Category Archives: blame

In Your 90s? Hand Over Your Keys

A driver in his mid-nineties was trying to parallel park on a busy street in Palo Alto during the height of the lunchtime hour this week. The driver hit the accelerator instead of the brake and slammed into a pedestrian and four people seated at tables outside of a restaurant. Two of them needed surgery, the others had cuts and bruises. The driver could just as easily have killed them all. The police are calling this a tragic accident and, pending further investigation, don’t plan to file criminal charges.

The DMV requires that the driver take an ’emergency retest’ to see if his license should be taken away. Really? If he passes his retest, will they let him out on the road again? He wasn’t drinking. He could have been doing drugs, perfectly legal drugs that impair his ability to respond quickly, to coordinate his eye, hand and foot movements, to judge distances and inhibit his responses.

Actually, what he was doing is criminal. He shouldn’t have been driving in the first place.  The people he injured may suffer permanent health problems or be disfigured. Our collective insurance rates will rise because his insurance company will have to reimburse the people he injured. If he had killed the five people he injured, their families would have suffered serious consequences.

The Department of Motor Vehicles should draw a line in the sand. No matter how well a 90- year-old sees or how many questions he answers correctly, he’s too old to drive. No matter how sharp his memory or what a good dancer he still is, behind the wheel of a car, he is a potential menace. If he hands in his keys voluntarily, let’s give him a medal. If not, let’s deny him a license.

Ninety is not the new 70. The body and brain that worked well two decades ago isn’t doing so well.   Don’t endanger the rest of us in the name of beating the aging game. If you’re in your 90s, hand in your keys. If your parents are in their 90s, for your sake and theirs, take the keys.It’s time to draw a line in the sand.

Certainty Cuts off Growth

The poet Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass  “Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am vast; I contain multitudes.”
I always thought this line was an open ended invitation to growth, a path that recognizes new ways of thinking about and doing things to incorporate learning. Whitman’s line runs along in my mind with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s from his essay Self-Reliance “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”
So I’m impressed when someone says “I used to think this way, but the more I learn, the more I reallize there are many ways to look at something…and I’ve changed my mind about my original position.”
Some people can’t do that. They are stuck with an original position, often formed to protect a life’s narrative in which others are to blame for their shortcomings or ills. Parents get caught in this trap, as do spouses, bosses, children or anyone who is snared in another’s web of certainty.
When we start with ” I know…” instead of ” I believe…”, we shut outself off from new input. Someone who knows needs no more information. I believe people who ‘know’ have a difficult time maintaining friendships, love relationships and an ability to deal with a universe where change is the only constant.
I believe knowing you’re right means you’re stuck.

The Ripple Effect


I was walking my dog a few days ago when I saw a tall blonde woman walking towards me with small slow steps. Holding a cane in one hand, and the leash of her large dog in the other, she seemed to be a paradox – a image of fashion, beauty, youth and vigor, yet she was taking small steps with a cane. 

“He’s friendly”, she called out reassuringly. I loosened the hold on my dog’s leash. The dogs began their get acquainted ritual and we chatted a bit. Her name is Lois. I learned that she was recovering from a broken back injury, sustained when she fell down a flight of hardwood stairs. I asked how it happened. “There was some mud on my husband’s shoe after he walked the dog. It blended into the dark wood. He didn’t see it, I didn’t see it, and I slipped,” she explained.

“It’s no one’s fault. It just happened. I feel so lucky that it wasn’t worse,” Lois continued with a wide smile. “I used to run with the dog, but he’s learned to walk slowly with me. After two years of surgeries and rehab, I’m walking again. How great is that?”

We exchanged names and I said I’d look forward to seeing her again on the walking path. I haven’t seen her again, but I hope I do. I want to thank her for reminding me of something I know, but to which I pay too little attention. 

It’s not what happens to us, but what we tell ourselves about what happens to us, that makes all the difference. I’ll try to remember that the next time I get irritated about something that wouldn’t even register on Lois’ scale.