Nonsense at the DMV: This Seriously Happened.

Old license plates

Well, I officially have my brand new driver’s license in hand, which prompts me to tell you the absurd story of how I got it.

I’m not especially great about such things as license renewals.  I’m sure this surprises you, since I am otherwise so punctual about every other menial detail in my life.  (I hear your snarky laughter.)  When Robb and I first moved to Colorado, I got my first speeding ticket well over a year after we had become residents.  The police officer looked at my Ohio license and said, “Have you recently moved here?”

“Yes, just a few weeks ago.”

“How many weeks?”Old license plates

“Well, like probably 54.”

I remember thinking when I got that Colorado license, strongly urged by the policeman, “My word, this thing expires in 2014.  I’ll be, what, like 35 then!  I wonder if we’ll have any kids.  I wonder if I’ll look anything like this picture anymore.”

Yes, Yes, and Yes, young lady.  You’ll just be a deeper, stronger version of the girl in that mug shot.

Anyway, ten years (give or take a “few weeks”) have come and gone, and it was time once again to get a new one.  I can’t even believe how absurd this whole situation was.

Okay, so first of all, my mom and I went together because it’s always good to take a friend along for moral support for invasive procedures.  We took our numbers: 474 and 475, respectively.

Let me tell you, girls and women alike come dolled up to the DMV.  We all know this picture will be our standard ID for the next decade or so.  In all honesty, I delayed the errand more than once because I hadn’t washed my hair that day and I didn’t want to go on record looking like I did.  But I’m not kidding you – there was one girl there dressed to the nines all the way down to her shoes.  She really could have been on her way to Homecoming.  Or at least a casual Prom.

As we waited in the blue plastic chairs, I heard a clerk ask someone, “And how much do you weigh today?”

I gasped.  Audibly.

What is this, the Biggest Loser?  Am I going to have to step onto some giant scale in my underwear and watch the numbers tease us all as they bounce from 294, 123, 405, 79… until it makes a giant and public declaration?  Because this scene is going nowhere good.  I was more nervous to take my spot in line than I’ve been in any dentist’s waiting room.

And there she sat behind her counter, asking each and every person, “And how much do you weigh today?”  One woman whispered, “Um, one fifty-five.”  And the clerk responded in full voice, “I’m sorry – did you say 1-5-5 or 1-6-5?”

Good grief!  Are you kidding me?! 

I thought maybe I would slip her a note with three numbers on it and let her put them in order to her liking.  Just please don’t make me say this nonsense out loud.

When my mom took her turn, the clerk said, “Ma’am, should we go ahead and list your hair color as ‘white’ and not ‘brown’?”

“Well, yes.  yes, I suppose we should.”

“I see your license expires in ten years, and so do you want to go ahead and list your next of kin?”

Maybe we could go ahead and call it an emergency contact  – since it’s a Driver’s License and not a Freaking Living Will – shall we?

“And, ma’am, do you wear contact lenses?” she asked my mom.

“I do.”

She looked up, frankly a little bit surprised.  “You do?  And do you have them in right now?”

“I do.”

She beamed and patted my mom on the hand, like you might affirm a senior citizen for taking a stroll down the hall with her walker.  “Oh!  Good for you!” she said.

I nearly failed the vision test.  I forgot to look with my right eye as well, since almost always my best bet is to look with just one eye.  But it turns out they are specifically checking to see if I can use both.  And, I can, thank you very much.  I just didn’t know I was supposed to.  Until I finished reading the top line of numbers, thinking I was finished.  She paused and said, “Do you see any other numbers or letters?”

(Switch to right eye, which is mostly only handy when I’m sitting behind a pillar or a large head in a live theater.)

“Oh, yes.  Yes, of course.  R. T.  W. O.  D.”  Gosh, that was close.  Think, Tricia.  Think.

She breezed through the questions with me, once we got past that pesky weight issue.  I’ve moved, so I gave her my new address.  My hair color is the same, my eyes are the same, yes, I’ll be an organ donor… and then she said, “Do you want to go ahead and keep the same emergency contact you have on file?”

(Apparently that’s what they call it for drivers under the age of 40.

“Actually, is it Robb Williford?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  It doesn’t show up on the screen.  I can either keep it the same or change it.”

“I’m sure it’s Robb,” and here’s where I always wish i could think of a different way to say this, “but he died three years ago.”

“Oh.  So, do you want to list someone else? Just in case?”

Just in case… what?  Just in case he’s perhaps still taking emergency phone calls?  Yes, I want to list someone else.  it seems like that would be wise.

In all fairness, she did take a moment then to step out of the questions and acknowledge what I had just said.  And that’s when I found myself sitting in the DMV talking about streptococcus pneumonia and why people need spleens and how fast sepsis takes over and how old I was and am and how many kids I have and how resilient they are.  I think she’s going to buy a book.

(Right now, Robb would say, “Of course.  Because this is my wife.  And this is what she does.  I’ll just wait in the car while she finishes sharing heirlooms and genealogy with the people she’s just met.”)

She said to my mom, “Now, ma’am, this license is good for five years – and that’s true for everyone, so it’s not about your age or anything.“ Thank you for clarifying.  “And you can renew it in two years.”

“Two years?  Didn’t you just say it’s good for five?”


“So I can renew it in two years but it expires in five?”


Right.  So…

“I’m sorry,” my mom said.  “There’s something about this math that I’m not understanding.  But maybe I’ll renew it four times in the next eight years and then it will be good for twenty years.”  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen.  She’s still got her quick wit, despite the white hair and the next of kin.

The whole thing was just so befuddling.  Seriously.

And then, as if all of this weren’t just crazy upon crazy already, I signed my name wrong.  And they only give you one try in that little box, you know.  So now, for the rest of a long time, I – the girl who is meticulous about her handwriting on a scoresheet to a card game – will have to carry around a driver’s license with a jacked up f.

My new license came in the mail today.  Tuck took one look at it and said, “Huh.  It actually looks like you.”  As opposed to the last one, apparently.  Dear 25-year-old Tricia, forget what I said about looking relatively the same in ten years.  Also, you will have two kids whom you can count on for all kinds of honesty and affirmation.

Well, at least I’m ready the next time I get carded.  Oh, wait.

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. Thank you Tricia! That was sooo funny! Loved it!

  2. Hilarious. Made my day reading this. Thank you.

  3. I can totally relate to the Driver’s License expiring. We moved here 15 years ago and when I received my license and saw that it expired in 2014, I thought, “wow, that is a ways off”. I am glad you gave me the heads up about the procedure and to look my best 🙂 My appointment is next Thursday.

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