Using only my elbows, I push open the greasy doors of the Santa Monica Department of Motor Vehicles and suddenly hope that I have a few handi-wipes in my glove box. In the DMV lobby, I quickly spin in a half-circle, getting my bearings.
“Driver’s License appointment?”, I ask.
A disinterested drone grunts and gestures toward a different line. Obediently, I get in line. Another disinterested drone grunts and hands me a ticket which reads “F 0181”. He then tells me to sit down and wait for “F 0181” to be called.
If I had company, I would have said, “Look, my ticket says ‘Eff! Oh, I ate one!” But, alas, I was alone. And the woman sitting next to me was too involved with her gaggle of children to be interested. Besides, “Carumba! Yo comí uno!” has nothing to do with “F 0181” so the humor would probably have been lost on her.
From hidden speakers, a haunting female voice calls out letters and numbers. “C 1203”, “F 0175”, “H 3031”. Her voice is not quite robotic, not quite human. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I expect her to say “Capricorn 15’s. Last day. Capricorn 15's. Carousel begins.”
My number is called and I head to counter number 3. There waiting for me is the most polite DMV employee I’ve ever encountered. Though sporting a head of intimidating cornrows, he shocks and dazzles me with phrases like “please”, “sir”, “thank you” and “Mr. Gentile”. Truly a first. Cornrows and I chat for a bit, do some paperwork and then it’s time for my vision test.
Ala Vanna White, He waves a hand toward an eye chart hanging behind him.
“Mr. Gentile”, he says, “I’m going to cover your left eye. When you’re ready, please read line C-3.”
“Ok”, I take a deep breath and say, “E – A – T – M – E”
He squints at his answer key, puzzled. Then turns around and looks at the chart. Finally, he laughs.
“Aw, shoot! Ha ha!”, he calls over to Shelia at counter 2, “Sheila! Sheila, this guy just spelled Eat me! Ha ha!”
Sheila responds unimpressed, “Mmm hmm… y’all got yourself a funny one, huh?”
I guess Sheila’s already seen it all. Ah well.
goofing off, pass my eye exam and head over toward the final challenge. The
Written Exam: 36 multiple choice questions taken from the
Thanks to the Intarweb, preparing for the “Written” (as we say in the biz) is pretty easy. You watch a Flash tutorial, then take a few sample tests online. Most questions are common sense:
1) When a blind pedestrian is crossing the street in front of you, you should:
A) Drive around him
B) Wait for him to cross the street
C) Tell him it’s safe to cross
Seriously. I’m not being funny. Most questions are like that. There are a few “real” tidbits of information like knowing what a “red curb” is and what the legal blood-alcohol limit is, but mostly it’s just choosing the answer that *isn’t* ridiculous.
I ask her if cheating is allowed.
She replies, “Only if you get caught.”
I smile. I like her. I contemplate using my “Eff! Oh, I ate one!” joke on her, and then I think better of it. We leave each other wanting more.
“Take a number-two pencil and have seat”, she offers, “You can take as much time as you need.”
the can of number-two pencils with suspicion.
I grab a seat in the front like the good nerd that I am and crack my neck. It’s go time.
Immediately I see that the questions are EXACTLY the same as the questions online. Same questions. Same stupid answers. Same everything.
“C… C… B… A… B… Are you kidding me?”
I’m cruising now.
“C…, duh. A… B…. A… C…. ”
“Written”, I say to myself, “You are my bitch.”
I finish the test in LITERALLY four minutes. Most questions don’t even require reading fully because I’ve already studied them at home. My biggest concern is seeing if any of my answers spell “ABACAB”, my favorite song by Genesis.
I get up and head back to my witty proctor friend. I notice that the tall dude at the desk next to me is annoyed that I’ve finished so quickly. Ah, just like so many grammar school tests. I waggle my eyebrows at him.
As I return to the front desk, the attendant says, “Damn. You cheat fast.”
I really like her.
She takes my test, and holds it next to an answer key.
Check, check, check, check… all correct. 18 for 18. Of course.
She flips my test over to check the remaining 18.
“Oops, you missed one.” She places a red line through question 24. “35 out of 36. Best score today.”
She walks off to print out some paperwork as I stand there in stunned disbelief. Immediately I hope the tall dude didn’t hear that I missed a question. My rep, you know.
Astounded, I take a closer look at the answer key. Then at my test. Then at the key.
SHE MIS-MARKED IT.
I really got question 24 correct.
24) It’s night. The car coming toward you has its high beams on making it difficult to see. You should:
A) Look toward the left edge of the road
B) Look toward the right edge of the road
C) Look straight ahead in your lane
I chose “B”, the correct answer. She marked it wrong. I feel my face and ears flush.
I’ve got a dilemma. Here I am: the Teacher’s Pet and the Class Nerd with the high score of the day. I’ve aced this thing. But I am TORMENTED by that red blemish on my test. I need to say something. I need her to see that I got a perfect score. I need her to know that I got the best score of the day, the month, ever!
She returns with a slip of paper and says, “Here’s your temporary. Your real license will arrive in the mail in a week or two.” She takes my imperfect test away before I can say a word.
I reach a hand out. “Uh. Can I keep that? I want to put it on my fridge”. That red mark is like a sharp pebble in my shoe; driving me mad.
“Seriously? You want it?”
I paused for what seemed like a long time, then sighed and said, “Nah. You keep it. Put it on *your* fridge.”
She laughs. I laugh. I walk out with my new California State Driver’s License trying to shake off my neuroses.
I pass another group of unwashed/undocumented. Or were they same ones? I traverse the lobby and exit the slimy doors.
hits my face and salinated ocean air fills my lungs. I feel like I almost
belong here; like
I plop in my car, toss aside my stack of papers and immediately open the glove box.
Neuroses - 2, AJ – 0.