Friday, January 11, 2008

Some days you're the windshield; some days you're the bug

So, I’ve got a pretty good one for you guys. This is the sad, sad story of my new driver’s license picture, in which I am … yes, sobbing. (Warning: Settle in for the long version of this story. It seems that’s the only version I know how to tell for most of my stories …)

This story actually starts back in early December, when a series of unfortunate events resulted in my driver’s license getting suspended.

Event #1: I get a traffic ticket for an illegal U-turn. Sigh. I mail in the payment.

Event #2: The court sends me a notice saying the payment arrived late, and that my license will be suspended unless I pay extra court fees by December 26.

Event #3: I go to Utah for Christmas and don’t get back until December 29. I read the notice.

So, on Monday I went to the courthouse to pay the fine and sort everything out. Then I hauled over to the DMV and pay another fine to get my license un-suspended (a total of $241 so far for this one little infraction). Then I was informed that I would need to apply for a new driver’s license, and that it would cost me an additional fee. Huh?

I tried to decline, saying I’d like to keep the old one, thank you, but was told this was not an option. “Why, I asked? My license is right here, just scan the little code and make everything right and give it back to me.” Zip, zip. “I’m sorry, ma’am, that’s not our policy.” “Wait, all I did was mail a payment in a day late, and now I have to apply for a new license? That’s ridiculous.” “That’s our policy. Oh, and to get your new license, you’ll need to show proof of citizenship – a birth certificate or a passport.”

“What? You have my old license right there. I’ve had a Virginia license for seven years, I’m a U.S. citizen, I have been my entire life.” “Ma’am, a driver’s license is not proof of citizenship, I’ll need a birth certificate or a passport.” I said, “That’s a stupid policy.” He said, “No ma’am, it’s a stupid LAW.” “Yeah, like I said – it’s stupid.”

So, I was forced to drive home to get my passport, and then back to the DMV. I used the drive to regain control of myself (I have a tendency to cry when I’m angry, even more so than when I’m hurt), and when I got back, the man behind the counter said he didn’t recognize me. “You were here today?” “Yes.” “This morning?” “Yes.” “I don’t remember you.” He kept this up for a while. The woman next to him finally said, “He remembers you, he’s just pulling your chain.” Then he started in with, “Have we met? Do I know you from somewhere?” (The same routine he tried when I came to the counter the first time.) “No, we’ve never met.” I tried to be nice, though, and apologize for being angry earlier, saying, “Well, it’s good if you don’t remember me, because I wasn’t being very nice the last time I was here.”

I don’t think I even saw him open my passport, just mark down that I had proof of citizenship. Then he asked, “How did you get to your house to get your passport? Did you drive?” “Yes.” “On a suspended license?” “Clearly.” “Do you know what could happen to you if you get pulled over driving on a suspended license?” “Well, I didn’t really have another option, did I?”

At this point I was marking the box on the application for a driver’s license that indicated I’d had my license suspended. In the space where I was to state the reason, he said, “Write, ‘Ticket unpaid.’” I glanced up, looked him in the eye and said firmly, “It wasn’t unpaid. It was paid one day late.” But I wrote, “Ticket unpaid” on the line. “That’s right,” he sneered.

This was about the time the angry tears started again, but I pushed them back and handed him the form. I stood there trying to control myself while he entered my information. I told him I’d also received a notification about my car registration, and that I needed to renew it while I was there. He took my old registration and asked, “Did you get a new emissions test?” “No. The letter didn’t say anything about that. It said to bring in a particular form to renew it, and here it is.” “You have to have an emissions test every two years, and you need one this year.” “Why didn’t you say that in the letter you sent?” “I don’t know what letter you got, ma’am. But you need an emissions test.” “Are you kidding me?” “No.” “But I just had the safety inspection done.” “That’s a different thing. You need an emissions test. I can give you an extension … for a fee.”

Well, by now I must have looked real pitiful. Tears were streaming down my face. He was not moved; he did not think mine was a special case. But he did hand me a box of Kleenex, just before he said, “Please step to the right so we can take your picture for your new license.”

The more I tried to stop crying, the angrier I got because I was crying, and the more that made me cry. The girl taking the pictures was actually pretty nice, and offered to let me go to the “powder room” to calm down, but I said I wasn’t likely to stop crying if I went in there, and told her to just take it. The result:

You may or may not be able to tell from this scanned image, but note the red eyes, the tear tracks, the snot, the overall redness, and the lack of remaining eyeliner on my left eye.

I know, you’re thinking, that’s really sad/funny, and now the story is over. No! There’s a kicker. Just a little one. (Not to mention the bumper-to-bumper traffic I encountered as soon as I left the DMV.)

I was about halfway to work when my phone rang. A restricted number. Umm, ok … “This is Allison.” “Allison, this is xxxxxx (the guy from the DMV). I think I gave you the wrong stickers for your registration extension. The ones I gave you won’t do you any good. Can you check and see which stickers I gave you?’” I dig through my purse while attempting not to swerve into the pickup truck one lane over. Turns out they are indeed the wrong stickers. “How far are you from the DMV? Can you come back to get the other stickers?”

“No. No. No, I can’t.”

Luckily, he mailed me the stickers, and I can finish the rest of the process online. But the picture on my license … that will last until 2011. Maybe next time I get pulled over, I won’t even have to try to cry for the cop. I’ll just show him my driver’s license.

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