Dick Tracy: Me and the DMV: A cautionary tale | TheUnion.com

Dick Tracy: Me and the DMV: A cautionary tale

The letter from our Department of Motor Vehicles came a week or so ago, reminding me to renew my driver’s license, including a vision check and written test. Before my Sept. 15 birthday.

The office had moved since my last visit, but I found it OK and entered to find two lines in front of a single female clerk. One was 11 people long, while the “Reservations” line had two.

Oh. I should have requested a reservation? I stood in the long line for some time before noticing a handicapped sign on the short line. Disabled persons are given a break!

Still, there were people ahead of me who perhaps wanted to pay their fees using Rupees? Long conversations ensued with a patient civil servant. I have empathy for these people, who probably flunked algebra, just like me.

Question: Why is there only one clerk at the biggest bottleneck?

“That’s the way government works,” said a man ahead of me in soft undertones. “Have you checked out our Congress?”

Then it was my turn. In a minute I was assigned a code: FO2016.

And it wasn’t too long before my number came up … but I didn’t hear it being called. And other numbers were displayed on a large screen and announced with a booming female voice.

I hesitantly walked to the counter, showed my number and a nice woman noticing my cane gave me her spot. People generally go out of their way to be nice to the physically impaired.

At that point I had to submit to having my thumbprint taken on a machine probably linked to the FBI, CIA and NSA. It took a few tries before it agreed that I am, indeed, me.

Getting my photo taken (“Stand with your toes on the white line,” were the instructions, “and look at the camera.”)

Was I supposed to smile? Flashing back to Army basic training in 1958, I remembered a photographer for our “yearbook” making us smile, encouraging “Say (bleep).” The word, recently mainstreamed by Donald Trump, refers to the female anatomy. All inductees had sly little grins.

This photo is of an old, bald, goateed man whose eyes implore: “Where’s the restroom?”

But having paid $33 and passing an eye test without glasses (the happy result of two cataract operations) I was pointed toward some computers. They showed a video of how they work … and then … uh … they didn’t work.

The machine asked me to type in my driver’s license number. But there was no keyboard. I waved for help.

A pleasant young woman came to my aid (“Old people!” she must have thought, “Won’t they ever learn how to use computers?”) She lightly tapped the right side of the screen and up popped a keyboard! I input (for older readers, that’s computer language for “typed in”) the information and the lady went away.

Then the computer insisted I give it my thumb print again, to confirm I’m really the same guy who gave a thumbprint eight feet away. I tried three times and it locked me out, saying I had to input more information. But without a keyboard. I thumped on the screen for one and it ignored me.

“Help!” I said in a loud voice betraying my lack of computer expertise.

I wanted to say a lot more than that, but the FBI, CIA and NSA have ways of dealing with old profane persons. And I might have caused a stir by asking how much more than paper and pencil do these computers cost?

A clerk sighed and gave me a printout of the test. And a freshly sharpened Dixon #2 lead pencil! Now we’re talking my language!

I erred on only one question.

For your information, when a vehicle towing a trailer is driving along a four-lane highway, it’s OK to drive in either of the two right-hand lanes.

In a few moments I had a temporary permit (“You passed,” the clerk smiled, “and your permanent license will be in the mail in about a week.”)

In moments the loud old guy with the cane was out the door.

It reminded me of graduation day in grade school.

Dick Tracy lives Grass Valley.

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