By Sheelagh Mooney


Rita Heffernan dons her good brown suit, teams it with a pearl-pink blouse and her best high-heeled shoes. Today is D-day, she must face her nemesis, the dreaded driving test. Looking her best is an imperative. Mature yes but not overly so!

She glances at her reflection in the mirror, does a twirl and smiles ‘Mm..not so bad. Now courage my girl.’
Rita, you may have worked out, is not your typical whippersnapper learner driver for she has held a full licence for quite some time. She just never actually sat the driving test. At this stage she never thought she would have to. Worry though, she has learnt, is a waste of valuable energy. She hums those lines made famous by Doris Day ‘Que cera cera’ (whatever will be will be).

Those who know Rita well would characterise her as a confident driver and the curiously Irish phrase ‘mad for road’ might have been coined just for her.

Living in a city with limited public transport options, she regularly volunteers to drive ‘oldies’ in her neighbourhood to hospital and other appointments in the city centre. At the weekends she almost always takes a spin down the country to visit her rural based relatives in County Meath. She really needs that car.

But Rita has finally run out of road. Recently on a routine visit to her longstanding doctor for the annual routine medical to renew her licence, she found instead a new young locum in his place.

Rita could hardly credit that the child sitting before her, younger than her grandchildren, could really be a qualified doctor. But if Rita was having her reservations so too was the young doc as she cross-checked Rita’s age.
‘‘Surely you’re not still driving, Margaret, at your age?’’ she gasped glancing up, looking somewhat askance.
‘‘I am indeed, Doctor, thank God, and plan to continue for as long as I have all my wits about me. Of course, at the first sign that they are failing me, I will readily hand in my keys but until then yes, I intend to keep driving,’’ Rita replied calmly.

‘‘Well, we’ll see,’’ the doctor said doubtfully.

No doubt presuming that the medical evidence would fall in her favour she carried out the necessary checks. But Rita was made of hardy stuff and a thorough medical uncovered nothing of concern.

The young doctor however remained unconvinced.

‘‘I am sorry, Margaret. I really cannot give you a certificate of fitness. Your age is against you, surely you must see that?’’

‘‘My age! But I have never had an accident in my life,’’ Rita protested. ‘‘What do I have to do to get my licence renewed?’’

The doctor considered the woman in front of her. ‘‘Well, you could re-sit the test,” she proffered, possibly imagining that this would put an end to it and that Rita would now hang up her driving shoes.
Ah, but she didn’t know our Rita!

‘‘Then so be it.’’ A disgruntled Rita departed with a click of her heels.

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