It shouldn't be such an ordeal to get a drivers license renewed. I follow Bobbies instructions to a tee to avoid hassles... go in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, after lunch hour. I take a utility bill as proof of address because a "P. O. Box is not acceptable." Gee, good thing I'm not a full-time RV'er with just a P.O. Box. Bobbie sailed right through her renewal process a few weeks ago, out in minutes. But I guess Jesus loves her more than me. How long must one pay for teenage sins, anyway?
There Are No Angry Buttons To Push In Lovely Ouray
Living in a small mountain town like I do—population 806, pretty scenery, birds chipping, bears prowling, hot springs flowing, trails out my back door, and green as a John Deere tractor—a guy would be a jerk to grouse about a little misfortune up the road in Ubanville. Well, meet The Jerk.
I've noticed a trend on the BCB since we moved to Lovely Ouray, a statistically significant and graph-able shortage of acerbic rants during summertime. I guess I kinda lose my edge basking in alpenglow, wearing muddy hiking boots, shorts, and an I Love Ouray T shirt. Yes, one shouldn't complain when surrounded by "wildflowers," from alpine Columbine to sundressed concubine.
Unfortunately, I must leave Lovely Ouray once in a while, head to the Big Box City of Motown in order to fulfill mundane 21st century chores that, to me, rival mule and plow. Usually it's Bobbie, like 99% usual. But this time it was my turn to do the shopping since I had to renew my drivers license, anyway.
Thus I was forced out of the Crevice... my sheltered Cocoon, my insulation against the real world of over-regulation, dead ends, stop lights, stupid people and red tape. All I wanted to do was renew my drivers license, pick up a few groceries, and find a dissimilar ended cable that would allow my Mac to speak to my HDTV. Is that too much to ask? Oh, and I needed a new key for Petroleous Rex... and the door unlocker thingy... because somebody lost mine... probably me. Let's start there.
The Invisible Man
First to the Ford Dealership. I walk right up to a parts counter, as deserted as a bombing range. The parts guy's on the phone behind the counter, and I stand close enough to smell his aftershave, Old Spice. He ignores me, looks right through me. He doesn't make eye contact or say, "I'll be with you in a minute" (it would have been a lie, anyway, as it turned out). So I wait... and wait. He's deep into conversation with someone who doesn't have a clue as to what they need or what it's called. After a while I cough... whistle... pace. I'm invisible. I check my email on the iPhone, check for new comments on the blog, check the weather forecast... hoping my fidgety presence will be enough for him to acknowledge that I'm at least there. Nothing. I blow my nose, rudely. Nothing. Ok, either parts guy is not a multi-tasker or his hold button doesn't work. He's gazes into a monitor filled with auto parts porn... a strip-down of an automatic transmission for a 1989 four wheel drive Ford F 250 pickup. The guy he's talking to can't seem to explain squat from diddly. I sit back down, check mail... the blog... the weather, reread my entire last post, which seems more like War and Peace when scrolled on an iPhone screen. He's still talking. I stand up, stretch, yawn... right in front of the parts guy. He informs his more important phone customer that they don't make the part he needs anymore... that he must now buy the "assembly." Boy, where have I heard that before. I think how I took the time to drive down here in person only to get preempted by a phone stroker and an understaffing problem. The parts guy should say something... wink... nod... gesture... that he will eventually be off the phone and serve me, or at least flip me off so I know where I stand.
I get right in front of him and look at my watch, stare at it for a good 15 seconds while jingling change and keys in my pocket. It works! He puts his "lover" on hold, and, get this, hollers to a guy who's been sitting next door in an office all along (I could see him; theres a window) to come "help this gentleman who's been waiting for half an hour." A kid comes out still laughing about whatever was so funny in there and asks if he can help me. "I need a key... like this one, and a door unlocker thingy like the one that's attached to it." He tells me he just started last week and that I'd need to speak to the parts manager. He walks back in the office and out comes the head honcho. Did I mention, there's a window? I see them... they see me?
Finally I get my key and the door unlocker thingy, but then Honcho tells me it needs to be programed. I didn't drive gas hog Pet Rex to Motown... I'm in Sue Bee. "Oh," he says, "Then just stop by with your truck sometime." I tell him I live in Ouray and that I'm not coming back this way till hell freezes over... that I will program the darn thingy myself if he will just tell me how to do it. He explains. I have a better chance at picking the safe at Lloyds of London. I don't have the courage to ask him to go over it again because I just insinuated that I'm smart. I reluctantly hand over my credit card, which I held hostage to the sixty eight dollar charges in order to bribe Top Secret Ford Intelligence... which is an oxymoron if there ever was one. Tail-between-legs, I head over to the drivers license bureau... running late... with an un-programed thingy. I need comfort food so I stop and Wendy's for a Chocolate Frosty. I pay cash.
Sympathy For The Devil. Or, Why Just Push The Anger Button When You Can Sit On It
The little parking lot out front is full, but I go in with an optimistic spirit (a lie, I was really pissed). But it's a small place, maybe eight or nine subdued people in front of me... all gazing into cell phone screens for a measure of relief in "the waiting room from Hell." I read a dozen or so CAPITAL LETTED SIGNS warning me about this and that. One read, YOU MUST HAVE PROOF OF ADDRESS, A P.O. BOX WILL NOT DO! Ha, Bobbie saved me there; my shit is in order!
The line moves like a slug through soil. There's one single harried lady behind the counter to deal with a hungry mob in a hurry to get this over with. I watch, and begin to feel sorry for her. She's asking the same questions over and over and over, like a robot, answering the phone that never stops ringing, taking photos of people who want "re-dos," fingerprinting, making change, giving eye tests, working with two or three people at once while repeating the same information over and over and over because people are too stupid to pay attention enough to get it the first time. I thought my head would explode just standing in line. She goes home from this shit job after eight l-o-n-g hours, five d-a-y-s a week, acts nice to her kids and husband... asks them how their day was... cooks dinner, does dishes and likely walks and picks up after Fido before falling into bed with a migraine behind her bloodshot eyeballs.
Finally it's my turn at the counter... I fight back tears of sympathy. I'm scared, too, because I don't want to be one of "those idiots" that she has to repeat something to. I don't want to be the straw that spawns a nervous breakdown. "May I help you?" she says robotically. She's forty-ish, a little salt sprouting in her pepper black hair. Under intense eyes sink half moons of dark circles. I resist the urge to give her a hug. "Renewal." One word, see... short and sweet. I've been paying attention. I'm ready for her.
Everything's going great until she says, "That will be twenty one dollars... cash or check; no credit or debit cards." No credit cards? Oh God. People don't carry cash now days... at least I don't. I even put ice cream on credit cards... except for today, damn it, at Wendy's. I open my wallet and scrounge eighteen dollars out of chaos while she multitasks two other customers and regurgitates "the script" into a phone... not a head set, mind you, that would make too much sense. Hers is a slippery black eel she must pin between ear and shoulder. That's where the migraines originate. She comes back to me. I'm holding eighteen dollars and continue to search through secret compartments, regretting the Frosty purchase. "Wait, I think I have a 20 stashed somewhere." She looks at me... like, "I thought you were different... but you're not, you're just like all the others." A fluorescent lettered sign behind her glows like a liquor store's neon light: "CASH AND CHECKS ONLY. NO CREDIT OR DEBIT CARDS ACCEPTED." I tell her I'm sorry and keep looking for my emergency stash... pulling all sorts of crap out of my wallet... Caleb's baby picture, expired fishing license, Life Guard card, CPR Certified Card (also expired), insurance cards, receipts for stuff bought five years ago. Osama Bin Ladin didn't have as many hiding places.
She sees it's a bust, tells me where the nearest ATM is. I tell her I don't know my PIN number. She's had it with me and my pile of crap on her counter. "Next." I want to ask her why, why don't you take credit cards? Why would you take a check that might bounce and not take a god damned credit card in the god damned 21st century!!!!! But that would be killing the messenger, and possibly the final fragile "straw" that separates her from men in white coats and a life of drug induced bliss. I scoop my pile into pockets and say with all the Arnold I could muster, "I'll be back." No one smiles.
I call Bobbie. "Hey, it's me. I'm short three dollars to get my freaking drivers license renewed." I explain the whacko govie rules... that they will take a check but not a credit card. She tells me to go over to Amy's house and borrow it from her. Well hell, that's way out in the country and knowing govie the Bureau closes at four o'clock instead of five. I race cross-town to a Credit Union where I think I still have a hundred bucks stashed, earning a whopping one half of one percent interest. I ask to withdraw "five... no, wait, TEN dollars." I'm not taking any chances. It's 3:38 PM. On the way out I remember I'm going be asked to take off my "Life Is Good" ball cap for the "mug shot." I dart into the restroom, remove my cap and look in the mirror. It's bad... worst case of "hat hair" imaginable. It won't lay down... flips and curls flailing in all directions. Shit. I wet it down, using fingers as a comb. I look like a geezer greaser inmate. It's 3:42 PM. Back across town.
I recognize most of the forlorn faces in what is now a dysfunctional line, ask who's last and assume my place. It's 3:58 PM. Amidst the hundred signs I find one that says they're open till five o'clock. I'm almost disappointed. I want out... I feel trapped like a rat in a maze. I don't like mazes. That's what a city life represents to me... thousands upon thousands of mazes... lines, turnstiles, red lights, too hot, too cold, used air, cubes, cars, noise, enter here, exit there, yield, take a number and rules that make absolutely no sense whatsoever... like, CHECKS, NO CREDIT CARDS... PEPSI, NO COKE, to rip a page from Seinfeld's Soup Nazi episode.
You see, I don't belong in the "rat race;" I get run over from behind. I barely cope with Lovely Ouray during tourist season. As I watch this poor lady behind the counter, how she talks through gritted teeth, I wonder what she holds inside... what she must want to scream at the top of her lungs... what it does to her soul, her arteries. I couldn't do her job. I'd be in prison for "assault with intent to kill a stupid person." Why does she work here... does she have a choice? Probably not in this economy. She's caught in the "maze," thankful for a job with two weeks vacation, and an underwhelming paycheck.
It's almost five o'clock so I give up on finding a Mac-to-TV cable and go straight to City Market for groceries. I think it might be a good time for my annual checkup so I mosey over to the pharmacy and sit down in one of those blood pressure machines. I take a deep cleansing breath, exhale, and push the button.