It’s nearly September, and already I’m thinking about October and my birthday...and how there always is one thing that’s guaranteed to ruin it every year.
I’m talking about the state's mandatory annual motor-vehicle inspection, which is required to be done during the month you were born.
Those inspections usually involve venturing to an automotive shop or dealership and sitting in a drafty waiting room (about the size of a closet) that features an assortment of stimulating reading material like “Torque Wrenches of Tomorrow” and “Auto Parts Monthly,” while my car is undergoing a grueling physical exam to determine whether or not it should be given its last rites.
Then, after what seems like the longest hour in the history of mankind, the mechanic finally enters the room and, in my case, usually announces something like...“Well, your car’s going to need a new exhaust system, brakes, rotors, four new tires, and a pacemaker implanted to keep it running. Also, when I had it up on the lift and got a good look underneath it, I noticed the only thing still holding it together was rust. Other than that, everything looks fine. Would you like to speak to our on-site loan officer about a second mortgage?”
But this year, my birthday month is going to be even worse because just the other day I received a reminder in the mail informing me it's time for me to head to the DMV to renew my driver’s license…in person.
I’ve been getting away with simply renewing it online for years now. In fact, it's been so many years, if I ever got pulled over by the police, they’d probably arrest me for identity theft because they'd wonder why such an old lady was using a license with a photo of a college student on it.
So, that means I finally have to have a new photo taken, and I also have to pass the DMV's eye exam.
I’m not worried about the eye exam any more, though, now that I've had my cataract surgery and my current vision is 20/20 rather than 20/70. And I'm eager to have the "corrective lenses” restriction finally removed from the back of my license.
But just the thought of having a new photo taken is already giving me a bad case of hives.
I believe I’ve finally figured out why every license photo looks as if the person in it attended a Halloween zombie party beforehand. The DMV employees purposely snap horrible photos - like when someone yawns or is just about to sneeze or blink - because they want us to be so embarrassed and humiliated by those photos, we'll be extra careful when we drive just so we’ll never have to reveal their hideousness to a police officer.
On the bright side, I also think license photos are responsible for people cutting back on their drinking. Now that stores require everyone, even if you're older than Methuselah, to show a photo ID when you purchase any alcoholic beverage, many people are switching to juice boxes.
This year, however, renewing my driver’s license will be worse than ever. That’s because I have to get a new type of license called the "Real ID," otherwise I won't be allowed to fly anywhere or enter any government buildings – unless I have a valid passport I can use instead.
The last time I had a valid passport, I was wearing a mini-skirt and listening to the Beatles’ latest LP on vinyl.
This new type of driver’s license is not easy to obtain, however. For one thing, I have to make an appointment in advance and provide a variety of items that prove I’m really Sally Breslin. The list includes a birth certificate, proof of my Social Security number, proof of residency and a DNA sample to prove I’m human and not a robotic replicant (okay, so maybe I made up that last one).
The list also said that if my current name doesn’t match the name on my birth certificate, I have to provide a marriage certificate and proof of divorce for every time my name has changed from birth until now. I can just imagine people who have been married five or six times having a real “fun” time complying with that one (I was going to say that if Elizabeth Taylor were still alive, she’d probably need about three years to get all of her marriage and divorce paperwork organized and copied, but I don’t remember her ever legally changing her name during any of her eight marriages).
I was married only once, yet I’m still having problems. That's because my marriage certificate is missing in action, thanks to the USPS Office of Personnel Management never returning it to me after I had to send it to them when my husband died. I mean, I even enclosed a self-addressed, postage-paid envelope for its return, along with a sticky note that said, PLEASE RETURN, and still they didn’t return it.
That was 11 years ago. So I’m pretty sure the envelope doesn't have nearly enough postage on it now.
This means I have to get a new copy of my marriage certificate...for a fee of $17.95. And the way things are going, I might not receive it in time. Twice now, I’ve filled out the request form online, only to have City Hall’s system crash when I tried to submit it. The second time, I got as far as entering my debit-card number and seeing “processing payment” on the screen, but then nothing happened – the screen just stayed that way.
City Hall sent me a note of apology and assured me their system was back up and running, but now I’m afraid to try again because maybe the "processing payment" one finally went through and I don’t want to be charged twice for the certificate. Heck, I don’t even want to be charged once for it. I think $17.95 for a single piece of paper is a little pricy. I probably could buy at least a ream of it for that price.
So, time will tell if I make it through October with an inspected 2004 car that's still deemed road-worthy, and a shiny new “Real ID” driver’s license with an up-to-date photo on it (that should be captioned: "Zombified ancient hag escapes from the crypt").
In the meantime, I’ll be checking out some bicycles with sturdy, all-weather tires, just in case.
# # #Sally Breslin is a native New Englander and an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: email@example.com
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