'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
D.M.V. NIGHTMARE TURNS TO DREAM
Boy, talk about frustration. I was all set to write a column about the maddening process of trying to get a problem resolved at that bastion of indifference and ineptitude: the Department of Motor Vehicles.
It all started a few months ago when I had my driver’s license renewed. Something must have malfunctioned with the DMV’s laminating machine, because within a few weeks, the writing and the photo on my license began to fade. I considered this a good thing, since the more it faded, the less my mug shot looked like a crime scene photo of a dead guy.
There’s something really special about those DMV digital cameras. They can make Mel Gibson look like Mel Torme. (And I mean the way Mr. Torme looks right now, since he’s been a dead guy for a few years.)
But then recently I went to the drive-up teller window of my bank to cash a check. The teller asked to see my driver’s license to verify my identification. As soon as she looked at it, she got that “Uh oh, we’ve got a problem here” look on her face.
Through the big pane of glass I could see the teller show my license to three other bank employees, each of whom also got that “Uh oh, we’ve got a problem here” look on their faces. Finally, after what seemed like forever, but was probably about five minutes—long enough for the line of cars behind me to back up out into the street—the teller came back to the window and said, “I’m sorry, we can’t accept this license. It looks fake. You should go back to the Motor Vehicle office and get a new one.”
As I angrily drove away, I could already envision the nightmare at the DMV office. I’d go there and show them my screwed-up license and they’d say, “Well, you can fill out the Lost License Form and we’ll make you a new one—for a fee.” Or they’d say, “Well, you can fill out the Destroyed License Form and we’ll make you a new one—for a fee.” Or they’d say, “Well, you can fill out the I Admit To Trying To Cash A Check With A Fake I.D. Form and we’ll call the State Police and have you arrested—for a fee.”
I already started outlining in my mind the scathing column I planned to write about the ordeal I was sure to face. The main theme would be: “Imagine! Having to pay extra to correct their blunder! Harrumph!” It would be the most sarcastic and indignant thing I ever wrote. (Which, as many of you know, is saying a lot.) I even thought about bringing a hidden tape recorder with me to capture every bureaucratic banality uttered by the indifferent DMV drones. Oh yeah, they we in for it now.
But my plans of journalistic retribution were completely dashed. I strode into the DMV office just itching for an argument. I was fully prepared, in violation of everything my parents’ taught me when I was young, to MAKE A SCENE. But to my complete surprise, the DMV employee couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful.
I held out my faded license and before I could even say a word, the woman behind the counter said, “Oh dear, the lamination must have fallen off.” She immediately grabbed a small form, wrote “defective” on it, and said, “Just take a seat, Mr. Dunn. We’ll have a new license for you in a couple minutes.”
And true to her word, two minutes later she called my name and handed me a brand new, shiny license—no charge.
Frankly, I was somewhat disappointed. My “DMV Nightmare” column was already three-quarters written. Now I’d have to start from scratch to write a column.
When I got to my car I took a closer look at the new license. “Ah ha!” I exclaimed. I had a valid complaint after all. In the lower right-hand corner of the license was a bright, colorful photograph of…Mel Torme.
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