Friday, December 7, 2012

Big Gulp, Fidget Pete, And Me

Warning: the story you are about to read is entirely true. The events described were actually a whole lot funnier than I am able to convey in text alone; because of this, you may possibly lose faith in humanity.

My life in the Outernet (get it, life outside of Internet is the Outernet?) has been brutal the last few months.
Y'all don't mind if my stories are a bit aged, do you?
Well, lie, then.
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Reginald Kitty is not amused.

The day before my twenty-first birthday, I decided it would be a good idea to get the ball rolling on my "over twenty-one" papers, etc. The DMV in our ridiculously hicky town just so happened to be closed on that day, and I kinda needed my temporary papers before we headed out to Las Vegas, which was two days after said date of birth. With no other alternatives, I hopped in my little Beetle (could you seriously see me driving any other car? OK, maybe a '61 Plymouth Valiant), and headed forty miles north to an even smaller, hicky-er town. Apparently, the staff from our DMV go to the smaller town one day a week, and set up shop in a makeshift office. Since there is no actual DMV office in that itty bitty town, I pulled into a parking spot in front of a conspicuously vacant-looking building bearing the address I was given over the telephone. The windows were boarded up with flaking pieces of MDF board, wires were strewn across the facade, and the roof seemed to be fluttering about the place like tiny tar snowflakes. On the door, there were peeling letters revealing the building's former life as some kind of shop that had long been out of business, and a newer, handmade sign taped above them simply stating, "OPEN". Walking through the door, there was a vestibule piled high with office furniture from the 80s, leaving only a small pathway to a larger room. The larger room looked like an unfinished, gritty warehouse, and was empty but for four ancient voting booths; their yellowing red, white, and blue curtains, coupled with the fact that the building didn't seem to have any heating on that seasonably cool autumn morning, gave me an eery feeling. This certainly did not look like a place I would want to be caught dead in, but it was looking like that could be an option.

If it hadn't been for the flickering of an almost-burnt-out florescent tube light, I would never have noticed the unusually thin doorway that lead down a long, sterile hallway. At the end of the hall, there was a door displaying another handmade sign: "9-3:30". I guessed that meant we were where we were supposed to be, so I opened the door to find several high schoolers, their parents, and a few elderly folks lining the walls in metal fold-able chairs.

I walked up to the line that had formed in front of a clunky wooden desk that was cluttered with paperwork and semi-functioning pens with other business' advertisements on them. Next to the desk was a tall filing cabinet with a printer perched precariously on top of it, and a box on the floor beside it, which was covered in shoe prints. Wires stuck out of the wall in a disordered jumble, connected to a giant wall-mounted box with violently flashing lights, and heaven knows what else. It was at this point that the man in front of me started to get slightly irate.
"He's taken this test twice already!" he shouted, gesturing at a teenager that looked more like a thirty-something -- shaggy mustache and all -- excepting his Justin Bieber haircut. "And now," he started up again, "I've got to go legally change my address at the courthouse so he can do it again?"
"Yes," the lady behind the desk said, curtly, "but you can leave him here to take the test while you're gone."
And so, he did, leaving Bieber-boy to wait for his turn on the only public computer in the entire building upon which he could take the written portion of his driving exam.
I got my paperwork to fill out, handed it in, and there I sat with the rest of the schmucks. Bieber-boy talked with a girl he knew who was also waiting, while I tried not to get accosted by the nans in applique'd sweaters.

Perhaps twenty minutes passed before Bieber's dad came back with the proof of address, and the lady behind the desk could take his photo for his temporary license.
"Can you move your hair out of your face?" she said to him.
There was an awkward laugh as he tried to move his fringe.
"No," she said, "I need to see your brow line."
This continued for a few minutes until the girl he knew decided to try and help; she offered to pin his hair back with her spare bobby pin. There was a slight kerfuffle while awkward laughter filled the small room, and every one in it watched as the boy questioned all of the decisions in his life that had led him to that moment.
"I think that's as good as it's going to get," the lady said, motioning for him to sit down. The photo was taken with a prudent flash-and-click, and I was given more paperwork to fill out. As I handed it in, I heard the lady behind the desk tell Bieber's friend that she needed her guardian with her to take her exam; desk-lady had to explain that an auntie wasn't a legal guardian, and that she'd have to come back later. As one of the nans had her eyesight tested, I was given more paperwork, and Bieber was allowed to start his exam. The waiting room cleared, and I sensed that the experience might not get much more painful.

Oh, how wrong I was.

In came hoards of people, most of whom were eventually turned away for having the wrong bloody paperwork. When no more folding chairs were left, the crowd spilled into the hallway. By this time, Bieber's mother was growing impatient; she pulled her cellphone charger out of her Mary Poppins-sized bag, plugged it into the wall socket, and proceeded to play Angry Birds. A burly lady with several tattoos sipped loudly on a Big Gulp, and a fidgetty good-ol'-boy bounced his foot up and down nervously.
I was given more paperwork.

The white noise of a DMV was interrupted by the lady behind the counter. Pointing at Bieber, she loudly announced to the room as a whole, "he failed the test". His mother unplugged her phone, grabbed the kid by the arm, and lead him out of the room briskly. More people were turned away from the questionable operation, quickly leaving an abundance of chairs. Now, there was only Big Gulp, Fidget Pete, and me. The two strangers had struck up a conversation about having to prove their citizenship on a previous visit to the same office.
"Yeah," said Big Gulp, "I had to do that, too. I told 'em that I've been in state prison for fifteen years, so I had to be a citizen of some kind." Nervous laughter came from the people left in the room, including the lady behind the desk. Much to his pleasure, Fidget Pete was still emitting false giggles when he was called up to the desk. He explained that he had just moved to the state from Louisiana, and needed a new driver's license; unfortunately for him, because he was over a certain age, he had to either prove state driver's education, or take it all over again, plus the written and performance tests. His poor foot stopped bouncing as he weighed his options and made frantic phone calls. Desk-lady suggested he could cheat the system by getting his girlfriend to do the online portion of the driver's ed requirement for him. By this time, Big Gulp was, thankfully, occupied by a newcomer, to whom she complained about a local policeman who "follows the letter of the law", and how he had pulled her over numerous times. Just as she was coming to the point in her story where her ex-husband had "gotten her in trouble in this god-awful town before", and as Fidget Pete gladly proclaimed his proof of state approved education, the desk lady stepped on the box beside the filing cabinet to retrieve my papers; she told me to "have fun and party for me" on our trip.

With my papers in hand, I was free to go. I took one last look at the sign over the door that said "No Cellphones. No Outside Food Or Drink." Shaking my head, I walked back through the frigid hallway, the warehouse storeroom, and the misused foyer; as I crossed the threshold and entered the glow of the glittering afternoon sun, enjoying the warmth after three hours in a windowless room full of convicts, transplants, and morons, I knew it could have been much worse. I mean, at least the zombie apocalypse didn't break out while I was there; since I was the only one in the room with a brain, I'd have definitely been the first to go.
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