A Birthday Trip to . . . the Nether Regions
Jane Austen had posed a “reality” immortalized in her most famous work, Pride and Prejudice.
“It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” And while Marjorie Dashwood’s reality was personal to her, and never to be as famous, she suspected it was, in fact, widely agreed with.
“It is universally accepted that every human hates going to the DMV.”
Time and plans, hopes and dreams, will be suspended, and all the authority on the planet will be coalesced to one group of women—the DMV matrons behind the counter. No monarch or potentate has ever had more power than these civic autocrats.
So no person, even of good moral standing, goes into these staid and frigid environs without some trepidation. So especially Marjorie Dashwood. She was turning sixty and needed a new driver’s license.
She had not bothered to ask beforehand what she needed really. The old driver’s license, and just for good measure, her birth certificate. In her smugness, she was tempted to grab a copy of her business license. She was a business owner, certainly in need of a driver’s permit. They should be suitably impressed.
She allotted one hour for her term of DMV internment. Fifty-one minutes of that was spent in line. There were four workers, the entire country turned out for DMV business, and multiple coffee and potty breaks for the four to factor in. Marjorie had forgotten that factor.
At last it was her turn. In her near hour wait, she had amused herself with guessing which of the matrons seemed most affable, most willing to negotiate, if it came to that. And which was the matron that reminded one of the cross tempered, humorless PE teacher had in sixth grade. Three were smiling, joking, gum snapping. One was scowling, hitting computer keys with swift pounding strokes, answering timid questions with huffs, sighs, and general disdain. As her time to go forward inched closer, Marjorie was trying to send mental telepathy, “Go for coffee, go for coffee,” to Attila DMV Hun.
The honeyless Hun barked her number. Marjorie hurried forward despite leaden feet, sinking hopes of swift freedom. She fixed her smile, lilted her voice.
A hand shot out. “Paperwork.”
Had she suddenly dropped back in time to the Third Reich?
Marjorie sheepishly submitted the forms, feeling that sudden apprehension when you are about to be told you are violating some rule. But the woman gave a cursory glance, her eyes still riveted on the computer screen. After what seemed like an eon, she made her first eye contact with number sixty-seven.
“Do you want to take the test on computer, or paper and pen?”
Marjorie felt a blanching, her voice weak.
A bored look slid down on the woman’s face, her voice clipped.
“The. Written. Driving. Test.”
“Oh! Oh . . . I . . . I didn’t realize, you had to take a test. I thought…” Marjorie whispered meekly.
The steel gray eyes had dagger sharpness, and slid over Marjorie. One eyebrow flicked up. “You can take a study booklet, and take it another day if you’d prefer.”
Another day of Chinese water torture?
“Oh! Oh, well, no…” A nervous laugh. “I’ll take it, I mean, how hard…”
There was something, something close to amusement in the woman’s eye across the counter that gave Marjorie a momentary pause. She slid the paper across the counter, her eyes back to the computer screen.
“When you are finished, bring it back up here to me. After you wait on the mat of course.”
Hateful words—wait on the mat.
And then ensued twenty-three painful minutes of trying to remember the last time she had applied trailer brakes on her skid and how far and long it had taken her to stop. Had she clocked it recently?
What was the diameter of a railroad crossing sign? Didn’t she measure that just last week?
How many insurance points do you lose if stopped for going too fast beside a funeral procession?
What is the speed limit in a rainstorm, on a two lane road, in a bayou, after midnight?
Marjorie Dashwood was cooked. She drug herself, limp and shamed, to the mat.
“Go have your picture taken while I grade your test,” the matron had said.
Marjorie was sure she had heard her click her heels together.
Sit straight, chin up, so there will be less double chin. Fluff hair, moisten lips, sniff nose for cleansing, straighten shirt. No gaps. Both eyes open. Look forward.
The picture taken, the young man had hesitated ever so slightly as he handed it to her. It is never a good indication to have a photographer apologize over your snap.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly.
She gasped aloud. Was this her? Did she really look like this? What has happened to my neck? Her neck looked like a leg of sagging socks. This can’t be me! I thought I looked better than this…
Back to the matron. With feet in concrete blocks, her shoulders forward, her chin almost to her chest. Everything sagging. Marjorie just wanted to slither home. Enough of this agony.
The voice was crisp. “You failed.” Her voice was clearly triumphant.
“You can only miss eight out of the fifty. You missed fifteen.”
Marjorie’s voice was tremulous. “Fifteen.Oh, well that’s better than I thought . . . it would be. It’s not half, ha…”
“But that’s not all.”
Funny how we all get pleasure out of odd things…
How could this get worse?
The matron shoved the birth certificate across the counter.
“Is this you?”
Marjorie scanned her birth certificate. “Is this me? Of course.”
The pointy finger with coral nail, was dagger-like, tapping with accusation.
“This birth certificate is a certified copy, but there’s a problem.”
“A problem?” Marjorie had lapsed into dull repetition. “What . . . other problem?”
Besides her failing the standard driving test. Besides her looking like an old potato fallen behind the cabinet.
“The witness didn’t sign. You aren’t legally alive. I’m sorry.”
Funny how people can say they are sorry. When they obviously aren’t.
At that moment, Marjorie not only deeply regretted turning sixty, but was certain she had woken up in the Twilight Zone that morning.
“I’m sorry?” she gasped.
“Your birth certificate. It was never signed by a witness. That makes this an unauthorized document. When you return to take your test, again, please bring an authorized document. Thank you. Next number!”
Marjorie stepped into the balmy sunshine, a woman released.
Or more accurately, a . . . something released.
She slid into her car, knowing a good cup of coffee was beyond even this.
And this was the beginning of her sixtieth year of non-life. ️