GUEST OPINION: 'I stopped, but it's still not easy'

  • Norma Moore of Petaluma, left, 89, listens as a California Highway Patrol officer gives safe driving tips to a group of senior citizens in Petaluma on Feb. 18, 2010. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

I am 84. I quit driving two years ago on Dec. 31, 2010. At first it was very difficult. It's still not easy.

I spent the first six months having anxiety attacks whenever I had to arrange transportation. Two years later, this still happens when I get last minute invitations.

I spent the next six months depressed and introspective while I learned to accept my new self-imposed lifestyle. Now when I hear a neighbor say, “I was bored so I hopped in the car and went shopping,” I confess the sin of envy.

It's not easy.

I took the better part of the year to assemble a list of available public and private transportation:

Sebastopol Area Senior Center — no charge — but with five working days notice required.

Jewish Family and Children's Services — with a fee — 24 hour notice.

Sonoma County Paratransit - fee — 24 hour notice.

Sebastopol shuttle — nominal fee — the last bus leaves downtown Sebastopol at 3:30 p.m.

It takes research and imagination. Other alternatives:

Airport Express, $35, takes me to Oakland Airport where my East Bay family picks me up.

Golden Gate Transit is a dreary 2-hour drive into downtown San Francisco.

Each of the above public facilities has its individual quirks.

It takes creativity. A friend takes me grocery shopping every Wednesday. Good friends live in the country, far from the bus route. Paratransit delivers and picks me up at a restaurant in the village — my friend ferries me to her house. For after-dark events, I have a list of folks who enjoy similar things so I have both transportation and a date.

There were hints to decreasing driving ability. I list them in ascending order: I found it too stressful to drive freeways to San Francisco or Oakland — thus there were less frequent visits with my family. I took three right turns to avoid a left turn. I stopped parallel parking. I drove no more than 20 miles from home. No more night driving. My knuckles turned white when I grasped the wheel in traffic. At the intersection of Highway 12 and Fulton Road, I looked down and saw my foot on the accelerator instead of the brake. I corrected myself, didn't bash into anyone. But I immediately remembered the Santa Monica man whose “stuck foot” plowed through a farmer's market full of people in 2003, leaving 10 dead and 63 injured.

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