Last week, Adam’s big moment coincided with one of my irritating ones–we both got our driver’s licenses. For him, it was his first Class E Driver License, his ticket to freedom and big bills. Mine was the great renewal–the “we know you’ve had your license for 30 years but today you have to prove–not that you can drive–but that you are you.”
We were both a bundle of nerves… he to pass his test. He had driven with me for a year plus one day, a state requirement–and we both counted each and every one of them. He was a good driver, but I don’t handle the combination of “full responsibility with no control” overly well. (See my post titled “Driving Miss Crazy…”) Preceding this big day, he had talked to siblings and friends and perfect strangers about what he could expect on the driving course. He had practiced three-point turns. Practiced flooring the gas and then suddenly braking. Complete stops (waiting 3 seconds to be absolutely sure) at stop signs. Parking in tight spots. He had used his blinkers to indicate passing parked cars. He had even watched videos (mostly farces, I believe) with hidden camera access to the driving test. In short, he needed to be driving alone–and he was ready. I just hoped the test went well.
I was nervous because of the “Gather Go Get” campaign and its list of requirements for a license renewal. I had gotten the reminder postcard from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles listing all the items I needed to bring, which I copiously collected–the social security card, the brittle birth certificate issued from the state of New Jersey, the marriage license, and samples of mail (My Chico’s catalog, my bank statement, the insurance bill…). But when I arrived on site, it appeared those “samples” of mail had to be specific, such as the deed to my house, the electric bill, etc.
We repeatedly had tried to get appointments via the online system–beginning in May. But the “radio discs,” as they term the availability on the online calendar, did not appear beyond June. We tried alternate measures–even buzzed through to Tallahassee, when the operator determined that either all appointments were booked or the office was closing. We considered smaller offices in outlying areas–but I didn’t want to pay any extra fees (especially after I found out how much insuring a 16-year-old boy was!). Finally, in early July, we attempted the online system again and were redirected to another site to make an appointment.
Frankly, I don’t know if the appointment made any difference at all. We arrived at the driver licensing office 20 minutes before our appointment to find a line out the door. A long line. We waited. We reached the front of the line at exactly our appointment time. We were given the bum’s rush. Adam was sent one way, I another. And then we waited some more.
To make a long (hour and a half plus) story short, Adam did so well that the driving instructor decided it would be funny to pretend that Adam hadn’t. And so he approached me where I was (finally) standing at the counter to get my renewed license (because I could prove, after all, that I was who my license said I was) and told me that Adam had driven into a telephone pole. That some marks might be scuffed out. That some damage would remain. All the while, Adam was solemnly sitting in a chair looking distressed.
I didn’t believe the instructor for a minute. I was elated! My child had passed! I was free, free! Free to drive alone. Free to drive, rather than ride as the condescending passenger. Free to sing, pray, think in a car that was not filled with discarded clothes, forgotten backpacks, ant-lined “empty” soda cups, and boy smells. (Oh, and “Congratulations, Adam!”)
And then I was back to the task at hand, getting my license. Smiling pretty for a picture that would last me forever–or close to it. Smiling genuinely because the employee told me I had a gold star on my license–which indicated they had all my documents on file and I would NEVER have to bring them in again. The gold star was the equivalent of a U.S. passport (unless I tried to travel out of the country, of course, then I would need a real passport and spend more real money). But that gold star was evidence that I complied with the Real ID Act of 2005. And it meant no more visits to the driver license office. Online renewal for life. (Or that was how I translated it.)
Adam, too, had a gold star. And my superiority complex–yup! my boy and I had gold stars!–began. And it brought to mind the story of The Sneetches, as told by Dr. Seuss, which begins:
“Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches Had bellies with stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches Had none upon thars. Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all. But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches” (Seuss, 1961).
And the story continues to describe the ridiculous bigotry that existed among these Star-Belly and Plain-Belly Sneetches, including the time when a money-making, star-maker, star-remover businessman confused the whole lot and helped them to see that star or no star, “Sneetches are Sneetches and no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches” (Seuss, 1961).
To be honest, I’m not claiming to celebrate bigotry or even anti-bigotry here. But I must say, when I was told what that gold star on the driver license meant, I was thrilled we had our “stars upon ‘ars.” After all, the Bible says we are supposed to shine like stars in the universe as “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation” (Phil 2:15). I like to think of that gold star as a picture of my dual citizenship–here in these United States and as a child of God within His Kingdom.
And I do think that the Sneetches story captures our moments with the driver license office well:
” ‘Just pay me your money ($48) and hop right aboard!’ So we clambered inside. Then the big machine roared And it klunked. And it bonked. And it jerked. And it berked And it bopped us about. But the thing really worked! When the plain-licensed Dagens popped out, we had stars! We actually did. We had stars upon ‘ars!” (Edited Seuss, 1961).
And I’m OK with that (especially since I don’t have to do it again!). Because I am who I am-a citizen of these United States and a child of God–and I have a gold star to prove it.
“Official Website Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.” Official Website Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 July 2012. <http://www.flhsmv.gov/realid/>.
Seuss, Dr. The Sneetches, and other stories. New York: Random House, 1961. Print.