Quora, Mee-Maw

Quora.com question: Police officers, if you saw an elderly person speeding, would you go soft on them?

Not a police officer, my grandmother Mee-maw was the elderly person pulled over. And he went soft on her. Dadgum his kind heart.

In Tennessee once you have a driver’s license, unless you get points against you by say TICKETS, you don’t even have to periodically retake the test.

Mee-maw had been having trouble with her hearing, her reaction times, and eyesight. She would do things like drive down our long, shared driveway to get the mail. That’s fine. But she wouldn’t turn around in the grass, because she was yard-proud, so she would pull out on the 4-lane highway to do a Uey and turn around. Twice she pulled out directly in front of semis who barely avoided hitting her, brakes locked up and sliding, those kinds of avoidance incidents. She misjudged distances. Once when there was a grassfire on the family farm, she scraped her car down the side of a bright-yellow, mega-sized, volunteer firetruck that was parked — and denied doing it, despite all of us witnessing it and even though the side of her car had bright yellow paint and mega-sized tire marks scraped on the fenders. Twice she dinged cars in parking lots because she didn’t think she was that close. Small scrapes, no serious damage, no insurance claims and she paid to get the scrapes buffed out. But none of us, NONE of us, were willing to be passengers in her car because of the huge number of hair-raising close calls.

The family had been making extreme efforts to take the driving chores for her. We took her shopping anytime she wanted to go, we took turns taking her to doctor’s appointments, we took her to town as often as she needed or wanted to go, for any reason whatsoever, and we alerted neighbors in our small community to be on the look-out. We did these trips with her in the passenger front seat, where she fished her keys out of the depths of her purse and handed them over, then we drove her around. When we were done, we handed her keys back to her, and they’d vanish into the depths again. If the wheels of her car were moving, she was in the passenger seat. If she needed errands, she insisted on going in her car. So we’d drive her. Problem solved.

Taking the keys from an elder should never be undertaken lightly. To them, it represents their independence and power. Getting old is hard enough, losing friends and family, losing their strength and abilities, and losing respect. Chauffeuring her was no hardship, everyone has to shop, we’d combine her trips with ours while we were out. We’d make a day of it if she felt up to it, Wall-mart, pharmacy, paying bills, and lunch, too. Whatever needed doing.

We thought we had solved the problem. One day she called my mother and said, What time are you picking me up for the doctor’s appointment? Mom told her, It’s tomorrow, not today. After some discussion back and forth, my mom thought the issue was over. Oh, but no. Mee-maw drove herself to the doctor’s office. Because she was RIGHT and mom was WRONG.

But she never arrived.

One of the neighbors saw her leave DRIVING and called mom. Someone, and I was sworn to secrecy, even though both ladies have passed since, but someone called the police with a heads-up on the situation and a please, please, make sure she got there safely.

Mee-maw was met at the county line. She was followed into town. And through town. Lights and sirens she swears she never heard. For 10 miles. And for those 10 miles, she was clocked at a rousing 22–25 mph in the 40 and then the 55 mph zone. The local police had to call in the state troopers and do a rolling roadblock to pull her over. The county’s slowest ever rolling roadblock.

She got stopped. The officer approached her window. “I was not speeding!” she insisted.

The officer agreed. Politely, Mee-maw agreed much later. He asked for her license, proof of insurance. And told her to shut the engine off.

“I was not speeding.”

She shut off the engine. Handed over her papers. And apparently was so embarrassed (she admitted later), that when the officers cleared the traffic lanes for other traffic, SHE DROVE OFF. Leaving them with her paperwork.

This time she got up to 35 mph in a 40 mph. Another rolling roadblock. This time she was funneled into a fast-food parking lot. She parked her car neatly in a slot. And this time the officer wised up and reached in and took her keys away from her.

She said, “That’s fine, I have another set!”

That’s when they blocked her in. The big, bad criminal that she was.

Mee-maw gave mom’s number to call and pick her up. The officer in charge refused to give Mee-maw a ticket. He told my mom he had a beloved grandmother and if he wrote up what really happened, it could be serious jail time. He flat-out refused. He said, you take her keys away from her. Mom said, I can’t be the one to do that. He then suggested that her doctor talk to her.

They did that. The next day, because mom was RIGHT and Mee-maw was WRONG about the day of the appointment, her doctor looked at mom (in front of my grandmother) and said, “Are you of your mind? I thought you took her keys away years ago! This woman can’t be driving.”

But that wasn’t even enough. Mee-maw argued the whole way from her doctor’s appointment — because what did he know, he was a feeble old man — all the way to her hair appointment.

Where the entire salon was gabbing about the day before when they were out to eat and some crazy old lady got cornered by 10 cops and highway patrol cars in the parking lot where they were getting lunch.

Mee-maw never got behind the wheel again.

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