I don’t want to run over someone and not even notice.