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Donna Hale Chandler

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By Donna Hale Chandler
Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Do you remember your first fender bender? How about your first traffic ticket? For me, there were 45 years before these two life experiences.



I am 61 years old and received my driver's license when I was 16.  I had to take the test twice, which is  a completely different story that I don't particularly care to talk about right now.  I will say however, that I'm very sure that I was the only one of my friend's who had to go back for that embarrassing second test and those who I considered my very best friends, (or as today's younger generation says, my 'bff's"), never let me forget that I was the only Honor Society Member who couldn't even pass a little ole test like that.  To them, this was an extremely humorous situation.  To me, not so much.
In the 45 years that I've been driving I've never had a ticket, UNTIL just recently.  I can't complain.  I think karma just finally caught up with me.  I have to confess that my gas-peddle foot gets pretty heavy at times and I started right out at 16 by scraping, dinging, or banging up every car in some fashion.  If I was behind the wheel, damage of some sort was pretty much a sure thing. 
I remember one time in particular when I was driving my dad's brand new Volkswagen.  It was a hot summer day in Kentucky.  It had just rained making the narrow winding roads that surrounded our community slippery and more than a little dangerous.  This didn't seem important enough to me to bother slowing down which resulted in hitting a slick spot, losing control and doing several 180s in the middle of the road.  That day my guardian angel made sure that no other traffic was around so I wasn't hurt, nor did I hurt anyone else.  When I finally came to rest, the back end of the little red VW was practically buried in the mud of a small embankment.
I didn't even bother to get out and assess the situation.  The car was still running so everything must be ok.  Right?  Not really.  When I put the car in first gear and pulled away from my predicament, I left behind the exhaust and all other tail pipes that are supposed to be attached to the car.  Dad's Volkswagen no longer sounded like a lawn mower puttering down the street.  It sounded as if it was sporting  major glass packs.
When I arrived home and pulled onto the car port, my dad came tearing out our side door with a look of sheer terror on his face.  For several seconds he was confused and disoriented because, from the sound, he was convinced that a helicopter had landed on our roof.  Yet, the only thing that sat before his dazed eyes was his teen-age daughter and his now, not-so-brand-new VW.  When he caught his breath and his heart slowed to it's normal rhythm, he simply turned and walked back into the house, probably to ponder this latest escapade by his oldest off-spring.
I have to give my parents credit.  Times may have been difficult but somehow they kept the car insurance paid up to date and every time I dented in one of their cars, it was quickly repaired.  My mother would have a short frantic speech for me but my father was the calm parent and would say, "Sis I hope you learned something from this.  You need to pay more attention."  Or it might have been, "Sis, I hope you learned something from this.  You need to slow down."  But he never lost his temper and somehow I never got a ticket. (Boy, those were the good old days.)
Since then, decades have flown by.  I somehow managed to survive my teen years and amazingly enough, so did my poor parents. I can remember my mother saying, “You pay for your raisin’ when you raise your own.” And yes, I’ve definitely found this to be true !
But as I mentioned before, karma can come sneaking along when you least expect it. Not long ago, I was in the middle of heavy stop-and-go traffic and I should have remembered my dad's words, "Sis, you need to pay more attention."  Because, traffic stopped while I was day-dreaming, wool gathering, or zoning out in some way, and when my eyes focused back to the car in front of me again, it was stopped. 
I stood on my brake peddle as hard as I could, afraid to turn my wheel in either direction because of cars on both sides of me.  I braced for impact and came to a sudden stop when I slammed into a nice looking black SUV driven by a woman who looked too young to be behind the wheel.  (Do you find our young adults are looking younger and younger?  It can't have anything to do with my entering these wonderful Golden Years, can it? Oh, there I go, "Gathering wool again.”) 
The sound of metal on metal is a most unpleasant sound and it was even louder than the sound of my grinding teeth as I clinched every muscle.  For what seemed ages, time stopped, and I just sat there wondering why my air bag didn't pop out and blind me.  Then I realized that it probably wasn't so bad.  If the air bag didn't deploy then the impact wasn't much at all.  If the impact wasn't bad, then the damage wouldn't be bad.  Right?  It made perfect sense to me.
Young Woman Driver   and I both moved our cars as far to the right as we could in order to not block the traffic that continued to whiz by as if nothing unusual had just happened.  She exited her car with her cell phone in hand as I did the same.  We both called 911 to report a traffic accident with no injury.  Once this unpleasant task was finished I started to walk toward Young Woman Driver.  It was my intention to be nice, to ask if she was ok, to make small talk while we werewaiting for the red and blue blinking lights to arrive.  Young Woman Driver, however, wanted nothing to do with me.  She turned on her heel, climbed back into her SUV and slammed the door.  I took this to mean that she was a bit displeased with me at the moment and made a slinky retreat to my car.
I looked over her SUV and only spotted some skinned paint.  I looked at the front of my eight-year-old Lincoln Town Car and realized that it was missing headlights, a grill, the front bumper was cracked and the hood was buckled.  Wow!  How did that happen?  My eyes went back to the SUV, that by now was beginning to look like a tank to me, and I still could not see anything other than a bit of missing paint.
Finally a nice police officer arrived, only to tell us, that he did not handle traffic accidents and that someone else would be arriving shortly.  What?  Occupations have gotten so specific and specialized that our county had an officer to make out accident reports and a different officer to let people know that this is not his job.  His job is only to verify that an accident actually occurred and to let those involved know that the Traffic Accident Specialist would be making an appearance some time in the near future.
It was July in southern Florida and the sun was beating down as Young Woman Driver and I waited.  I tried to convince myself that she had enclosed herself inside her SUV, not because she was trying to prevent herself from doing me bodily harm, but because it was cooler in that little bit of shaded area.  With the SUV not running and the windows rolled up, the idea that she was keeping cool was a rather ridiculous one.
At last Traffic Accident Police Officer pulled up.  Surprise!  He went to Young Woman Driver first.  Perhaps this slightly overweight and over heated senior just didn't throw off those come-talk-to-me vibes, because he walked right past me as if I was chopped liver or perhaps invisible to him.  They talked and then they talked some more while he made notes.  He examined her car, made some more notes, talked some more, which called for more notations to be made in his little notebook.  I was beginning to understand why he was a Traffic Accident Specialist.  He certainly was thorough.
My attitude was quickly beginning to sour as he turned and slowly strolled in my direction.   However, he was such a nice looking young man, with such a pleasant face and right off the bat he won my heart by saying, "Who's from Kentucky?"  You may be thinking that this is a strange question but I have a frame around my Florida license plate that says University of Kentucky and a big blue magnetic Kentucky Wildcat paw on my trunk.  I proudly confessed to himthat I am indeed an avid University of Kentucky Basketball fan.  When the officermentioned Kentucky, he had uttered the magic words. All annoyance with him vanished into thin air.
I answered that I grew up there, still a bit nervous speaking to such a man who held this important position with the County Sheriff Department.  As I handed him my driver'slicense and proof on insurance, he said that his parents were from Kentucky and even gave the name of a town that I'd never heard of before.  We chatted for a minute.  He asked me what he would find when he went back to check my driving record.  With much pride I let him know that I had NEVER had a ticket.
Taking his time, Traffic Accident Officer went back to his car.  I can only assume that he was checking on both drivers and that whatever method being used was quite antiquated because again, this process seemed to take forever and a day.
At last I saw him opening the door of the police car, which still had red and blue light whirling, and heading back to Young Woman Driver.  Again there was much talk before she started her car and drove off.  During this entire hot, unpleasant process that seemed to take hours and hours, Young Woman Drive never uttered one single word to me.  She didn't ask if I was ok.  (After all I'm OLD.  I could have been having a heart attack or more likely, a heat stroke.)  Obviously her parents didn’t teach her to be  well-mannered enough to inquire as to my well-being, but, neither was she ill-mannered enough to rant and rave and swear at me, so I guess I'll count that as a good thing and be happy that she remained mute.
Just as I was beginning to feel awfully abandoned, the officer came to me.  He handed me back my driver's license and insurance card and said, "You were right.  You've never had a ticket ................ until now."  Ouch!  I began to see dollar signs floating away from me.  I wondered what his Kentucky Parents would say to their son if they knew he was gong to give a nasty ticket to a Fellow Wildcat Fan.  AND one that had a perfect driving record!  Mercy!  They'd give him 'what-for'.  I'm sure of it.
As my heart sank, he went on to say that he didn't know the exact amount, but he thought the cost of the ticket would be less than $100.00 and that it was a good thing I was only crawling along or the air bag would have had to be replaced and the damage would have been much more extensive.  He went on to say that he would guess that my repairs would be $1,500.00 or less. 
Plus if I would go to traffic school I could avoid points (my FIRST points ever) on my license.  "Oh my goodness", I began to think, "traffic school!  I wonder how many times I have to take the test this time. I will NOT tell any of my friends that I'm taking a driving test for a THIRD time.  I absolutely refuse to subject myself to their ridicule once again. One itty bitty ticket in 45 years and you'd think I was The Driver From The Dark Side.
It only took a few days to learn that Traffic Accident Officer was NOT quite the specialist that I had first imagined.  My ticket for 'following too close' was $180.00 and the repairs to my car were almost double in price. Traffic Specialist needs to stick with his Day Job because he'd never make it in any of the financial fields, and particularly NOT as an insurance adjuster.
But all's well that ends well.  One lesson from my parents stuck with me.  I WAS FULLY INSURED.  I may be 61 years old but I can still hear my dad saying, "Sis I hope you learned a lesson from this.  You need to pay attention."  Oh if children (even us OLD ones) would just listen and heed their parents' wise words, wouldn't this be a wonderful world!
               © copyright Donna Hale Chandler

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Reviewed by J Howard 6/12/2011
Too cute and what driver can't see themselves in this story. At least i unfortunately, know I can. It is such a pleasure to read your work...or maybe not work but also your pleasure, eh?
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 1/25/2011
Delightful story, Donna; I was hooked from the get-go! Wonderful writing; enjoyed~

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Texas, Karen Lynn. :D
Reviewed by Judith Ann 1/22/2011
Donna...This is a great write. Hope it made it in your local news paper. The readers would just love it.

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