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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

No. 42 "... Wouldn't that be an unsafe movement?"

Most of the downeast communities had something that the people were known for or by. Harkers Islanders were called “loon-eaters,” folks from Marshallberg were called ”hard crabs,” and the people of Williston were called “beantowners.” And for Otway it was accepted by everyone that they drove their vehicles harder and faster than anyone else! Hardly a weekend went by that there was not a wreck, many of them serious, in or around Otway.

In the days before safety inspections required effective mufflers on all vehicles, whenever someone heard a howling or roaring engine streaking down the road, the most common speculation was that “... it must be somebody from Otway trying out their car.”

It was against that backdrop that an older man from Harkers Island went to the motor vehicles office in an effort to get a drivers license for the first time. He had driven cars all of his life, but had never ventured to get a license. He had kept putting off any suggestion that he avoid the risk of driving illegally until he finally admitted that he could not read nor write, and knew he would never be able to answer the questions on the driving test.

Eventually one of his friends worked out an arrangement with an examiner to allow that he take the test orally. So after almost forty years of driving without a license, the aged Islander sat across from a kindly lady who read aloud to him each of the required questions. All proceeded fairly routinely in terms of his responses until there arose the subject of “unsafe movement.”

Sensing that the man was puzzled, the examiner sought to explain her question further to make sure that he grasped what was being asked. When he still seemed confused, the lady zeroed in by directly asking if he understood the term, and finally requested, “can you give me an example of what is meant by an unsafe movement?”

When finally he made up his mind as to what was being asked, the man from the Island responded, “How’s about this; a pulpwood truck being driven by a drunk Otwayer and passing somebody on a curve? Wouldn’t that be an unsafe movement?

The examiner must have agreed, because a short time later the Islander was home and had an official drivers license for the first time in his life.

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