I take that back, the last line was the one for the bathroom & trust me when I say there was AT LEAST a liter in there.

So, because getting a misdemeanor is generally frowned upon by the medical board and my mother, I went to the DMV almost immediately after landing back in SF to deal with this driver’s license renewal business.  I drove myself simply because I wanted to see precisely how hard I could slap Fate across the face before she bitch-slapped me back.  For a good portion of the drive, there was a police car two vehicles behind me but since pedestrians refrained from flailing onto my hood melodramatically and one way traffic decided to flow in the same direction I was traveling, I avoided getting pulled over.  One can’t always depend on such favorable driving conditions!

Now, I was going in without an appointment, which I know is inadvisable.  Also, I was about five days out from the use of my straightening iron and my epidermis was sloughing off in large, flaky sheets after the same number of days spent under the Maui sun.  I like to call it my Braised Tina Turner Look.  So, as far as bargaining chips went, I wasn’t going to be able to use my looks.  I’d have to be charming.  A trying task when one is molting.

I walked in and was immediately relegated to a line 15 people deep.  That line was to determine which line I would stand in after that.  This was to be an exercise in patience and urinary bladder capacitance.  Free tip:  don’t drink coffee before going to the DMV without an appointment.

When I got to the front of that first line, I was greeted by a DMV employee sitting behind a desk.  Truth be told, to say I was “greeted” would be generous; there was an incomprehensible grunt projected in my general direction.  Put that together with the fact that she possessed two eyeballs and did appear to twitch on occasion and she scored about a 7 on the Glascow Coma Scale.   In a trauma setting, that would mean certain intubation.

“I need to renew my li…”

Impatiently, as if I was imposing on all of the important looking out the windows she was meant to be doing, “Fill out this form and wait in that line over there.”   She pointed limply to her right; this raised her GCS considerably.  At least she didn’t need to be intubated, I hadn’t brought my doctor bag with me.  Probably because I don’t have one.

So I filled out the form, waited in line #2 and, once at the front of THAT line, was given a number.  The number allowed me to enjoy a seat while I waited for MUCH longer.  I took the only open seat, wedged between a woman who was breastfeeding her baby and a man who, every once in a while, would mumble loud enough for the DMV staff to appreciate that “this is bullshit.”  Unclear whether he was referring to the prolonged waiting process or the fact that he wasn’t the one getting breastfed.  This led me to conclude that I should indeed put together a doctor bag and outfit it with a few spare foley catheters and a faux silicone breast.  You never know when you’re going to need to drain a full bladder or pacify a fully grown miscreant.

During the two hours I spent waiting, I permitted myself to get lost in the DMV literature which was printed, for my convenience, in Russian.  I don’t read or speak Russian, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s pretty intuitive, especially if you use the pictures in the manual as benchmarks:

I’m pretty sure the take-home message on this one is:  She’s older than earth’s creation, missing the majority of her mental faculties, and most certainly shouldn’t be driving.  Neither should you if you’re this old.

Learning point to be gleaned from this one:  We don’t recommend sleeping while operating a vehicle.  But, hey, as long as you don’t get caught, no harm done!

I was totally going to nail the written exam.

My bladder counted the minutes and, finally, when I’d convinced myself that bladder perforation was going to be my only foreseeable way out of there, my number got called.  I was to present myself and what was left of my scaling flesh to Desk #21.  There, I was asked for my old license.  The woman behind Desk #21 looked at it, looked at me, looked at it again.  “You know this is over a year expired, right?”  She said that with the tone that she probably reserves only for those who’ve looked Potential Misdemeanor dead in the eyes and laughed:  Respect.

I paid the renewal fee.  And took a visual test; essentially proving to the DMV that I could, should the circumstance arise, see a small yeti 20 feet in front of my vehicle or, more likely, detect the vague, octagonal red shape of a stop sign.   Pass!  I was then told to wait in another line to have my picture taken.  Great.  My last license photo, thanks to a strange and inexplicable shadow, made me appear as though one could drive a small utility vehicle through my two front teeth.  Surely my Braised Tina Turner look wasn’t going to do me any favors to improve upon that.

I waited in the photo line.  When it was my turn I politely asked the photographer what Photoshop options were available and whether or not he would be able to do anything about my peeling nose or the size of my ass.  (I knew my ass wouldn’t be featured anywhere in the photo but, hey, two birds with one stone.)  He blinked at me, clearly bored, and shot the photo without warning.  It’s sure to be a winner.  The photographer pointed to yet another line, this one for the written test, and told me to wait in it.  Good thing I studied!

In that line, I found myself behind my previous seat-neighbor who turned to look at me and exclaimed, quite predictably at this point, “this is BULLSHIT.”  I thought about how badly I still needed to pee and how  I was going to look like a desquamating, cracked-out Tina Turner in-need-of-a-pit-stop for the next five to ten years on my license and I simply nodded in all-knowing, silent agreement.

I made it to the front of the line and was handed a test.  I had to answer 18 out of the 36 questions and I was only allowed to miss three. Considering the questions were at about this level of complexity:

If your cell phone rings while you are driving and you do not have a hands-free device, you should:

  1. Check the incoming number, and if it’s your mother, answer it.  She might need your help logging into her email.
  2. Put it on speaker and scream “OMG, I totally shouldn’t have answered the phone because I’m driving” into the speaker, regardless of who is calling.
  3. Let it go to voicemail

It was hardly rocket science.  (It wasn’t even rocket surgery.)  And, frankly, it restored my fear in my fellow drivers.  Seriously, if the DMV expects that little of us, essentially anyone with a 3rd grade education who meets the height/weight requirement and has the moral aptitude of a squirrel can drive.  Let’s take a road trip!

The sixth and final line in which I waited was the one in which I got my test score.  I missed one question.  That’s what I get for studying the Russian manual.  I was handed a temporary license and told I was free to go!  WTF?  Really?  No more lines?  By that time, I’d lost all sensation in my urethra and was prepared to push it to the limit…you know, risk life and bladder to see just how much unbelievable pain I could tolerate.  A testing of the corporeal limits, if you will, not unlike those athletes who bicycle race across America for days on end without any sleep.   Perhaps I could be a urinary savant and not even know it yet?

But, alas, I am no pee champion.  Just a regular girl who managed to escape a misdemeanor and who will pay better attention in the future to expiration dates.  And bladder signals.

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The madness featured here is mine and mine alone. It does not, in any way, reflect the madness of my employers, colleagues, patients, nutty family, or my colorful friends. The privacy of my employers, colleagues, patients, nutty family and colorful friends is sacred & deeply respected, so no names. All words Copyright © la cubana gringa, no method, just madness 2006-2010. All comments © their authors. Don't steal; it's not nice. (And my Grandfather knows people.)

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