I would rather have root canal.
I would rather calculate the amount I need to save for retirement – a bazillion dollars in case you were wondering.
I would rather watch a marathon of Kardashian television shows.
I would rather do any of those things than renew my driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Although the DMV affectionately provided me with a two months heads-up, I spent the first month bitching about not being able to renew online and the second month deciphering the pamphlet on the necessary six points of identification. Oh great, my passport is expired – strike one. Waiting until the day my license expires to drag myself down to no-mans land – strike two.
I could write ten posts about my forty minutes in the twilight zone atmosphere that is the DMV. I know you are thinking forty minutes is a miracle, but those moments of my life are gone forever. At 47, every second is precious.
The genial clerk greets and questions me efficiently before assigning me to a roped off area reserved for nincumpoops foolish enough to show up on the last day of the month. As I join the line, I sense unrest. Although it’s running pretty smoothly thus far, we shift uncomfortably waiting for disaster: the daunting comprehension you brought 5 ½ points of i.d. rather than the requisite 6 points. The brawny 6’5” State Trooper, his enormous arms folded menacingly across his chest, is all business. I avoid his glare, my watery glaze settling on the vending machine, eyeing up the bags of chips as if I have been sequestered here for a week. We herd like cattle, hands shaking with certified documents, praying we will eventually escape with license in tow.
We are all equals here – show your six points of identification and you’ll get through. It’s as simple as that. Or not. As the line shoves slowly forward, issues arise. It is clear the employees are more than paper processors – assuming the role of therapist, bouncer, understanding friend and patriot. These multi-tasking enforcers listen, nod their heads and soothe conflicts before they escalate, confident laws will not be broken on their watch.
I envision the staff huddling together as they arrive at work for the last day of the month knowing what they are up against. Perhaps a shot of whiskey and shouts of encouragement in the back office steady them for battle.
My turn. Although I need six points, I have brought twenty-six and they joke with me. I am handed a blue ticket with a number and asked to sit amongst the other chosen few. I played by the rules, damnit and now it’s time to rejoice. I look around for someone to high-five but nobody is in a celebratory mood.
Without cell phone service and Scramble with Friends to distract me from my dreary wait, I notice the picture on my about to be expired license. Although it stares at me every day, I never thought much about the snapshot taken ten years ago; I look young. It’s not only the lack of wrinkles and absence of gray hairs but the immediacy at which I am transported back to my life then. My smile portrays ease, sincerity and a startling comfort with my life’s choices.
“33,” Ruby yells and takes my check as I silently mourn the replacement of this naive photo. Vanity wasn’t the catalyst here, rather the peace reflected in my eyes. The person in the photo ten years ago had not experienced heartbreak, adversity and disappointment; I didn’t realize how lucky I had been.
The DMV doesn’t want you to smile for your license picture; not wanting to add to Ruby’s long night, I didn’t ask why. Ruby snapped the first shot and my face appeared on the screen. She looked at me and before I could get the words out, she said we would take another. This one would have to do. Ruby smiled and told me to have a good night before handing me over my new license.
As I sat in the parking lot trying to figure out how to cover the image in my wallet, I wonder if Ruby saw what I see – a mirror to my soul or can I laugh it off as another unflattering DMV photo?
I long most for the feeling in that old picture. I tuck my expired license behind the new one and drive off towards the parkway wondering whether any of these roads will lead me to tranquility or at least to the salon to cover up the grays.