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The Drive

Steer clear of Zelda…and Jake Plummer.

Whenever we visited my grandmother in Virginia, my mom would take us all to see some Civil War battlefield, after which she and my grandmother would mutter under their breath about Yankees and my father would feel uncomfortable. Once, on the way to a battlefield, my mother calmly informed my grandmother that we had missed the exit and needed to turn around. My grandma responded to this news as if a sniper had just blown out the back windshield. Without braking, she violently jerked the wheel to the left, ripped across three lanes of traffic and then flipped the car around so that we were suddenly heading in the right direction. It was senior-citizen Dukes of Hazzard. It was blue-hair Miami Vice. It was a symphony of car horns and screeching tires.

My grandfather is even worse, because he feels entitled to drive poorly. He's lived in this town his whole life, he reasons, and he should be able to drive however the hell he wants to. Goddamn Yankees! It's terrifying. Especially when he drives the fifteen miles to Mechanicsville for the "Chinaman food" he likes. But I suppose that's just the thing about old people: They can't drive. They're like women that way. I think we should pass some sort of legislation that takes away a person's license at age 65 or when Social Security benefits kick in.

Were that the case, I could have avoided my Thanksgiving Day encounter with Zelda.

My sister, Anna, and I were on our way to our parents' house, heading north on Colorado Boulevard at about Twelfth Avenue, when we noticed another car heading north -- in the southbound lane. Anna honked at the vehicle, and the driver quickly turned across all three northbound lanes of Colorado, in front of two cars that both nearly blasted it. As the car moved, we got a clear picture of the driver: a cotton-topped, bespectacled geriatric, barely able to see over the wheel, old enough to have once sucked off Buster Keaton.

The woman parked her car, and I got out and ran over to her, having decided we could not let this old bag endanger herself and everyone else any longer.

"You look lost, ma'am," I said to her. "Can I help you?"

"Are we near University Hills Mall?" she warbled.

I got the woman's address and offered to let her use my cell phone, but she just wanted directions back to her home on South Holly, which I gave her. Anna and I started to drive off, but when we noticed the woman run a red light to get back on Colorado, we knew our work was not finished. We turned around and tailed this unsinkable Molly Brown and watched as she made unfathomable mistake after unfathomable mistake. Finally, we called the cops and continued to follow as the operator struggled to keep up with my description of our whereabouts.

"Okay, now we're turning across Colorado onto Fourth. Okay, now we're on Albion, but on the wrong side of the street. Okay, apparently now we're going to park for a second, but with the front half of our car sticking out into Sixth."

We finally got the woman to stop, and she agreed to let Anna drive her home; I followed. Anna learned that she was named Zelda, had been to Thanksgiving dinner at her children's house in Fort Lupton -- the woman had driven more than an hour on the highway! -- that she was ninety years old, and that she had been driving cluelessly in Denver for three hours. Then this poor old woman said she was thinking about quitting driving.

Smashing choice, Zelda.

When we pulled in front of her house, she was still uncertain where she was. But Anna hit the garage-door opener in the car, and the door opened. Anna offered to walk Zelda inside, to make sure she was safely at home and thus make our Thanksgiving miracle complete.

"I'm not so far gone that I can't get myself inside!" she snapped.

As we sat in our parents' basement later, eating pumpkin pie and watching the Broncos, I found myself baffled by this Zelda character, baffled by the children who would let her drive. I was also baffled at karma for allowing my Broncos to lose after my sister and I, known Broncos fans, had done such a good deed. Then I remembered that old Billy Wilder adage that no good deed goes unpunished, and thought that the director, while talented, was ultimately kind of negative.

But at least now Jay Cutler gets a shot.

 
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