Monday, May 7, 2007

One Fine Morning at the BMV

Today, I woke up and everything went to shit. That is, until I walked into the BMV.

Now that I use a debit card instead of checks for most of my in-store transactions, no one ever looks at my license. Four years ago on my birthday, I wrote a check. The cashier asked to see my license. “Happy Birthday!” she said, “and don’t forget to renew your license today!” Oh, crap. Very funny, I thought. It’s 4:30 on a Friday.

So I had to slink into the BMV on the following Monday and hand the woman at the check-in counter my expired license. “It’s expired,” I explained. “What happens now?” “Well, first we arrest you,” she deadpanned. I swear my stomach flipped. I cannot imagine what expression was sliding off my face. And this woman was good. She waited for it. She stamped a couple of documents loudly before looking up at me…and then laughing loudly. “Nah, ya just take it over there to the next counter,” she said. She was still chuckling.

So this morning, I woke up groggy. Damn, out of chewable B-Complex vitamins. I love those things. Looked at myself in the mirror. Shower? Nah. I’ll just go to the coffee shop early and start reading that book I’ve been wanting to get to for, oh, a year or two. My students would be handing in portfolios beginning at 10:00am today, so I thought I’d sit, sip, and read for a few hours before my grading madness had to begin.

Ah, but first: the crossword puzzle. But something was really wrong with the crossword puzzle today. No, not with me. With the crossword. I couldn’t get it right. Had to be the puzzle. Something picking at me….couldn’t figure out what it was. Then, I saw an article about the BMV in Indianapolis extending its hours. BMV…BMV…I turned the page to read the editorials. BMV…flipped back to the BMV story. BMV. BMV? Oh, shit.

It’s amazing how a realization like that creeps up on you. My first thought was NOT that my license had expired. No—my first thought was that I could have been arrested. Then I thought I’ve been driving Jim’s car for (counting on fingers) nine days with an…expired license! So it was as if I had at least three thoughts before I even got to the expired license part.

And then, denial--it couldn’t be. I dug my license out of my purse. This picture on my license is what I see every time I open my checkbook; it’s who I identify with when I pay my bills—yes, there I am; yes, this is my checkbook. The photo doesn’t look like the image in the bathroom mirror, but it’s one image I have of myself that never changes. It’s the face I’ve attached to paying bills. That shirt I’m wearing? I don’t even know where it is, but it’s my bill-paying shirt. Has it really been four years? Sure enough, the license had expired nine days ago. Time to renew. Today.

So I had to rethink my entire morning. Leisure book reading was probably off the agenda, unless it was while waiting at the BMV. Shower? No time. No, wait—I have to have my picture taken! Shower’s back on. Now, which BMV branch? East side? West? Oh, hell, does it matter?

The woman who waited on me reminded me of those pushy teenagers at Wendy’s drive-up window. Everywhere you go these days it’s all business, and fast, fast, fast. My change is being tossed in my car window, and my cheeseburger and a Frosty are bagged and dangling from the drive-up window worker’s grasp even before I’ve moved forward from the “Pay Here” window. Egads. WHERE’S THE STRAW AND NAPKINS?!

It’s the same thing now at the BMV. I know the place has had a bad reputation for long lines and computer screw-ups in the past, but now it’s as if they get bonus points for how fast you can be herded in and out the doors. License pictures used to be bad, but now no one even reminds you to smile. A second to fix your hair? Oh, that takes entirely too long. I stepped in front of the blue screen and FLASH! “Ok, that’s good. It’ll be ready in a few minutes,” the fast-talking woman said.

Visit duration: 00:02:05. Yes folks, that’s two minutes and five seconds in the BMV. It’s actually printed on my receipt. I tell you, my day just got a little better…until I looked at my new license picture.

It’s 11:00am, and I still have not cracked open that book that’s been waiting for a year or two. But I did get my coffee. Life is pretty good: cuppa joe and my computer…in two days I’ll be finished grading these projects, and I can begin my summer life.

You used to have to renew your license every four years; this license does not have to be renewed until 2013. Six years from now. Good god what will I look like in six years? And who is this miserable-looking person on my new license? Who's going to pay my bills now?

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