Perhaps you are old enough to remember the horror that was Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles in days gone by: The confusion, the fear of standing in the wrong line, did you bring the right piece of paper? which kind of payment would be acceptable for what document? None of which would be revealed until, after forty minutes, you reached the front of a line and came face to face with The Dragon Lady.
I am happy to report all that is history. Yes, there are still lines; but they are fun lines.
The day before our anniversary I had presented my license as ID at the bank. The nice bank officer lady said, “Your license expired three months ago, do you have another form of ID?”
I never look at my license, it has the awful picture that ruins my carefully manufactured self-image. It’s a good thing I drive like an old guy. I haven’t been asked for my license and registration in twenty years.
So, next day, June 20th, our anniversary celebration began with a trip to the RMV in Leominster.
It’s 11:00AM and ninety degrees. Arriving at the entrance we see…
The Line. It’s out the door which is being held open letting the A/C cool the parking lot. This is the line you first stand in. The RMV person asks why you are here and makes sure you have the forms, the right payment, gives you a number, and sends you to the bleachers.
People who come in another door walk along the line looking for the end, “Are you in line?” they ask, hoping we are not. A little old lady stands behind us, it being our turn to let the A/C out. She says, “They keep trying to get rid of me, but I keep coming back,” referring to the RMV tests for senior drivers.
There’s a big yellow sign stating how you may pay for what RMV product. I get nervous and ask Rosemary if she has enough cash tucked away.
“Oh, yes, always,” says Rosemary. I actually know this. She has uncounted treasure folded tightly and hidden throughout her wallet. Rosemary and her sisters call these “tuckies.” Once twenties or fifties are folded many times and turned into a tuckie, they become play money facilitating spontaneous trips to Foxwoods Casino for guilt free pissing away of our, formerly, real money.
The man in front of us agrees with Rosemary.
“My dad always said to have some cash tucked away. When he died my sister and I found $21,000 in a box in the cellar.”
“Wow!” exclaims the mildly envious Rosemary.
“Yes, it took us a while to find it; we split it right there,” said the man.
I turn to Rosemary and ask, “Do you have any serious money stashed somewhere?”
At first she says no, but then remembers, “Oh, I do have an envelope with money from my Dad. Now where did I put that…?”
“Really?” I said.
The man piped up, “Yeah, I have a sock in the garage stuffed with cash.”
“Oh…?” I said, “Where do you live?” Where upon he begins to tell me in detail, then gets the gag. As I said, it’s fun in line at the RMV.
The line moves right along and we reach the intake lady. I hand her my completed renewal form, she hands me number B146. There are eight clerks working, and they are “Now Serving B105.” Yikes! And that does not count the A’s, the F’s, and the C’s.
Time for people watching: Another fun thing to do at the RMV.
The rest rooms are around the corner. Both are occupied. Through a glass door I see more rest rooms in a private business section of the building. There is a big sign above this door: NO ENTRANCE! EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY! ALARM WILL SOUND! Since I am having a private emergency, I open the door. No alarm sounds. And this new restroom is lovely. Later I see a line forming at the RMV rest rooms. So I helpfully inform people that if they just push this door open…
“Oh no!” says a lady, “I’m afraid to do that.” I demonstrate and leave. My work here is done.
An hour has passed and our number is approaching. But, it is lunchtime and eight clerks are reduced to four clerks. There is a collective moan around me as all realize the slowdown. You might want to avoid the registry at lunchtime. Oh, you work and lunchtime is when you can get there?
Is see a passport sitting on a table in the back. Opening it, I see it belongs to a young man from Dominica. Leaving the passport, I wander around the building looking for likely candidates. I see one and approach in as non-threatening way as I can, “Hello, did you leave a passport on the table over there.” At first he looks panicked, than scampers over to retrieve the important document. An older brother (I presume) smiles at me and says, “Thanks… Oy! What to do with that guy!” I feel like Superman, wandering the earth doing good deeds.
With the slow down in people being called, I observe how we all deal with the wait. It seems that I am the only one not staring at, a) “now serving” numbers displayed on screens or, b) a smart phone. A section of benches looks like group prayer as all heads are bent to their phones.
All types come together at the RMV. It’s as good as the airport for people watching. I observe those who, once called, are served quickly at the counter. We like them. Also we have…
He of the thorny problem and the long explanation. Taking up time, our time, at one of the four clerks still open. What in the world could he be talking about?
Hacking cough guy. He has extra space around him.
Close-to-shirtless body builder guy, Pecs, nipples, and biceps on display.
Lady with screaming child. No random gathering of humans is complete without one. I smile as the carriage is pushed off to distant parts of the building, imaging a retreating Doppler effect.
Mother with bevy of young children. Rosemary, being the sweet girl she is, bonds with all of them, admiring in turn their dolls, drawings, and new hair cut.
Exasperated-with-wait-time guy. He sighs dramatically as each number, not his, is called.
Dressed-to-kill girl. Oh, so cute. I imagine she must have someone important to impress after the RMV. Surely she didn’t do that for all of us.
Now, mother of three young children is losing control of them. She counts to three after each cease and desist command, which is ignored by the now manic urchins. Tears and tantrums are about to launch when the day is saved by…
Toy wielding lady. The toy is a little top which the lady spins to the floor. All are promptly mesmerized. Me included. The kids sit cross legged in a circle as the top spins. The kindness of strangers, I think. I have to get me one of those.
Finally, our number is called and zip, zip, eye test, take a picture (no better than the last) $60 on the credit card, and we are on our way after a pleasant conversation with the nice RMV clerk.
“I suppose I am not the first to let my license expire.”
“Certainly not,” she says, “and you won’t be the last.”
Out in the scorching parking lot, exasperated-wait-time guy walks by us, “Well, that was hell,” he says. Not so, I think. Yes, it was ninety minutes. But we had fun. Never would I have imagined future fun at the RMV when facing The Dragon Lady so many years ago.
Our anniversary has gone well so far. We drive back to Gardner for lunch at an Asian bistro in the Tympany Mall and then several doors down to the movies. Man of Steel is our choice. It’s pretty good.
Exiting the movie theater I see a pond has appeared in the parking lot. To my left is a fountain of water billowing up from below the lot. And our 2009 Prius is not where we parked it.
A broken water main has flooded the lot. We have parked our car in the lowest point of the lot. It is flooded over the doors, filling the cabin up to the pedals. Our electric battery driven car, filled with water. I know instantly that the car is dead. Confirmed by the dealer the next day.
The police are sympathetic, the tow driver is sympathetic, the newspaper reporter is sorry, too. If sympathy were legal tender, we’d be rolling in it.
The car is towed. We call a cab. Go home. Discover we are not insured for this peril. My agent says, “How could I let you buy a car and not buy comprehensive?” I take responsibility. Not his fault. Anyway, we’ll sue. That is until my lawyer tells me these things are Acts of God and no one is at fault, thus no one to sue.
How to deal with this? As my friend, Tom Smith, says in his song, “…Recalculating, decide what’s important, turn left, and move on.”
So we bought a 2013 Prius Plug-In with all the trimmings, and all the required insurance. And are grateful we were able to do so.
And that, Dear Reader, is how we spent our 43rd wedding anniversary. Memories are made of these.