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I remember clearly (although my senior mind  remembers few things from that long ago) the day I got my driver’s license at 16 and was given access to the family car keys. Not unfettered access, but a certain freedom — freedom to no longer suffer the humiliation of having a parent drive me everywhere, the freedom to come and go more or less as I pleased, and the responsibilities that went with that freedom. Fortunately, I never had an accident with the family car.

Then, many years later, when my three kids were teenagers, I was the one handing over the car keys to the next generation. Results were less successful. Gill managed to shear the bottom off my new car; Crazy D ran into a deer and took out the front end of the car …although from the deer’s point of view, the car got off easy; and L’il Sis was side-swiped by another driver and ended up sort of wrapped around a lamppost in front of a popular eatery. I still think of that day when I pass by and see the remaining scrapes on the post.

They are all good drivers — they just lacked a certain experience back then. But I realized recently, on my Australian trip, the power that a set of car keys wields.

The Man In My Life and I went to Australia for three weeks. For one week of that time, we vacationed with his family on Hamilton Island, an island of resort condos and homes near the Great Barrier Reef. It is a small island  with very steep hills, panoramic views and lovely beaches.

One night, the two of us decided to venture to the marina area for dinner. Having watched joggers and even walkers huff and puff their way up the hills, I knew that walking to the restaurant was not in the cards — at least for me. After all, when you try to look nice and dress up for dinner (‘dressing up’ in island terms means exchanging shorts for long pants), the last thing you want is to arrive sweaty, breathless and limp. In the tropical heat, that is exactly what would have happened. So we would take ‘the family chariot’.

The son, since he and his family had arrived before us on the island, had taken care of renting a vehicle for the duration. As we were leaving for our ‘night on the town’, the son picked the keys off the kitchen counter and, dangling them playfully above his head, counseled us to “bring it home without any dents”. What? Did he think we were a couple of reckless kids, off to careen around the hills in a joy-riding frenzy? I almost expected him to send us off with a “Have fun, you crazy kids!”

We arrived at the marina, parked the vehicle and went in to enjoy our dinner. Two hours later, we exited in a torrential downpour. Should we make a dash for the vehicle or wait out the rain? Clearly, it was not ending anytime soon. And since it was after 8, the midnight hour for seniors, we had to act lest the vehicle turn into a pumpkin and we fall asleep at the wheel. Off we dashed, to arrive at the chariot drenched. But that was fine.

I may have neglected to mention one tiny detail…the vehicle in question was a golf cart! No cars are allowed on the island so everyone putt-putts up and down the hills in buggies with a top speed of, oh, I’m guessing, 20 k.p.h. It is a sight to behold…crawling up and down the hills like a colony of tiny bugs. And when they are all parked outside a restaurant or pool complex, it looks a lot like a ladybug convention — without the spots.

When we arrived at the buggy, we saw with horror that the seats were covered in water. You see, there are open sides and back on the buggy. Sweeping the rainwater off as best we could, we sat, our sodden clothing already wet and sticking to us, on the seat. As we sat, preparing for take-off, a gust of wind brought a further deluge in on us through the plastic half-windshield. We discovered that we could put up the other half to give us some protection from the pelting rain, but that also meant that it was hard to see the road. Plastic windshield plus driving rain and poorly lit streets makes for a bad combination. If you factor in senior eyesight and  wine at dinner, this was a disaster in the making. But on we forged. As we set the buggy in motion, we realized, to our horror, that rain had been collecting on the roof. It came down and in on us in torrents, drenching us from both sides, whipped by the wind. We were now truly and thoroughly soaked. We looked at each other and broke into gales of hysterical laughter. What else was there to do?

We made it home with no dents — except possibly to our collective dignity and delivered, as promise, a buggy in the same condition as it was when we left…well, except for the water. We gave back the keys and, in the re-telling of the story, lived up to our billing as “you crazy kids!” Well, if you can’t laugh, what’s the point?

I feel certain that Gill will have a lot to say about our misadventure. Just remember, dear readers, Gill was the one who sheared the bottom off my car. Just sayin’…