At a recent social gathering, several of us were standing around engaged in our usual chitchat. I firmly believe that chitchat is an important element of any public gathering these days. After all, we typically refrain from conversations about politics, sex or religion. So, that leaves chitchat.

Being good at chitchat is an art form. It takes a bit of planning and a lot of focus to make sure the conversation is light, bright and non-controversial. Not everyone is good at chitchat. One component that makes chitchat work is our ability to really listen, even though there isn’t a lot of meat to the conversation. It’s about respecting your fellow chitchater. Some people are annoyed by chitchat, and I totally get it. Perhaps it is a waste of time for the most part, but, in the end, it allows all of us have a good time and leave our gathering as friends.

Well, at my last social event, the conversation turned to driving. A 30-something in our group made this statement: “It should be mandatory for anyone 80-years-old or older to take driver’s training again –– if they want to continue to drive.” That certainly violated the basic guidelines of chitchat. But, more importantly, thank goodness there wasn’t a person in that age bracket in our circle of friends.

That got me to thinking. Based on the way I drive (not so hot) and based on what I see from other drivers (not so hot), it may be a good idea. I wouldn’t single out the older crowd, however. How about all of us taking the written and driving test every 10 years? I wonder how many of us would pass and retain our ability to legally drive.

To get some answers, I went to the Office of Motor Vehicles in Shreveport looking for an expert. They immediately sent me to the Bass Driving School. After meeting the owner, Dr. Linda Ruth Bass, I can see why they said the Bass Driving School is the best. Dr. Bass spent her entire career in education, serving as a superintendent, principal and teacher at every level.

If you want to be a good driver (or as Dr. Bass would say, “competent and confident”), this is the place to learn. This isn’t an “easy A” as we liked to say in college. Dr. Bass and her team will put you through your paces, including 10 written tests and eight hours of driving. 

There are all kinds of rules and regulations to follow and, at the Bass Driving School, you can bet there aren’t any shortcuts to becoming a good driver. But that’s what we need. It’s a dangerous world out there. If you don’t believe me, just try driving the speed limit on Interstate 49 sometime and see what happens.

If the Linda Ruth Basses of the world were in charge, then I would say it would be a good thing if all of us did retake the written and driving test every 10 years.

But that’s not in the cards today, so I decided to take an AARP Save Driving Course instead. Believe it or not, that four-hour course was taught by a former college professor, Mary Sue Rix. It was engaging, on point and I learned several things before the morning was over. (You no longer put your hands at the 10 and 2 position on the steering wheel. Now it’s 9 and 3, or 8 and 4, because of airbags. I even received a small discount on my auto insurance.

“Driving is our identity,” she said, and she is right. She also said the only way we can be a better driver is by being honest with ourselves. That’s the hard part. For example, I know I can be distracted at times. My mind races 90-miles-an-hour thinking about all the things I have to do that day, when I should be focusing on that 18-wheeler coming in the opposite lane. I do always wear my seatbelt. I never text and drive and I never, ever respond to aggressive drivers.

When I left, I only had one goal –– not to have a traffic accident on my way home. Thank goodness, I made it home safe and sound. How embarrassing it would have been to leave a safe driving course and total your car? Now that would have been something to chitchat about at our next party.