I am a better driver today: a certified graduate of the AARP course for over-50. It is guaranteed to shave a few dollars off of the insurance, and that’s why I took it. Or, I should say, I took it because my wife badgered me for months to take it to cut a dollar or two off of the insurance.
I should add that mine was a four-hour refresher course. I took the full eight-hour course, over two days, four or five years ago.
My wife, though, was so busy harping on my taking the courses that she has not taken either one herself. But she will, I’m sure. Why should I have all the fun?
My classmates, I noted, as I looked around the room while the instructor was telling us how cars have changed over the years, included the old fella’ who nearly got me when he turned into the parking lot and another one, a guy I’m sure I’ve seen on the expressway traveling a safe 35 miles an hour. At another table was the little old lady from down the street who drives a giant Mercury and whose view of the road ahead is limited to what she can see between the dashboard and the top of the steering wheel.
The instructor, a volunteer, told us all about “them new things” on cars--things like turn signals and alarms that warn us if we are about to back into another car. Then he told us how we have changed. For one thing, we are older. That means we may not see as well in bright sunlight, on shady days or at night, so we ought to have our eyes checked and get glasses if we need them. We may not hear as well as we used to, so we ought to have our hearing checked. If noise distracts us, we should tell the person sitting next to us in the car not to talk until we reach our destination. I almost raised my hand to ask if he had tried that with his spouse and, if so, if that was why he had the scar on his cheek, but I did not want to jeopardize my chances of graduating.
The instructor read to us a lot from the instruction book. I thought about suggesting that he was ready to graduate to PowerPoint presentation, but by that time we had moved on to an exercise involving the class. He had each person on the front row read a unit title and the section titles that followed. So at least eight people got to participate by reading aloud to him. I was sitting on the back row, and that’s how I learned that my hearing is not what it used to be.
It took us two hours to get though a film and the first unit. Then he went around the room to collect the tuition--$12 for AARP members, $14 for non-members. “What if I’m a member but don’t have my card?” Someone asked. “That’s okay,” he said. “I’ll take your word for it.” “What if I’m a member but don’t have my card?” someone else asked. “That’s okay,” he said. “I’ll take your word for it.” The third time I heard the question, I figured my hearing was improving.
Then we took a five- or ten-minute break. When we were back in session, the instructor went through the succeeding units, one by one, reading the titles and pointing out some of the more important instructions in the text. Things like, “if you’re taking medication, you probably shouldn’t drink alcohol before you get behind the wheel,” and “hold the steering wheel with both hands at the 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock positions or the 7 and 4 positions, because if you have your hand on the top of the steering that air bag will break your arm when it comes out when you crash.”
We got through all that in about 20 minutes, then he passed out forms we were to fill out with name, driver’s license number, date of the course, and other important data, “but don’t start filling them forms out yet because we are all going to fill them out together,” which we did--"Print your name in the box where it says 'Name.' Has everybody done that? Now, fill in your driver's license number. Has everybody done that?"
When everybody had done them things, he dismissed us, saying that he hoped we were all “smarter” than we got there.
I know I was. I raced for the parking lot so I could get out of there before all those old people started backing into each other. And I drove the speed limit all the way home with my hands at 9 and 3; I didn’t want that air bag breaking my arm when I crashed.