Thursday, March 10, 2011

The sweet old dangerous driver.

There seems to be a theme this week. Another elderly lady in a car park caught my eye.

 I was outside a local store (not the one with the peculiar smell), wandering between the pots of pansies and summer bulbs lined up in the covered area.

A grey Toyota Corolla pulled into a spot close by. Something told me it wasn't going to stop in time and I was right. The worn front tires jolted against the curb then breached the side of the path. The whole vehicle rose up, paused for a moment, like a swing curving upwards through the air, then dropped back into place.

I expected to hear the growling engine to go quiet. The woman inside must surely have realized that she was as far into the space as she could go? But this did not seem to be the case. In fact the driver pressed her foot against the accelerator and the car mounted the sidewalk once more.  People glanced over, looking nervous. A woman with a child stepped back.

But this time when the car came to a halt the engine was turned off. Although two wheels where still in the parking spot and two butted up against a pallet piled high with bags of compost, the owner seemed happy with her parking.

An employee of the store stepped forward. "Er..." he began as the elderly woman pushed the drivers door open wide. She applied more force than was necessary and we all heard the door hitting the side of the vehicle in the next bay. Fortunately the nonchalant driver had she'd clipped a monstrous SUV and had made contact with a mudflap the size of an elephants' ear. If any damage had been incurred it would be to the Corolla.

The lady slowly emerged. Her hair was white as duck down. It floated above her head as if pulled and teased by static.  She was short, dumpy and rosy cheeked. I could picture her baking apple pies.
Steadying herself against the door frame of the car, she reached inside and grabbed a stick. She leant heavily on the cane, trembling with the effort, as she hoisted her bag onto her shoulder and straightened her curved back.

The next task was to close the door.  She placed her hand flat against the window and pushed hard.

The door slammed into place but bounced open again. She tried again, applying even even greater force. But the same thing happened. The second time we heard a crunching sound. The sound of metal being squeezed by metal. The old woman was oblivious. She got set to slam the door again.

The employee, who had been watching, leapt forward.

"It's the seat belt," he explained. "It's hanging out the door. The buckle's getting caught."

The cloudy haired lady frowned and flung the seat belt inside. She closed the door, and began to walk away.

"Did you lock it?"

"Oh!" The lady paused mid step. After rummaging through her bag she said she thought perhaps the keys were still inside. The helpful young man re-opened the door. He reached towards the ignition and removed the keys. He then locked the car and handed the fob to its owner.

The pint-sized woman smiled and shuffled off. As she made her way between tables loaded with spring annuals, she caught her bag against a tray of pansies and knocked them to the floor.

The store employee sighed and bent to pick them up. He caught my eye and said, "When is old, too old to do you think?"

I thought about this as the little old lady stood pondering how to enter the store through the door marked 'exit'.

"That car's probably her life line." I said, watching her searching for buttons to press and stamping on the mat -  in the hope of triggering a sensor I supposed.

"I know," The man agreed "But it could also be a death trap."

The exit doors slid open as a couple with a loaded cart came out. Our  lady swung her stick, walked into the store and disappeared.

The young man shook his head and straightened the last of the pansies. "I just hope she takes care." he sighed.

I agreed and carried on my way.

But it left me wondering.  When does 'just old' become too old? And on what criteria must we all decide?

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