Take control of your brain health as you age. Visit Staying Sharp — it's free for AARP members.
by Maggy Simony, AARP Bulletin, March 2, 2009
I learned to drive at age 55.
Maggy Simony currently cruises Florida's coast.—Photo by Brian Smith.
At the time, I lived 50 miles east of New York on Long Island. Every night, I saw the same television ad. A man with a New York accent described his wife’s transformation after taking lessons at a driving school in Manhattan. “She can drive up mountains, down into valleys! She’s never home!”
My husband had died a year earlier. I had never sat behind the wheel of a car—I simply had no curiosity. One evening, I impulsively called the school, made an appointment, took the commuter train, and reached the school’s office by 9 the next morning. The city’s anonymity appealed to me.
“Where’s your permit?” asked the man. I had never thought about that, but signed up for six lessons anyway when advised I could get the permit down on 14th Street. Another unknown: I’d have to take a written test first. No problem. I read the study book over lunch and passed the test by 2 p.m.
Back at the driving school, I had yet to focus on what a lesson in a city would be like. Clueless. I was astonished when the teacher put me in the driver’s seat.
“What did you expect?” asked the instructor. “Maybe a big parking lot?” I said.
That first day, the instructor talked nonstop, gripped the passenger-side controls—and I drove. We headed south to 34th Street, crossed town, turned north to 42nd Street. Driving by all those burlesque houses and porno movies of pre-Rudy Giuliani days, I began laughing so hard that the instructor had to pull off to a parking space. It was the first time I remember laughing spontaneously since Bill’s illness and death. I could picture him, looking down, amused—“Maggy, what in hell are you doing!”
I took one more lesson, then confessed to my friends Chris and Aud what I was up to in Manhattan. They were horrified. “We’ll teach you here!” And—brave women both—they did.
Now I’ve reached 88, and have never caused a single accident. I’ve pledged to give it up—driving, that is—at 90.
The AARP Bulletin’s "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Maggy Simony is a reader from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at