303... 303... 303... I chant until somehow, possibly by my telepathic, mystical powers, the numbers 111 transform into a crimson palindrome that causes me to explode from my seat and begin dancing as if I were a native African whose village had just been spared by a rampaging elephant.
My frenzy ceases, and while I was mentally transported to Las Vegas in the week-long wait at the DMV; currently winning the jackpot of a kajilion dollars while playing crapes, those surrounding me were most certainly not. Hanging my head in the only kind of shame that is produced from having embarrassed yourself in public, I prayed to the big man in the heavens that I would never, ever run into any of these people on the outside as I walked through the "No Cell Phones Beyond This Point" etched doors.
I felt like I was a gunslinger in an old wild west movie, strapped to the nth degree from head to toe in antique arms, guns so big and bulky that while there was no way they would be practical in a real altercation but I toted them anyway, for the theatrics of the thing. DU, a tad concerned that I had traded my entire wardrobe for one that would make John Wayne proud, advised that I give up my dream of becoming a true-blue cowboy in rural North Carolina almost a year ago. His concern was not the woolen chaps, the 10-gallon hat that covered my eyes 78% of the time, or the 6 stallions I acquired and placed in the front yard of our Charlotte home but, of course, hunting season.
If you, yes, let us use you as an example (I used to love when teachers would do that kind of thing in class so I have decided to resurrect it for old time's sake. ((If you're wondering why, exactly, I loved when teachers did this, it boils down to the fact that I hated about 89% of my pre-college years. Hence, when a teacher was talking about living with herds of bison in the prehistoric area and I was chosen as the lone hunter, I, for a moment, was transported away from that horrific institution of education to a place where I was not myself. I escaped for mere moments a day and that was enough for me (((unfortunately for you, however, I am sending you to North Carolina. It isn't mastodon hunting with a gaggle of Neanderthals but it should be enough to cover your Friday.)))))). Let us pretend that you move to North Carolina. You are a hunter, of course, as if there would be anything else you would like to be. On second thought, let's make you a Prince, Queen, King, or some other member of an obscure hierarchy from an equally unknown European nation who just happens to hunt. We'll call you Prince Titus (or Princess Avery) who hails from the country of Osclandia. You, Sir Prince T. or Princess A., have decided to move to North Carolina because you have heard our BBQ is the best (this isn't an assumption, it really is). You move your castle by way of helicopter in the heat of July. Hunting season starts in late August or early September so you figure that this year, to save time and the hassle of waiting at the DMV, you will buy out-of-state tags. 135 dollars later (the extra 15 added for a federal duck stamp), you're standing in line angrily watching NC residents hand over a meager 55 (again, 15 added for a national waterfowl stamp) for the exact same tags.
North Carolina, as well as other states across the country, triple the price of tags for "outsiders". While many would call fowl (birds or a wrongdoing, you choose), I agree with the practice. NC lawmakers see those who hail from different states as those coming in to use the state's national resources without really adding to the economy from which they take. Hence, the state has to make up their revenue somehow and making expensive out-of-state tags is the way to go. DU knew all this when he advised that I change my residency as soon as possible in order to save almost 100 big ones. I, being the stubborn one, decided against it, as I'd rather shell out 100 pieces of green paper in order to side-step having to visit the DMV. A year later, and here I am, sitting in an uncomfortable plastic chair with the rest of the dregs of society, waiting, looking for that magic trio of numbers, 303.
Looking to the rest of my cohorts, I see a "driver's test" booklet in each of their hands. All 20 of them are eagerly flipping the pages as their eyes hone in on the most important aspects of the literature. This being the smallest DMV I have ever visited, I was shocked when my number took moments, not years, to be called. In a twist of fate, for the first time ever as an adult, I was praying for a year sentence in this concrete cell. DU had also advised me to study. Study? I thought, What an interesting concept. I never really studied much in college, as English came so naturally to me that I rose to the top of my class without ever having to really open a book. So, naturally, I didn't look at anything save for concentrating really hard at the signs I passed en route to the DMV. As the numbers flashed, the monotonous voice ringing 303...303 to station 1...1..1.., I realized that for the first time in my life, I may fail a test.
Walking through the etched doors, I put my game face on. Scowling to the disgruntled- looking DMV warlord, I amass my paperwork. I handled the bundle over which inevitably produced a chain reaction (in three parts) which ultimately saw me to Bass Pro, buying hunting tags of either resident or non-resident status.
A Chain Reaction in Three Parts
Reaction 1: The Insurance
In NC, before you get your license, you must obtain NC insurance for your car. This practice seems a tad backward for me but I begrudgingly changed my State Farm policy from NY to NC days after my first botched DMV visit. Smugly I sat, waiting for DMV MAN (no, sadly, he was not wearing a cape) to tell me I had everything in order. Of course, I didn't. The temporary insurance cards that I was sent, without replacements, expired 2 weeks prior. I was told that I could take the test but I would have to call my State Farm people and get something faxed over verifying that my insurance was up-to-date.
Figuring this was the only hurdle I had to leap over at running speeds, I flipped open my cell phone. Before my fingers even hovered over their intended destination I heard NO CELL PHONES ALLOWED!
I turned to see an extremely overweight woman looking at me as if I had murdered her family of kittens as she watched.
Why tell me to contact my insurance company when I can't call them? I asked the attendant.
Should I send smoke signals? I asked myself, aside.
Call them outside, She replied.
I pointed to a sign.
The sign says I can't leave, I said, suddenly surprised at how much power signs hold over people's lives.
The cretin sighed, said fine, I guess we'll let you step outside but you must come RIGHT back.
As if there were anywhere else I wanted to be.
Reaction 2: The Test
The insurance situation dealt with, I turned my attention to the examination at hand. First at bat, the sight test. I was forced to look into a Viewmaster-Viewer- esque contraption whose light was operated with my forehead. I read the first line at the top and told the DMV captain about the signs I viewed, railroad crossing being my only misstep.
Then came the real deal, THE test.
I sat at the touch-screen computer, unaccustomed to such technology at the DMV, and began the test.
The first question was 2+2. I confidently answered four and began thinking that if the test questions were that easy, I'd be fine. Of course, idiot me, it was an example question.
THE test began easy enough, asking about what you do at a stop sign, how not to run over school children and why skunks should be avoided as a potential roadkill meal.
And then came the quandaries that baffled me as a 9-year driver.
If you come to an intersection that is not marked with direction, what do you do?
Slow down? Nope! Stop, honk your horn and flash your lights until you feel safe with proceeding!
If your brakes fail, what should you do?
Scream? "Accidentally" urinate in your work pants until you see something conveniently squishy to run into? Nope! Put your car in the lowest gear and slow to a stop!
If there is a unicorn running at full speed next to your car and you are about to run into a rainbow made of skittles and pop rocks, who will get there first?
The unicorn, of course, as it has mythical speed powers! Yes! Correct.
Answers wrong: 5
Wrong Answers Allotted to Pass: 5
Reaction 3: The Payment
Inside my being, I was tickled that I passed. Yes, I thought to myself, I still have it, "it" being the magical ability to pass any test without ever studying for it or even reading anything about the subject at hand.
I sat amongst excited teens getting their learner's permit or license for the first time. One such gleeful teenager who high-fived me, asking if this was the first time I took the test. I figured I'd save him the embarrassment of telling him I was a quarter of a century young so I sent a hearty high-five back in return then replied in the affirmative.
303 was called, again, to the desk of a spiky-haired lady who was the nicest DMV employee I had ever met.
All of the information was in, the test was (nearly) a rousing success, and now I had to pay.
The DMV website says that new licenses cost $4 and some new resident processing fee costs $10 but my total on that day was $32 on the nose.
I had $28 on me and of course, in DMV fashion, they don't make things easy or simple so they don't accept credit cards.
I stared at the crazy coiffed lady with a look of pure astonishment. The look lasted through the 10 minute drive to the ATM, the drive back, and the wait, again, in line.
Close to two hours after I waited in my first line of the morning, I held in my hands a piece of paper that bore my new license number. DU, conveniently, was at Bass Pro. I met him then happily passed my license over to the amazing Bass Pro worker. The camo consultant, as her title read from her name tag, faltered on my request. She took many minutes but finally was able to change my residency. The wait was well spent, as she was bright, delightful and accommodating. I was charged the resident fee and given that I have no clue in the slightest how I am going to go about paying for anything this season, my days spent out may be extremely limited reflecting the deficient funds I am currently amassing, the decreased price was a heaven sent.
The process may have been arduous, the Chain Reaction (In Three Parts) may have been ridiculous and I may avoid that dreaded place for at least 10 years, but my hunting season can now begin. If I can get through that day, then I can certainly fare the unfruitful, tiring, cold, and euphoric days that lay ahead.