Saturday, October 24, 2009
"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity" Ecclesiastes
The proof of my own vanity is in me thinking I am beyond it, never had it, or am too over-the-hill to put any energy in it. And yet, it comes to this: me... almost crying at the DMV as I got my new Illinois drivers license.
I have put off getting an Illinois license. I liked my California one, it's so sunny and California-like. Bold colors, shiny and modern. You can almost hear the soundtrack playing, "California, here I come" when you look at it. But mostly I liked it because it had a picture of me that looked really great... from about fifteen years ago. They never insisted I get another picture and so I just renewed and renewed and every time my old picture came back. It's funny, but the picture of me on my California license seemed to get better as I got older. Of course, I was getting older, that's the point. But it actually did truly and honestly seem to get better - a Dorian Gray driver's license picture - my lips got redder and my hair a richer shade of brown just as my own hair got duller and thinner and my own lips began to fade slightly into the rest of my face.
There was that moment at the airport when the person inspecting my license looked skeptically at me. I was older, larger and much grayer than the picture purporting to represent me. But c'mon, that was me, right? Right? I remember we both laughed a little, but he let me pass on by.
I procrastinated about getting a new license once I moved. But, then my car insurance company wrote, admonishing me for still having a California one - in fact it was a bit more dire than "admonish me," I guess if I got in a car accident here my insurance could be invalid because I needed to show I was an Illinoian.
I was afraid of the test. One is required to take a written test and then, if you don't pass it, you not only have to repeat the written exam, but you could be asked to take a driving test, too! And although I'm a good driver it all just scares me because I think they try to get you to fail by making everything so convoluted.
I had fears at night. True or false? A, B, C, or all of the above or none of the above? These words danced above my head as I tried to go to sleep.
Plus, these kinds of questions can get me pondering for hours. Multiple choice questions that are not clear and obvious can become existential jumping-off-points for me.
I got the pamphlet you're supposed to study and came home and promptly lost it. I asked Nadia (who babysits and lives in an apartment in back of our house) to pick up another one, and she did. I promptly lost that! I couldn't get myself to really even open the pages of the pamphlet. Just thinking about it made me want to lie down in the fetal position.
So, yesterday, I set out to get my driver's license, GODDAMNIT!
I went into the DMV, got the little book and sat down, right there, for two hours - from 9 to nearly 11. I read every word of the book. I took the test questions at the end of each chapter of the study-booklet. I corrected my test questions and I had missed only four out of fifty or so. I reviewed. A DMV worker teased me gently for sitting so long. Another one recognized me and came up to say she enjoyed my "work." Oh god, the pressure was on. Work? This is my work!
I watched many others come in and take the test. Many of them failed. You can only get 7 wrong out of over 50 questions. You have to wait a week to come back to take it again. Oh god, oh lord in heaven.
I finally took the test. I wanted to write "JMJ" on top of the test, which is what I put on top of every school paper and test I turned in, in my Catholic grade school. It stands for Jesus, Mary & Joseph.
The questions seemed much - well, I won't say "harder" than the booklet. I would say more confusing. For example the law states that if you're under 18 you cannot have any more other people in the car you're driving than one, except if it's a sibling or if you have special permission from the Secretary of State of Illinois. How do you answer this question: how many people can a person under 18 have in the car under any and all circumstances? One, Two, Three? There is no answer "It depends." This is the kind of question that can have me sitting there for twenty minutes.
I passed the test. I was overjoyed. And then I remembered, I had to get a new picture. I didn't have lipstick with me. OH SHIT.
They took away my California license. I was so sad. They handed me back a license that had a picture of an older gray haired lady with a thick neck and a badly fitting sweater. I got a lump in my throat. I felt I was trading in my youth and getting an official You're Old card.
Of all the things: getting married, moving here, turning 50, none of those things phased me at all that much. But this license... turning in my old brunette California girl self and receiving my matronly midwest membership card, dear Jesus, Mary & Joseph, it turns out I am vain after all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!