Unsafe at Any Speed

More notes from the Elder Care Underground—

The other day when I was driving my mother to the grocery store, I was mentally trying to hold my hands over my ears and go “la, la, la,” so I wouldn’t have to hear her latest story about the nice young couple across the street. 

She watches them like a hawk from the big window in her living room and observes all their comings and goings like some kind of neighborhood air traffic controller.  Nothing gets under her radar.

But since I wouldn’t allow her to go into her usual litany of complaints about the husband doing all the child care (he carries the baby out to the car–OMG!), she decided to tell me once more that she wished she still had her car so she could drive herself to the store.

It doesn’t matter that a.) she’s 91 years-old and b.) she’s essentially blind in one eye.  Technically she still could drive if she had a car because the state of Texas, in its infinite wisdom, issued her a driver’s license renewal through the mail four years ago. 

Her license is good until she’s 92–with no vision test–nada, zip, bupkus.

Besides being glad that she’s not on the road with other unsuspecting motorists, I was ecstatic when she sold her car because I hated that thing. 

It was a Saturn.  They don’t make them any more, so that tells you something right there.

It was one of the most irritating vehicles I’ve ever driven–and I’ve driven everything from a Ford Falcon with a perpetually primered fender to a Porsche 912, so I know. 

Imagine sitting in a bathtub as you drove down the street.  It was a lot like being in a Cialis commercial, but without the four hour erections.

Then I got to thinking about all the vehicles my parents had owned throughout their marriage.  I think my folks were lemon magnets, to be honest with you. 

When I was in high school the family car was a Corvair.  Yes, a Corvair!  The very car that Ralph Nader had warned us about in his book “Unsafe at Any Speed.”  Among it’s many attributes he noted that the Corvair’s single-piece steering column could impale the driver in a front collision. 

Now there’s a lovely thought to contemplate on your Sunday drive. 

Just taking the car out of “park” carried as much risk as Evel Knievel jumping over the Snake River on a motorcycle.

Later on they bought a Ford Pinto station wagon.  You know, the one where if you happened to be rear-ended by another car, the gas tank would explode–incinerating the Pinto’s occupants in a gigantic ball of flame. 

That Pinto.

So I’m very grateful that my mother isn’t driving any longer.

Although, not being able to drive hasn’t left her immune to a different kind of traffic accident. 

A couple of years ago a woman lost control of her motorized scooter at the supermarket and ran into my mother’s heels while she was weighing some fruit in the produce section. 

Personally, I think there should be an inquiry into the safety of those scooters.

Where’s Ralph Nader when you really need him?


20 thoughts on “Unsafe at Any Speed

  1. “…so I wouldn’t have to hear her latest story about the nice young couple across the street.”

    You had me right there. This is great stuff. By the way, I’d definitely call that art. And I agree about the cats and the Republicans.

    I’ll be back!


  2. You are a saint. I used to write down the things my aunt would say to me on the phone, during one of the eight calls to me a day. She would start a sentence and after 20 minutes, I would break in and yell, “I have to get off! The oven is on fire!” and she would say “Yeah, so anyway, I told him that I don’t kiss anymore and he…”


  3. My mother’s entertainment is the temporary living for young couples building across the way. They all smoke on the porch and have bratty children with little boys who urinate in public and adults who bounce basketballs for hours. Obviously, they need a job. Or, perhaps my mother does. If I’m not hearing about “out her front window,” I am hearing about Kate’s bratty children or the mean motorcycle father on TV.

    Maybe we could get them together to talk to each other. OH, sorry, I think they met. My mother drives the motorized cars like bumper cars. You should see her do a three point bump and turn in the grocery aisles. Sorry about your mother’s ankle.


  4. My husband is laid up with a strained back, and hasn’t had much to laugh about, so I sent him a link to your blog. He’s been hooting with laughter for the last fifteen minutes…………thank you very much. I told you about our elderly parents when commenting on your last post, interestingly enough, my mother drove a Pinto too. What was Ford thinking with that one? Anyway, we live in East Texas, and were shocked to discover we aren’t the only liberals in the state. We keep a low profile lest the Klan discover we’re in the neighborhood. Michele


    • Oh, sorry about your husband’s back. That is no fun, indeed. Glad I could provide some comic relief! Wow! Liberals in East Texas? I didn’t think they allowed them to buy property. We lucked out by having two of them living down the road from us. When we see each other on our walks we tend to huddle and talk in whispers. You never know when Rick Perry might come jogging by and mistake us for some coyotes.


    • Oh gawd, no. She can’t figure out how to regulate the temperature of her house (“push the lever up if you want it hotter, down for cooler”) so a computer for her would be like asking me to do advanced calculus. In other words, ain’t gonna happen. She always talked about writing a book about her days as a saleswoman in fancy dress shops, though. Her working title was “Do You Have It in Another Color?”


  5. if mom could still see well enough to spy on the neighbors, i’d be grateful… she gave up driving after whacking a mailbox with her land yacht a few years ago… it’s tough, though. i think if i couldn’t drive, i’d get a scooter, jack it up on big tires, and ride it on the roads…

    love the description of the saturn, by the way. couldn’t agree more!


    • Yeah, really, keeping tabs on the neighbors is a form of entertainment for her. I’m glad, in a way, that she’s got that because she isn’t the type to go out and make friends. I suggested our local senior center once and she made a face and said it’s a just a bunch of “old people.” I guess that’s why I like to hang out with the kindergartners. They’re more fun than folks my age and they have cuter clothes. 🙂


  6. You leave those super market scooters off your radar. They are my only delight during those times of back/ankle/leg pains — to get to swoosh around the store when all those other poor pagans are walking. Oh, was that your mother I hit? Oops. Sorry.


  7. I’m glad, in a way, that my father-in-law died before we had to deal with any driving issues. We figured that when the time came, he would not give up his license willingly.

    And God help me, we had THREE PINTOS when I was growing up. Two were wagons. One was manual transmission, and the reverse gear would pop out if you didn’t hold it in place with all your body weight when backing up.

    My mother was never particularly concerned about my safety! 🙂 Or hers, apparently.


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