I had the privilege of speaking with the pleasant Mrs Edna Bruce just a few days ago. Edna was born and raised in Bairnsdale, Victoria, where her father had moved, along with her mother and two older brothers, in 1932. She was born a little over a year after they settled there.
Edna, now eighty-four years old, still lives on Macleod Street, although not in the same house. She takes her four-year-old great-granddaughter shopping with her every second Wednesday. This day was as normal as every other time had been: Edna sat on her Pride Pathrider 10 Deluxe mobility scooter (a recent acquisition, as it was gifted to her by her son-in-law to replace her old scooter), and her great-granddaughter sat on the front basket. She then drove them along Macleod Street, left onto Bailey, and then right onto the Princes Highway. Once on the Princes, she urged the scooter up to a frisky seven kilometers per hour and pointed the nose of the scooter toward the supermarket.
This day, though, she didn’t quite make it. A police car drove up beside her, lights flashing, and indicated that she should pull over. The two officers who stepped from the car gave her a stern reprimand and a $500.00 fine. This in itself astonished me, but when I questioned Edna further, the facts were in fact even more absurd. The officers looked her and her great-granddaughter over, then asked her if she realized what speed she had been driving. The fine was for driving too slowly.
I found and had a brief interview with the officer who had pulled her over. The officer (name withheld for security purposes) said it was not the first time he had given out a fine for slow driving, but that he had never expected that Edna would earn one. “She always seemed like such a law-abiding old lady, you know?” I asked if he had considered any other details about her circumstances, to which he replied: “Well, I did mention in passing that she should probably fit a seatbelt for the little girl, but I didn’t want to upset her too much.”
When asked whether Edna should have been cautioned against driving her scooter on a highway, the officer’s senior constable (name also withheld) answered: “We’re not about to tell someone what they can or can’t drive, nor where they can or can’t drive it. We simply want to make sure that wherever people are driving they are keeping in line with TAC and VicRoads policies to keep roads safe. If she wants to drive on the road, she’s simply going to have to drive at or slightly below the speed limit.”
Edna is already planning for her next trip with her great-granddaughter. “I’ll keep an eye on my mirror when I’m on the roads,” she said; “if I catch them coming up on me again like that, I’ll really put my foot down.” Putting your foot down on a Pathfinder 10 Deluxe amounts to something close to nine kilometers per hour. After a moment of unprompted reflection, though, she reconsidered this. “Or maybe I’ll just wear a scarf or sunglasses something. If I put my foot down they’ll probably put a ticket under my door. That’s the problem with such small communities where everyone knows where everyone else lives.”
(Author’s note: fiction.)