No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Heather Johansen

No good deed goes unpunished… words uttered by my mother after I glided my Subaru Outback along the side of a telephone pole. Now bear with me, it sounds a bit worse than it was. Let’s start at the beginning…
I am fortunate to have in-laws who raise grass-fed Angus Beef cattle. This means that throughout the year I am blessed with a freezer full of roasts, steaks, liver, ground beef and beef tongue (yes, I enjoy a delicious tongue taco every now and then). Recently, they gave us half of a beef. This means pounds and pounds of meat, which our puny freezer, and little family, would never be able to hold or consume. I decided to share the wealth with my family extended family.

Fast forward to delivery day. My last stop on the “Meat Express” was my Aunt Margaret’s house. (She is by far my favorite Aunt and I spent a lot of time with her as I was growing up. She fed me endless meals, so giving her some of this bounty seemed a natural move.) My Aunt has horrible arthritis which limits her mobility, especially in the heat of summer, so I pulled my car right up to her door for delivery. As I was backing out of her yard I was so focused on avoiding her car that I totally forgot about the telephone pole I should have been looking out for.

Despite going at a snail’s pace, I still managed to knock the side mirror off, totally damage the front quarter panel and driver’s side door of my car. (If only they made cars like they used to, but I digress.) Luckily our insurance has “accident forgiveness” and we were only out the deductible. Everyone felt bad and we made jokes about my driving for several days afterward.

As I sat in the garage waiting for the mechanic to finish my appraisal I wondered, what if I was age 75 instead of 45? Would everyone’s responses have been the same?

At 45, no one thought of taking my license away or having me examined for neurological or physical problems.

At 45, I wasn’t afraid to tell people what happened; worried about the looks and accusations that might follow.

At 45, I wasn’t worried to report it to my insurance agent for fear that I would be cut off or that my premiums would double.

I was given a certain amount of leeway because of my “youth”, but was that really fair?

Let’s face it, driving means freedom. In our society, built on fierce independence, we place enormous value on literally being able to blaze our own trail. The car becomes an extension of ourselves. Without it, we are sort of stuck in place. All this makes me wonder if we actually give older adults the benefit of the doubt when it comes to accidents and driving ability. No easy answers, but food for thought.

So this week, while my car is in the shop, I am driving a brand-new rental car which totally overwhelms me with all of the gadgets, computer nonsense and beeps it seems to enjoy uttering.Although I fancy myself somewhat technological sound, I am totally lost when it comes to using all of the features in this car. I drive cautiously with the air conditioner on full blast, because I can’t seem to adjust the temperature, and the radio on an obscure station, because I am a bit confused on how to work the presets on the screen.

I suppose I am showing my age. But hey, is that really such a bad thing?

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