Went to the nearby DMV this morning to surrender my New York license and take the test for a California version. I made an appointment for 10:10 am, and arrived at, oh, 10:08. Here’s how it went down from there …
10:08—The line is very, very long.
10:20—Reach the desk. I tell the man I have an appointment. He asks for my confirmation number. I stare blankly. “Step to the side and check your e-mail. It’s there.” I step to the side and check my e-mail. It’s not there. “You can’t have this appointment withou—”
10:22—Co-worker sees this and has sympathy. Looks up my name, finds my appointment, sends me off with paperwork to fill out.
10:30—Paperwork completed, I’m directed toward a winding line that, I believe, will lead me to the test.
10:52—A woman—probably 60, with blond hair and lots of skin on her face—asks everyone to be patient, because one of the two cameras isn’t working.
11:20—Awesome moment. There’s a guy two or three people behind me. He’s oh, 21, with short brown hair and a pipe-cleaner’s build. He’s wearing a white collared short-sleeve shirt and dark khakis, and he has a tag dangling from his pocket that reads, ELDER [WHATEVER HIS NAME WAS]. He’s one of those Mormon missionary guys. Purely by coincidence, as I’m looking him over a woman walks by with a book in her right hand. The title: Why People Believe Weird Things.
11:55—I finally reach the front of the line. I’m greeted by a mean woman who keeps sneezing into her hand and taking slugs from a thermos of tea. I feel for her, because: A. She’s sick; B. She works in the DMV. I tell her I hope all goes better, and she perks up. “I’m not feeling well,” she says, “but it’s my last day working here, so I decided to come in.”
“Your last day?” I say. “That’s great!”
“Sir,” she said, “you have no idea.”
She takes my photo, and asks why I didn’t smile. I don’t answer, but we both know the reason: We’re living in hell.
12:00—I’m handed the test. It’s 30 questions, and I pass if I answer at least 24 correctly. I took a few online practice tests, but a lot of the material here is unfamiliar. Distances between cars and locking kids in vehicles and left turns into right lanes. I screw up an easy one by saying the BAC limit in California is .01, but I battle back by rightly noting you can’t lock young children in a car on a 90-degree day. Test takes about 15 minutes, and I’m giving myself, oh, a 60-percent chance of passing.
12:15—This is the craziest part. At the DMV, tests are graded by hand. Literally, someone grabs a pile of the tests, retreats to a desk and goes through the answers. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, and it results in, oh, 40 of us standing in a small area, grumbling under our breaths.
12:55—Text the wife, tell her I won’t be able to pick up our son at 1:50 when school lets out. Her response: Fuck.
1 o’clock—I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but there’s a game I play when I’m waiting in a long line and my mind is melting and I’m losing all sanity. It’s called PICK THE THREE WOMEN IN THIS ROOM I’D MOST LIKELY FOOL AROUND WITH. This dates back to, I believe, high school, and is both juvenile and sad. That said, I pick the blonde woman with the nice sweater, the brunette in the leggings and a woman who, at one point, says to someone in Spanish that she enjoys soap operas and corn. I think.
1:30—Guy standing in front of me likes talking to people. But he seems annoying. Turns to me and says, “So, you planning on watching the big game?” I don’t love where this is going? “The big game?” I reply. He looks as if my head has walked off my shoulders and into a sauna. “The Super Bowl!” he says. I shrug. “Nah. Don’t watch that stuff.”
1:40—Easily the greatest moment of the afternoon. I’m standing next to two women, and we’re all waiting for our test results. The one woman—50, blond, not on the list—starts going over the test questions, wondering if the kids can be locked in the car if a window’s down. The other woman—20s, brunette, not on the list—rightly believes that’s a no-no, but counters with a U-turn debate. I chime in, when suddenly the Mormon elder turns toward us and sternly notes, “There are people taking the test, and they can HEAR you!”
At this moment, three possible replies cross my mind:
A. “Bitch, I will go Garry Templeton on your spindly Mormon Whitey Herzog ass.”
B. “How can you be an elder when you’re 12?”
I love A. I mean, I r-e-a-l-l-y love A. But Elder almost certainly wouldn’t get the reference—nor would 98 percent of the other people in the room. So I just nod and slide to the side.
1:50—”Mr. Pearlman! Mr. Pearlman!” I’m being called to the front! I’m being called to the front! I rush forward, where I’m greeted by a lovely Asian woman with big cheeks and a pretty smile. “Congratulations,” she says. “You passed. Now can I see your old license?”
“Sure,” I say.
I pull it out.
She takes it.
She punches a hole through the middle.
“Hey,” she says, “you have a nice day.