After a thirty minute wait standing in line at the BMV and another thirty minutes to take that written test, Meelyn is now the proud owner of a new driver's license in the state of Indiana. Yippee!!!!
Getting the license was like undertaking to find the holy grail -- if you want to lay your hands on something that important, you have to work for it. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles is one of everybody's least favorite places to go, second only to traffic court or maybe a visit to an oral surgeon, and here's the reason: the line. THE LINE. When Meelyn and I walked in the door, there was a queue of about fifteen grumpy-looking people ahead of us, shuffling forward with glacial slowness. A BMV employee with a clipboard made occasional forays into our midst, doing triage.
"Is anyone here for a title transfer?" she yelled out. "License renewal? Plate renewal? Bill of sale? Form A7-194 for renewing an existing license after suspension?"
We in the crowd all eyed one another shiftily. It was obvious that no one was going to admit to needing Form A7-194.
The tedium was lightened when what looked to be an entire twenty-something biker gang came in to cheer on their newest member, who was to take his test for obtaining a motorcycle license. They were tattooed and be-pierced within an inch of their leather-clad lives, and for people who looked so weird and mean, they were a surprisingly affectionate and matey group.
'We'll all go out to ridin' once you get yer license, Chas," one of them said comfortably from behind a wad of chewing tobacco. "It's gonna be a great night for a ride. Purty day out there, and all that."
"That's only if he passes," another man joked. His girlfriend, sporting kohl eyeliner and bleached hair, had her arms looped around his neck like a python. His hand was painfully squeezed into one of the back pockets on her painted-on ultra low-rise jeans. This comment led to some good natured pushing and some "sum'b*tch" calling, which earned the crowd a pursed-lip glare from the clipboard lady.
I noticed later that when their guy went to the testing area to take his exam, the lot of them sat upright in their chairs, their eyes fastened on his moving pencil, muttering nervously among themselves.
Motorcycle gang aside, I also found that the BMV is a great place to go if you want to see men wearing inappropriate t-shirts. I'm not much on grown men in message shirts anyway, but it's even worse if they're boldly explicit.
A kid in his early twenties ahead of us in the line was sporting a Jägermeister shirt with an empty shot glass on the front and two large-font words on the back: "Holy Sh*t!" Nice. Very nice.
The other two men in offensive shirts, however, were guys in their forties. Like, my age. Dad-type people. A little paunchy, a little balding. Could they be married? If so, how? I, like many other wives, run my husband through the Lady Vision Outfit Checker before we leave the house: Shirt properly tucked in? Should he be wearing a tie? White socks with sandals -- verboten. Message shirt when he should be wearing a golf shirt? Naturally, he deeply resents this and sets up a storm of bitter protest, but I simply hold up a palm and turn my head away. No can hear you, Mr. Gym Shorts. Go put on some khakis.
I know other women do this, too. I know this because we've talked about it frequently at different gatherings of my friends. So what is the deal with those men at the BMV? How are they getting out of their houses? Because I checked them out surreptitiously and they were both wearing wedding bands.
One was wearing a shirt from a local men's softball league. "Always Protect Your Nuts" the front of his shirt proclaimed, with a picture of a squirrel clutching an armful of acorns to his furry chest. On the back it said, "Use Your Cup." The squirrel was depicted off-loading his acorns into a coffee mug. Oh, aaaaahaha ha ha haha haaa! Woooo!
The other forty-something dude was evidently a fisherman, but I didn't know that until I saw the back of his shirt. The front of his shirt, which caused me to raise my eyebrows in delicate disdain, read in huge letters that wavered over his manboobs and big belly: "SIZE DOES MATTER." On the back was an advertisement for some brand of fishing paraphernalia. I sniffed and turned my head. Eeeewww. I sincerely hope he was referring to his stomach.
I had a chance to observe all of this at length, because did I mention that it took Meelyn half an hour to do that test? Naturally, I had a book with me, but there was so much activity going on, it was hard to concentrate. Plus, it seems that the BMV always has that special kind of molded plastic chair that presses cruelly on my left sciatic nerve, that same nerve that Aisling cheerfully jammed her pumpkin head onto for the last three months of my pregnancy with her. The torment that little beggar put me through for those last twelve weeks with all that jouncing, twanging that fragile nerve like a banjo string, was excruciating. It's never gotten completely better. Especially in molded plastic chairs.
Meelyn sat in the testing area, going over that exam. And sat. And sat. And wrote. Then erased. And sat some more. Twirled a lock of hair around her pencil, brow furrowed. Erased. Wrote. Wrote some more. Flipped a few pages. I thought I'd go mad.
Finally, I dialed my phone. "I think I'm going to go mad," I hissed to my husband, who answered his phone in a sleepy voice with no enthusiasm at all. "She's taking forever on this test."
"She's very thorough," he yawned. Thursday is his day off, and he tends to get up way too early to go running and then mow his different yards. This leads to afternoons of peaceful somnolence, punctuated by me appearing at the foot of his recliner like an unwelcome chore genii saying Remember you were going to shovel that mulch? and Have you changed the furnace filter yet?
"Yes, I know, but if she doesn't get a move on, cars are going to be rendered obsolete by low-flying spacecrafts that run on fuel made from carrots and hairspray," I complained.
"Did you know that I was taking a nap when you called?" my husband asked. I love non sequiturs.
"I did not know that." Feverishly, I looked over at Meelyn: Sitting. Writing. Erasing. Twirling. GAAAAAAAHHHH!!!
"I'm going to hang up now," he said persistently.
"Don't-forget-you-were-going-to-hose-out-the-trash-bin," I gabbled hastily.
I returned my cell phone to my purse and looked around the BMV, noting that it is a place where you can see a definite cross-section of your city's citizenry. The old, the young, the casual drop-ins and those who were on a late lunch hour and needing to get back to work; the professionals and the blue-collar workers; those who knew what they needed to do and those who weren't quite sure if they had the right paperwork -- all of us plodding through the line squirming on our uncomfortable chairs and being called one by one to talk to the clerks -- and one poor guy who had lost the title of his car, realizing this only after the car was stolen. He's probably still there.
Just when I thought I was going to throw back my head and howl, Meelyn stood up and smiled at me brightly. "I'M DONE!" she mouthed across the room, her eyes sparkling. I smiled back and pantomimed wiping the sweat off my forehead. She grinned and rolled her eyes and went back to the line to hand in her exam to the clerk at the front counter. For a moment, every nerve in my body was clanging like the bells of Notre Dame because that line? It was exponentially longer than it had been half an hour ago; it looked like Ellis Island after a boat docking. Thankfully, the clerk waved Meelyn over and took her test off to be graded. Meelyn came to sit down by me.
"So how'd it go?" I asked her, concerned.
She flicked a lock of blonde hair over her shoulder, all nonchalant. "Oh, it was super easy!"
I looked at her, agog. "Super easy? My land. What took you so long, then? I thought maybe you had to translate it from Portuguese or something."
Meelyn giggled. "Oh, no. I just wanted to check over all my answers. You know, just like you taught me."
I made a mental note to pinch myself later.
"Meelyn!" a clerk called. Meelyn looked up and the clerk beckoned her over to the camera to get her picture taken. The photo I.D. laws have changed in Indiana, as it turns out: Now you cannot show teeth, but you do have to show your ears and your eyebrows. I'm sure this leads to some odd looking photos for ladies, especially ladies like me, who purposely design their hairdos to hide their eyebrows. Or their ears. (But presumably not their teeth.) At any rate, Meelyn's photo looks like a first cousin to a mug shot. The only thing missing is a number held under her chin. Yikes.
The clerk ushered us back to her desk at the long counter, where we both had to sign some paperwork. In a matter of minutes, the clerk was coming back from the driver's license machine thingie. "Congratulations, hon" she said to Meelyn warmly.
"Thanks!" said Meelyn, reaching out to take the license. She reverently slid it into the little windowed slot in her wallet and turned to me. "Do you want to drive home or shall I?"
"Oh, you," I said, feeling a little teary. "Definitely you."
At home, Aisling, my husband and I had a cute card for her ("You got your driver's license!"") that I got at the Factory Card Outlet for forty-nine cents. Seriously, if you aren't familiar with that place, look them up. That has to be one of the most awesome chain stores, like, ever.
We also had a small gold box lined with cotton batting: She lifted the lid, removing the top layer of cotton carefully. Underneath was her own set of keys to both of our cars, plus a key fob for the van with the door lock/unlock, automatic side door and alarm features. "My OWN KEYS?!?!" she squealed in delight. "THANK YOU SO MUCH!"
"Yup," I replied. "I like having my own keys in my own purse, instead of in your purse all the time."
There were hugs all around and then Meelyn pranced off to put her new keys on her keyring with her house keys. I'm sure there have been sunbeams that were less bright than her smile.
Meelyn's rites of passage this spring have been coming one right after the other: Sixteenth birthday, Confirmation, driver's license....It's things like this that tell you, bittersweetly, that your little girl is growing up.
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