During these covid-times and political divisions it is important to take stock of the little things in life that make a difference.
A couple of years ago, I got my DC driver’s license renewed, which at my advanced age required getting a physical checkup and an eye exam. It was an ordeal, but I passed and got the new license, which will take me all the way to 2027 when I will be 85 years old and will probably have no business driving anyway. I breathed a sigh of relief in 2019. No more DCDMV hassles.
That is why I was a bit puzzled when I received a notice in late January from the DMV that unless I got my cataracts checked my license would be revoked on February 8–only 10 days away. Since I had never had cataracts, this struck me as a bit unusual; but that did not keep me from immediately calling the optician for an appointment the next day.
“Hey, weren’t you in here last year?” he asked, “and what is all this about cataracts? You didn’t have them last time you were here, and you don’t have them now. What is the DMV up to nowadays?”
I rushed home, copied the eye test results, and charged over to the post office to beat the 5:00 PM mail pickup. The instructions from the DMV were explicitly to mail in the test results. I figured they would get the results a day or two before the February 8 deadline, so I would be ok.
On Tuesday of this week, March 1, I received a second letter from the DMV, which was similar to the first stating that if the results were not received by February 8, my driver’s license would be invalid, and I would be subject to all the laws associated with driving illegally. I wondered what it would be like spending the rest of my life locked up behind bars. Since the deadline had already passed three weeks ago, I realized that I was already in deep trouble. The letter also added that I should deliver the eye exam report to one of the DMV service centers.
Fortunately, I had made a copy of the eye report, stuffed it in my pocket, jumped in the car and headed to the closest DMV service center, which happened to be in Georgetown. Even in covid-times, finding a place to park in Georgetown is a nightmare, but after fruitlessly cruising around the jammed streets for 15 minutes, I miraculously found a space in an empty lot near the DMV, jumped out of the car and raced to the service center office.
The office was located at the foot of an escalator leading to a vast renovated basement area. The DMV office appeared brand new and was huge. There was an entrance area that looked like the place where people line up in airports to go through security. I guessed that it could hold up to 100 people, maybe more. The only thing was there was not one person in line, a stark contrast from the hour-long wait that I had when I got my license renewed two years before in one of the other service centers. Well, this should be easy, I thought, as I entered the cordoned off pathway.
“Not so fast,” shouted a voice. I turned and saw a masked woman in uniform, who was stationed just beside the door. “Do you have an appointment?”
I replied that I did not and that I was just dropping off my exam as directed by the letter I had just received from the DMV.
“Well, nobody gets in without an appointment.”
I looked into the area in the next room where counters were set up with personnel behind them. I only got a quick glance but did not see one single customer in the room.
“Ok, I see no one is waiting, so I would like to make an appointment right now. Plus, I have already mailed in the report as directed by the instructions. It said to mail it in, and I did.”
“You can’t mail in anything anymore. You have to do it online.”
“Okay, I have my iPhone right here. I will type in the DMV and make an appointment right now. There is no one waiting.”
“No you won’t. Appointments are made only once a week at 3:00 PM on Tuesdays.”
“But there is nobody waiting in that room. All I want to do is drop off my eye test. Why can’t I just hand it to one of those people. What are they doing anyway?”
The woman glared at me, shook her head and said something like, watch your tone, mister, what they are doing is none of your business.
I stood speechless for a couple of minutes, then started to trudge toward the escalator.
“You didn’t drive here, did you?” she asked.
“You are in violation of the law and subject to arrest. You should not drive your car again until this issue is resolved.”
“Fascist police state,” I muttered under my breath.
The walk back to the car took no more than five minutes. I immediately noticed that someone had placed an orange cone behind my car. As I was removing the cone, an elderly gentleman wearing a mask approached me and said, “Well, this is your lucky day. I have called a tow truck, which will be here in a couple of minutes. If you could even locate your car after it had been towed, you probably could never drive it again because I see it has all wheel drive. Towing destroys that. You are damn lucky.”
When incredulously I asked what I had done to deserve being towed, he pointed to a small sign at the bottom of the lot which said, “parking lot.”
“OK, sorry, I did not see that. How much do I owe you?”
Ten dollars normally but in your case make it twenty-five.
As I returned home holding my breath every time I saw a police officer or police car, I realized that there are some mysteries in life that are hard to explain. Maybe this was my lucky day after all.
When telling my story to a friend, she responded that nowadays in DC it is almost impossible to get a reservation on the Tuesday 3:00 PM online time slot and that she had been trying for months, and every time when she was finally able to get through, she got the message that all appointments were taken.
“Hardly anyone has a valid driver’s license at our age in DC anymore. It’s impossible. Get used to it and roll with it.”
To be continued.