Sunday, October 16, 2011

Truth is More Sarcastic than Fiction

I've managed to get myself involved with reading / listening to 5 books at once. (Well, not simultaneously... you know what I mean.) Not to mention the one I'm writing. Since that leaves me without any fiction to blog about, I'm turning to real life instead.

This is my little pumpkin, D. He turned 16 this month. This, of course, involved many moments of R & I saying, "We've been parents for that long?" and telling mortifying (to D) stories of his adorable toddlerhood and so forth. We're pretty happy with the guy, especially because he only grew one inch in the last year, and kept the same shoe size, which is a boon to those of us purchasing his clothing and footwear.

Also, of course, we had the Driver License Events.

We live in a Really Major Metropolitan Area, which means, among other things, very long lines at the DMV. The High School Information Network indicated that a trip to a nice rural town would mean 3-4 minutes in line rather than 3-4 hours. So driving an hour each way for the road test is a "good idea." Never mind factors like the high cost of gas, and that sitting in the DMV waiting room at least theoretically allows for reading or homework while driving doesn't. Still, a road test on quieter roads is a tad less stressful, and the boy's heart is set.

But wait! Road tests are only available via appointment. And appointments have to be made in person, by the test-ee. Somehow, Parental Logic pointing out that this would mean 4 hours of driving to and from the Rural DMV didn't hold water. Everybody jumping off bridges, and all that. Also, the Major Metropolitan DMV has a known 5+ week wait for the appointment, and who wants to wait that long? Not my 16 year old, that's for sure. There was some vague mention of potential lines when going back for the driving appointment, even though that was unsubstantiated by the High School Information Network. Probably because they all jumped off the bridge of the Rural DMVs.

So I'm looking up rural DMVs. Telling D that yes, mileage wise, that one by the beach is closer. But it involves driving through downtown and past one of the airports to get there, so it's not quicker. I pick one with a Google Map-estimated drive time of 48 minutes, and ascertain that it will be open on Columbus Day at 8 a.m.

D is eager to be the first one in the door, and I have to work that day, so I let him drag me out of bed at 6:00. We spent the day before parallel parking up and down our street for an hour, and he's been doing very well. We both feel ready. (His dream is that they'll say they have an appointment that same day if we'll wait around to take it.) He grabs the keys and heads out to the car.

Turns the key. Nothing. I explain about locking the ignition, but yanking on the steering wheel has no effect. Key in. Key out. Try to turn wheel. Check gear shift. Try to turn key. Press in brake. Turn wheel. Double-check gear shift. Key finally turns... and car alarm goes off.


I'm in the passenger seat, attempting to stay level-headed and instructive and also to press the right buttons to turn off the damn alarm. And hoping my neighbors weren't planning to, you know, sleep in at all.

He was a little rattled. But he took a deep breath. Restarted the car. Successfully backed down our driveway (one of the toughest of the routine tasks.) We were on our way.

A quarter-mile later, he had to turn onto the feeder road of the freeway, ideally into a left lane so he could U-turn at the intersection. And yet. He chose a good moment to turn, he pulled out with good speed, but not only into the right lane, but up onto the curb. With both passenger side tires. Narrowly - and I mean narrowly - missing a fire hydrant before he plunked the car back down onto the street.


Ker-plunk. Ker-plunk, ker-plunk.

I had him pull into a parking lot. Ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunk.

So for future reference, son, that's what it feels like to drive on a flat tire.

We switched seats and I got the joy of the shoulder-wrenching teeth-clenching quarter-mile drive (ker-plunk, ker-plunk) back onto the feeder road, down the major thoroughfare, and into the mall parking lot to the Sears Auto, which opened at 8 a.m. As we abandoned the car and walked home, he finished the seventh stage of grief (the rage was something to behold! but my favorite was bargaining - it was pretty clear the Traffic Gods were just not in the mood to listen to his pleas.)

So we sat around for an hour, then went back to Sears where they'd have finished with us sooner if some something mechanical something something else tool-related hadn't intervened. But hey, it allowed us plenty of time to watch Jerry Springer "help" some nice people who were forced by the economic downturn to cheat on their spouses. Oddly, usually with their spouse's younger, hotter siblings, which must be a lesser-known side-effect of the recession. Who knew?

8:30, Mel in the driver's seat and $170 poorer, we hit the road again. Once we got to Rural Town, D was confident enough to drive to the DMV, where we found a short-ish line in the most stereotypically tiny 3-person shack of an office ever imagined by whoever it is who goes about imagining these things.

After a wait while the nice women at the Rural DMV help a wheelchaired senior citizen who arrived after us (but that is part of the Rural DMV Stereotypical Way of Life), D is vision-checked, thumb-printed, relieved of $11, and then, the big moment arrives. DMV woman pulled out the giant "Road Test" binder.

Drum roll, please. (D's present from us was a drum set. Either because we love him and want to please him, or because we are a little cuckoo.)

4 weeks.

Right around the time school gets out.

An hour away.

Heaven forbid I should ever doubt the High School Information Network again.


  1. Hi Mel - It's clddmama. I love this story and am wondering if aforementioned rural DMV is near where my Dad's family lives (El Campo). I'm pretty sure they have the stereotypical rural DMV there, because I don't think the place has changed in years!

    Good luck in four weeks!

  2. Hey, C - no, we went WNW instead of WSW, to avoid the joys of 59S. It was Hempstead, instead.

    Thanks for the compliment!

  3. Wow, things have changed. When your old uncle Bob took his test, there was only one driver's license spot in Houston. Don't remember the exact address, but it was around Caroline and Binz - just north of the zoo.
    The day I turned 14, my pal Val Jahnke gave me a ride to the DMV in his dad's 54 Olds. When I completed my written test, he told me to use it to do the driving test. I had never driven the car before (or anything else with power steering and brakes) but I passed and went home with my license in my wallet.
    Tell D to relax - the driving test is a piece of cake. Just look at all the rotten drivers on the road.

  4. Things have changed, indeed! Mom's story is similar, of course. Personally, I'm super-glad that my kid couldn't get his license at 14, no matter which office was involved!