I took the day off work and went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get my driving license renewed. It was a bit nerve wracking but I felt I was prepared. I had studied all the booklets with the rules in them. I knew my stuff, and I had a full tank of gas just in case the road test turned into a road trip. I had snacks.
A line of people were waiting out front of the building, I naturally assumed that the office wasn’t open yet and I glanced at my watch, 8:55.
I joked with the guy at the end of the line, “I thought they opened at 8:30? Must be 9:00 though, huh? Oh well, that’s only five minutes.”
“This is the line to check in,” the guy said.
He was no longer at the end of the line, I was.
It was about a quarter to ten when I finally got to check in.
A large man on a high wooden stool sat behind the counter. The legs of the stool bowed precariously outwards as they drilled into the linoleum. He studied me. I studied him and astutely determined that he was a large man of unidentifiable ethnicity.
Finally, he spoke with an accent that was hard to place, “Ga-a-pont-mant?”
“Oh, do I have an appointment?”
“Yer-laet, gibbanummr.” He pointed at a red plastic dispenser that spat out numbers.
I took one and glanced at it, 114. The large electronic sign mounted on the wall behind the man read, ‘Now Serving 012’. I was in for a wait.
Making my way to the area of the building with the sea of blue plastic chairs I found a seat next to a young mother and her two toddlers. The kids incessantly wiped their noses with the tails and sleeves of their sweatshirts and I prayed that they were not contagious. But we all became friends and soon we had a game of Charades going. The game grew, there were probably 30 of us playing when I saw the sign change to 114. I hugged the kids, shook hands all around, and reminded Imogene that she and the kids were expected for a barbeque at my place next weekend.
At the first window I answered some questions, and began shuffling through the process from one civil servant to the next, filling out forms, having my picture taken and, writing cheques. I got to the last window where a stern looking woman stood. She wore a white Peter Pan collared blouse and a nondescript grey skirt; her hair was in a bun, pulled tight to the back of her head. Reading glasses perched on the end of her nose. She studied me over the tops of the lenses.
When she was satisfied, she handed over an envelope. “You have to take a short written test now,” she intoned with not even a hint of inflection in her voice. Using the eraser end of her pencil she indicated an array of about 10 desks bolted to the linoleum tiled floor. People sat in every one of them writing. They all had yellow ‘Ticonderoga’ #2 pencils, just like the one she held. She handed me the pencil “When one of those desks is free take it, complete the test. There will be no talking, or roving eyes. Got that? Keep your eyes on your own paper. When you are finished bring it back to me for grading.” She studied me again with one eye shut and her mouth pushed all the way over to the right side of her face.
I went to the first empty desk and removed the test paper from the envelope. I studied the questions.
- Why isn’t there mouse flavored cat food?
- Can orphans eat in family restaurants?
- How can fat people go skinny dipping?
- Do blondes have more fun?
- Do I look fat in this?
- What’s another word for thesaurus?
- Is there anybody out there?
- Are eyebrows considered facial hair?
- If a turtle does not have a shell, is he homeless or naked?
- At a movie theater which arm rest is yours?
- What is a picture of a thousand words worth?
- Did Tony Soprano die?
I looked back up at the proctor who was scowling at me, prepared to catch me cheating.
Damn, I’m never going to be able to drive again.