Deep in the Well of Savage Salvation

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"Chronicle Groupie"
Hyperion August 29, 2001

#56 Driving Myself Crazy, Part 2

And now, Part 2 in my saga to learn to read, I mean drive:

I planned to be at the State Safety Office by 7:00 when they opened; I mean I planned to be there by 9:30, which, I am happy to say I was (In my defense, only part of my tardiness was due to slumber. Both courthouses I visited the day before gave me directions—WHICH WERE BOTH DIFFERENT—and I got lost a couple of times. Ok, eight times).

Anyway, at the stroke of nine thirty I entered the State Safety Office and took my wait-in-line ticket, which was A158. They were on A31. Presuming they started at seven with A1 that meant, let’s see, carry the seven; I was going to be there forever. There was actually a cottage industry of people who got there early, took a bunch of numbers, and then sold them. I saw an A48 go for $45.

It looked like I was going to have to get a hotel room when this woman came over to the table I was at and offered the two of us sitting there a deal. If we would take part in a “survey,” we could go to the front of the line. This was amazing! This was wonderful! This was suspicious. It turns out the survey involved a new program of digitally taking my fingerprints and a retinal scan of my eyes. While I was vaguely disturbed that “they” could now get to me (in fact “I’ could be “they” writing “this” right now), it was sort of cool to do all this James Bond stuff.

As promised, I went to the front of the line with only my fellow retinal-scanee ahead of me (I never did figure out the “survey” part, but oh, well). Keeping with my life, the man ahead turned out to be wanted in 37 states. Seriously. Well, not 37, but this one apparently (why a felon would try to get his license and give his fingerprints is beyond me). I was standing there for 20 minutes wondering what was up when two police officers entered and dragged the man away. I asked the lady at the counter what happened and she said—with a straight face—“That’s what happens to people without correct change.”

Done with the fines, all that was left was to go get the license. I was directed to the nearest DMV, at the strip mall from hell. Every store had bars in the windows. Even the garbage dumpsters—and I am not making this up—had bars to keep people out of the trash. Outside the DMV office was a small village of people. One woman had seven—count ‘em seven—kids begging for money. There were people selling drugs (after hours of standing in line this didn’t seem like such a bad idea), and even a guy blowing up balloons. There was a 20-minute line just to tear a ticket. It was 11:15. They were on A12. I was A118. To make matters worse, there was also a “B” list. I never did find out what those people were there for; prison work release by the look of them.

I found a seat next to a video display urging me to be an organ donor. I lost count after the 26th time through the whole spiel. I was so sick of the video I wanted to keep all my parts on general principle (that sounds worse than it is). Then I found donating organs would save me $2, so I sold my liver for 30 pieces of silver (10 dimes, and 20 nickels).

Then a guy I had not seen since high school came over, and I was instantly in Name Limbo. Have you ever been there? I know it had been seven years, but I worked with the guy. I frantically tried to think of clever questions to elicit the name. “Does your name rhyme with a female body part?” Nah—too obscure. “How do you spell your last name?” Nah—too lame. Finally, I was saved when he answered his phone, “Shane.” Thank the Light!

As he got finished way before I was, we ventured down to a Chinese restaurant. There were nine tables; each arranged at least forty feet from one another like some Mafia joint where no one wants to be overheard. We chatted pleasantly but it was over all too soon and I was back at the prison, I mean DMV. I judiciously selected a seat away from the organ grinder (pun intended) and tried to will the workers to move faster. This would not prove effective. Three of them actually took a break when “Days of Our Lives” came on. I did spy one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, but it was not to be. Besides the fact that the 122-degree temperature had plastered my clothes to my body in a less-than-sexy fashion, what was I going to say? “Hello, Miss. I’m too pathetic to keep my license current. How You Doin’?”

Mercifully, my number was called and my picture was taken. How bad was the picture? The only thing I will say about that is that as long as I have that picture on my license, I will be obeying all laws.

I wish I had a moral or a neat ending, but all I can say is I survived with my license, some of my dignity, and the knowledge that if I die it’s first come first served.

August 28, 2001


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