After 64 years of driving everything from motorcycles to tractor-trailers, I thought I was in that class of accident-free drivers that call themselves “experts.”
Nothing more than parking tickets in my entire life and all of a sudden, in a letter from the Ministry of Transport, I am informed that my time has come to requalify for my precious drivers licence. I had heard of others my age getting a similar letter, which for most of us was traumatizing.
Upon reading that I had to appear at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 163, where others my age were to be given a written test, I froze up with fear. What if by some chance, perhaps by tricky questions, I failed the test and had my licence stripped from me?
That would surely be like having both my legs cut off, leaving me pushing a walker or an electric scooter complete with shopping bag and a Canadian flag.
I experienced a feeling of disbelief, anger and despair and the next few weeks were spent with sleepless nights cramming rules and signage of the road from the Official MTO Drivers Handbook.
No amount of encouragement from my family and friends could convince me that I would simply sail through the dreaded test. A close friend of mine, admittedly a very proud old guy who had driven everything including locomotives, also got the dreaded letter in the mail and instantly, in true Scottish fashion, got his kilt up, saying, “They’ll no lead me by ma’ nose,” and with that, declined a test.
There he goes today, standing at bus stops, walking with his groceries in the pouring rain, bound and determined that no one was going to tell him what to do. It was his choice to decline the 80-year test and he did so, I think now, much to his regret.
On the dreaded day, I pulled up in front of the Legion Hall and sat there contemplating what was about to happen. I shut off the engine, gripped the steering wheel with both hands and wondered if I would be doing this when my 80th birthday dawned in a few weeks.
One by one I noticed a trickle of older people, well up in years, making their way into the building, all perhaps having the same misgivings as me.
Twelve or so of us were welcomed inside by an excellent instructor from the ministry that cheerily pointed out where we were to sit in a hollow square.
Just like early years in elementary school we were all a little nervous and you could have heard a pin drop.
The instructor made a few funny remarks which instantly put us at ease. He must have noticed us sitting rigidly at attention with enlarged eyeballs fixed on his every move.
Spreading his comments around liberally, it wasn’t long before we realized he was truly one of us.
The written test sheets were passed around and I quickly noted that all the questions were ones I had already studied in the handbook.
The test was a breeze, the eye test spawned some chuckling and after a very informative question and answer period, I heard those magic words: “You passed!”
After weeks of gloom and doom, I was embarrassed at the ease with which I passed. Doing 80? Read the handbook — there are no surprises!
Mountain historian Colwyn Beynon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.