Friday, March 25, 2011


It’s time to get my driver’s license renewed.  After examining my assembled papers and consulting his supervisor three times, the fairly friendly man behind the counter at DMV crashes his stamp down onto my processing form, and I am instructed to “wait until they call you by name.”  Then they’ll take my picture.
            Meanwhile, the waiting area of the DMV contains an open-ended and engaging sampling of humanity.
            There is a young couple at the desk now, she with head covered by a colorful scarf, he speaking Arabic or Persian, interpreting for her.  They’re about thirty.  She is soft spoken, looks down a lot, and never meets the eye of the DMV worker.  He is confident, but very, very polite.
            There’s another young couple sitting next to me, filling out a form.  They’re speaking Chinese.  And on the bench behind me are three young men speaking Spanish, which stands out to me because I can understand it.
            Across the way, there’s a short, teenage girl in sweatshirt, jeans and ugg boots.  Her blond hair is tied back with a neon pink scrunchie, and she sits next to her father, a completely bald man of about forty.  The girl gets called to the desk, walks bravely to the counter by herself, though I can see her anxiety.  Funny how young people are less skilled at hiding that.
            Coming back from the counter, she walks towards her dad, a huge grin on her face.  She pulls a bright purple phone from the pocket of jeans and begins texting, fast, the way only the young can do it.  Then she’s back to dad, sits next to him, and they’re looking at her new license.  And in an instant, she transforms from a young, confident woman to little girl badly in need of comfort.  Phone back in her pocket, she moves to her dad’s side and leans into him.
            She can’t see, but he smiles, and the smile conveys a tide of years.     
            There’s an older man up at the counter now, arguing with the worker about fees.  And the guy at the information desk looks more bored than any human being I’ve ever seen. 
            “Robert?” says the graying man at the photo counter.  That’s me, to people who just read my ID.  Do you still weigh 180 pounds, he wants to know.  Umm, yes.  He smiles and says okay.  Eyes still green, hair still black, and is that still your mother’s maiden name?
            Yes, most of it, and yes, I answer.  And he takes a passable photo of me.  On the temporary license, I notice it says “record created” 1973.  It doesn’t say “the world was a completely different place then.”  But it should.
            I turn to leave, and there’s a brand new collection of faces and languages in the waiting area.
            “Number 26,” says the attendant.

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