It is not the decreasing insurance premiums, nor the change from two-seater roadster to family saloon that truly indicate a transformation has occurred in your life. That your age has passed from wild oat-sewing, party days to respectable, reliable fatherhood is demonstrated far more clearly by your habits behind the wheel than the date in the diary.
The open road and final destination were the only two items paramount in the mind of my younger self as I would set off from A to B. Never had I considered breaking down, the weather, or any other host of items a careful planner would consider before embarking on a long road trip. Conversely, I now ensure not just mine, but my wife’s car as well, has adequate rain jackets, gloves, umbrella and all forms or paraphernalia that may be required in the event of unexpected emergencies. Without warning, or perhaps because middle-age and children occupy far too much of my psyche, or simply too tired to notice, the curse of middle-age has snuck up on me and simply engulfed my younger self without chance of reprisal or defence.
Akin to any boy racer, when young, free and single, I believed the only purpose of any rear view mirror, either attached outside, or interior to my vehicle, was for the exclusive use of any fanciful lady I had managed to persuade I was worthy of her attention. Apparently, I now use the rear view mirrors to constantly check the distance, and hence breaking space required, by any driver following me. Even to the point now, where in wet, poor conditions, I often find myself pulling over to let the overbearing, road-rage thug overtake me.
Speed limits used to be targets, and once passed an indicator to be more vigilant for the eagle eye of the plod. Almost a dare as the flagrant disregard for the law was somehow considered a challenge on the road to maturity. These days what passes through my mind is the mantra of arrive alive, and how would I ever deal with the sheer guilt of knocking someone over that could have been avoided if only I had stuck to the proposed safe limits from Westminster.
Shades, sunglasses, or whatever moniker you place upon them, was once an item of fashion. Something you wore to add a cool allure to your well-groomed presence. The middle-aged driver knows differently. Covering your eyes when the glare rears its head, and subsequently removing your favourite fashion goggles when reasonable to do so only adds to the woe. You know youth has left you by.
Wallet, phone and car keys were the only items I worried about as I left the house, surging through life at full speed, on my way to a new adventure. These days I take to time check the weather forecast, plan my breaks in the journey, ensuring no segment is too long to avoid fatigue, and always check the basics of tyre pressure, and general maintenance before leaving the driveway.
The calendar and birthday count bear no resemblance as to when life deals the middle-age hand. All you need do is check whether you have reached the stage where you refuse to leave the house without your favourite beige, leather driving gloves. Then, you know middle age has passed and you definitely are one-step away from pushing up the daisies.