December 14th, 2009

krazy koati

Now because you think that time has passed you by

I don't tend to make fun of the Department of Motor Vehicles (in New Jersey now the Motor Vehicles Commission after a decade of trying out every variation on department names, possibly in an attempt to dodge Child Organization Support). In part this is because most of the jokes to make about them are lazy: ``the lines are enormous and the employees hate everybody and you sit around waiting forever to be told you're in the wrong line''. Heard that joke already, lots of times. Sometimes I'll make a lazy joke, but everyone is occasionally lazy. More, though, these jokes lack the molecules of truth that they need to be sound: at least in these parts, my experiences with the Motor Vehicles Commission this decade have been efficient, swift, and reasonably painless. Jokes rarely work when they're documentary, but I feel that even absurdist or whimsical humor plays better when there is that bracing of reality behind it.

That's a longwinded way of saying I went to the Motor Vehicles office to get my driver's license renewed. Mid-month is allegedly the sweet time to do it; when I got in there were a couple people in the various queues but nothing too long or sluggish. In fact, at the driver's license section --- with 25 seats, 24 of them empty --- the woman working the little table to check over all the paperwork told me to stand by the wall next to where they take photographs. Apparently they weren't expecting this to be a long wait. And they weren't, although after the wait by the wall I was told to come to line six (a third of the way across the main counter) where I verified all my information and paid (cash, for no obvious reason) and was told it'd be just a few seconds so I should sit down. I never found out why they had me stand a little while.

Before I could even take out a book to read they were ready for my photograph. They had my four-year-old one on file, but, you know, this is my first chance to make a formal impression with my not-fat-anymore face and I wanted that. Plus I realized over the past four years that most photographs of me look like I'm asleep because I open my eyes just enough to see. If I hold my eyes more open I look like I've ever been conscious. They took a picture. With my eyes a little wider open than normal I looked like I was photographed while being attacked by flying squid. They allow re-takes since digital pictures make that painless except that you have to look at what you look like. I tried looking less alert, and came out looking like I was being attacked by smaller flying squid.

Each time we photographed and the clerk asked if I wanted to use this picture I felt that much more awkward. It felt like wasting her time and demanding special privileges to keep reshooting, and yet, this is going to be with me four years and looked at possibly as soon as 2013 when I come up for renewal again, shouldn't I get it right? But with so little visible improvement from one picture to the next it felt like getting it right might take into 2013. I finally settled on the next photograph, in which I look not so much attacked by squid and more like a perky android learning what you humans mean by ``slapstick''. That will probably do.

Still, the service was prompt, efficient, and courteous. I think the photograph problems are entirely my own down.

Trivia: When the Aero Club of America, under the authority of the Féderation Aéronautique Internationale began awarding pilot's licenses, Orville Wright was granted number 4, and Wilbur Wright number 5. Source: Over Land And Sea: The Dramatic Story Of The Great Aviation Pioneer Glenn H Curtiss, Robert Scharff, Walter S Taylor.

Currently Reading: Call Of The Mall, Paco Underhill.