This I Have Learned… Being Careful (or Being Careless?) Out There

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

It was time for my bi-monthly sit with my hair stylist at a Tucson hair salon. I look forward to those times when I am at the mercy of my hair artist who will “make me look complete!” On one recent visit, I was settling into the swivel chair when I heard the receptionist say, “Are you okay?” I turned towards the entryway and saw a frail man shuffling into the salon near a bank of chairs. “I need to sit down. I’m dizzy,” he choked in a broken voice. “I have an appointment.” But he wasn’t sure at what time or with whom. One of the stylists said in a cheerful voice, “You’re with me today, Mr. Smith.” (not his real name)

The man shuffled over and seated himself in the stylist’s chair.

After the haircut, Mr. Smith stood up, then went to the receptionist and said that he would like to give a tip to the stylist. After payment for the bill and the tip were complete, Mr. Smith shuffled out of the door.

After about 10 minutes, Mr. Smith reappeared in the salon. He could not start his car. He seemed confused as to what was wrong.

My stylist went into the parking lot to help. Apparently, the steering wheel was locked in place, and Mr. Smith did not know how to disengage it. So, she started the car and disengaged the steering wheel.

Mr. Smith got behind his steering wheel but sat there for about five minutes. When he started backing up his car, my stylist said, “Oh no, he’s going to hit my car!” She went into the parking lot and directed Mr. Smith away from her car and also away from a white SUV that was parked next to Mr. Smith’s car.

As Mr. Smith was attempting to maneuver around in the parking lot, he ran over the parking lot curb, then backed up, and ran over the curb again, but soon was able to point his car straight and headed out onto Oracle Road.

As I watched this scene in disbelief, I said to the stylist who cut Mr. Smith’s hair, “He should not be driving!” She said he was 83 years old, and she mentioned this to his wife, who said, “He’ll be alright.”

It was at this point when I thought to myself, “Not really. This man is not only putting his life at risk, but that of many others.”

I imagine it is difficult to give up one’s car keys. After all, getting in the driver’s seat provides the freedom we all have been experiencing since we first took driver’s ed!

But at what point should relinquishing our keys occur?

It’s a difficult call. But if you need to have a conversation with a loved one regarding this topic, here is a helpful website:

This I have learned…