Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Suburban Man: The DMV

By Rick Kaempfer

When the driver’s license renewal notice came in the mail a few weeks before my birthday, I groaned. Didn’t I just do that?

Not exactly. I hadn’t gone since 1998.

Nevertheless, I put it off until the day before my birthday. I had good reasons, too. The week before my birthday I got the biggest zit I’ve had since 1978. There was no way I was going to have that on my license picture for the next nine years. I decided to wait it out. That thing couldn’t last a whole week, could it?

Five days before my birthday I went to a Cubs game and sat in the sun all day. I was very careful about putting sunscreen everywhere…everywhere, that is, except my lips. The morning after the game, my lips looked like they had spent the night in a frying pan.

Now I had that big zit and fried lips. I couldn’t possibly go get my driver’s license picture taken looking like that. So I waited some more.

Two days before my birthday I was wrestling with my youngest son Sean, and he took a chunk out of my chin with his fingernails.

Now I had a big zit, fried lips, and a gaping wound. If you looked at my face quickly it looked like I had been in a bar fight.

But time had run out on me. I had no choice. I had to go the next day.

I dressed nicely hoping that nobody would notice my hideous facial disfigurement. I had practiced turning my head slightly, hoping that a quick turn would create a shadow of some kind, which would conceal the worst of my injuries.

Yup. All set. This was going to work.

I got my first surprise when I saw that there were only five people in line before me. Fantastic. This was going to be no problem. I got my second surprise when I went up to prepay and discovered that they didn’t take credit cards.


When I returned from the closest ATM machine (a good ten minutes away), it was high noon, and the line of five people had been replaced by a line of fifty or more.


I didn’t have any reading materials with me, either, so I sat in the only available seat and began waiting. I heard the first giggle of the guy sitting next to me about five minutes later. After that, the giggles arrived every minute or so. I had no idea what he was laughing about, but I had nothing else to do. I asked.

“Look around, man,” he said.

“What?” I asked. “The big crowd of people?”

“No, man, look around!”

I looked around again, expecting to see something hilarious. I couldn’t see anything at all. “Great,” I thought to myself, “watch me fail the vision test too.”

“I give up,” I finally said. “What is it?”

“This place is like a babe-quarium,” he said. “Look around. There are more hot chicks per capita in here than Fort Lauderdale.”

I looked around again, and my giggling next-seat neighbor was absolutely right. There were dozens of women dressed in their summer finest, hair done, makeup applied, looking their Saturday night best. I had been sitting there with absolutely nothing to do and hadn’t even noticed.

“Been married long?” he asked.

I nodded.

He elbowed me in the ribs, and then pointed to a very attractive woman two rows in front of us. “That’s my wife right there.”

“Really?” I asked.

He started laughing. “She doesn’t know it yet, but she will be.”

I was called up for my photo about fifteen minutes later. After I had received a new elbow to the ribs ten or fifteen times during my wait, I had completely forgotten about my plan to disguise my hideous facial deformities. When the picture was clicked, it all came back to me.

“Oh crap,” I said. “Can I take it again?”

“It looks fine,” the guy said, shaking his head. “Next.”

I went back to my seat and my giggling next-seat neighbor was gone. I noticed his future wife was gone too. They were both in the line of prospective photograph-ees. He had his hand up against the wall next to her, and was giving her the hard sell. She was struggling to keep a forced smile on her face.

“Kaempfer,” the photographer said. “Your license is ready.”

As soon as I saw the picture I exhaled. I forgot how small those pictures were. I couldn’t see anything: No zit, no fried lips, no gaping wound. But then again, I couldn't see the babe-quarium either. Maybe it's just that my eyes are shot.