Dolphin Silver Linings

That 1-6 Record Is Not So Bad. Think Positive!

"We just heard about those last week," Sentz says quickly, though the bureau routinely calls businesses to respond to complaints. "The person that was handling those complaints was not handling them properly and was terminated."

So remember, kids: When the Community Reading Club of Tamarac calls, you've already agreed to pay them, your subscription is noncancelable, and they'll happily cancel your subscription if you have a letter ready from Charlie Crist. Now that's customer service.

30 mph with Blinking Hazard Lights

From our personal collection
From our personal collection

So you think it's a roller-derby riot out there on the South Florida interstates. What if you were a five-foot-tall septuagenarian in a modest compact?

Phyllis Arick participates in an AARP program every three years or so to help her cope with the young-buck motorists, who, she says, don't see beyond her tuft of white hair when she's behind the wheel. The aggressiveness, the rudeness, the sheer recklessness — it ain't pretty for the elderly, says Arick, a delicate-looking, Brooklyn-born woman who lives in Hollywood and who says she'd rather not give her age.

Like a lot of senior citizens, Arick's an old hand at dealing with the Young and the Clueless. Most recently, it was in a shopping-mall parking lot when a youthful motorist followed her out onto the highway, sideswiped her, gave her the finger, and screamed "Fuck you." (Arick repeats the words with teeth-clenched disgust.) All Arick did to annoy him was to beep once as a warning, because the guy nearly backed into her while both were pulling out of parking spaces.

Arick says she tried to get his plate number but couldn't. "I got nothing from him except the finger," she says.

The man who schools South Florida seniors on driving learned to do it himself on a Model-T Ford. This is Louis Kleinman, whose father taught him in the streets of Queens when he was 11. Now he's 88 and has been leading the eight-hour AARP-sponsored "Driver Safety Program" every month for seven years.

His doctor recently told him his larynx was giving out, so future participants will have to take the class in two four-hour sessions.

Tailpipe, a longtime connoisseur of automotive behavior, sat in the other day as Kleinman conducted his monthly class in a conference room at the Memorial Senior Center in Hallandale Beach. The class earns discounts on rising insurance rates (seniors and teenagers face the highest premiums), and it goes into the nuts-and-bolts details of how to adjust driving habits as the aging process takes its toll on vision, hearing, and reflexes.

"We teach them to know when they should stop driving," says Kleinman, who still plies the highways himself. His class teaches drivers defensive and coping techniques as well as "knowing ourselves" — learning to recognize the symptoms and driving dangers of cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.

One big hurdle to overcome, many of the 35 people taking the class last week suggested, is how they're perceived by other drivers.

"They seem to think we can't drive properly or we drive too slowly," says Arick, who moved to Hollywood from Brooklyn 35 years ago.

Slow is legal; too slow can be deadly, Kleinman says sagely.

"The only time we get a bad rap," Kleinman adds, "is from driving too slowly." For future reference, all you non-oldsters: Driving 45 mph on I-95 or 50 mph on I-75 is legal and perfectly fine. But 30 mph with hazard lights blinking? Er, too slow.

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