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Some people can’t drive

Some people can’t drive
Driving didn’t come easy for me. I failed my first driver’s test. I got a speeding ticket within two weeks of my 16th birthday. You know how some people drive a tractor for years and when they turn 16 they already know how to drive. I wasn’t one of them. I learned to drive by maneuvering a Vega around the First Baptist Church parking lot in Denton, Texas. My dad must have promised my older brother a large portion of my inheritance to sit in the passenger seat while I dodged light poles and rode up on the curbs. And the Baptists? They must have thought those black marks were the signs of teenagers goofing off late at night. No. Those marks were made in broad daylight by a bad driver behind the wheel of a Vega.
Eventually practice made perfect, or tolerable. Until my recent one-car “interaction” with a grove of trees in Palmersville, it had been more than 20 years since I had been involved in a car accident. A broken leg and a broken arm meant no driving for a while. At least I thought it did until opportunity came knockin’.
My family and I were making our weekly trip to a large retail facility when a startling opportunity came my way. I hobbled into the store on my ever-faithful geriatric walker. My husband prepared to move me into the wheelchair. He would push me through the store. The boys would push the shopping cart. We had a plan.
But the greeter at the front of the store thought our plan a bit ridiculous. With a wide smile and a loving tone, she said, “Why, Hon, you don’t want to do that! We’ve got these great electric scooters and you can drive yourself!”
“Ma’am, if I could drive, I wouldn’t be in this condition. Obviously, I can’t drive. I can’t even stay on the highway with other cars. I DEFINITELY don’t need to be driving on the cereal aisle where I could commit a vehicular crime against an innocent and unsuspecting Fruit Loops shopper.”
And that got me to thinkin’. All it takes is someone hobbling or limping into the store and we automatically entrust them with a motor vehicle. No licensing. No criminal background checks. I think it might be wise to run them through their paces a bit first, don’t you? There should be a little electric scooter “test track” over by the garden center. If a person can do a few figure eights with confidence, they would have completed Phase One. Phase Two would involve the use of cones and large flats of chocolate chip bags. Bad drivers like me are afraid of cones because we’re cone magnets. When I see a cone, it immediately attaches itself to my front bumper. I’m not for making the test too painful. A few cone “interactions” would be acceptable. But, if the kiosk of chocolate chips was completely annihilated, an automatic 30-minute break and re-start would be instigated.
In all seriousness, I’ve grown to greatly respect people who manage to “walk” through life without the ability to walk. Road blocks are at every turn. Thankfully, kind people are at every turn as well. I’ve been blessed by the graciousness of complete strangers. I may even get brave enough to drive the store scooter. If you see me driving around the chocolate chip display, just wave from a distance and run like the wind.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. She can be reached by e-mail at
Published in The Messenger on 9.26.07

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