My new driver’s license will arrive in the mail any day now, and like any official government document these days, it will be a blend of lies, concessions, confessions and near misses.
It started with a letter from my friendly neighborhood Secretary of State, reminding me my old license was about to expire, and I would have to show up at the nearest DMV to take a vision test. Nothing more – no rules of the road, no behind-the-wheel adventure – just a vision test. Which would have been a cause for celebration from most people
But I felt my chest tighten with panic.
My vision’s focus is close enough to perfect that I have never needed glasses to keep me from walking into walls, trees or traffic. But since the last time I had to apply for a driver’s license, my ever-increasing cloud of eye floaters have teamed up to create a dragon, and then a veil, and now something between a Nativity scene or a flash mob, depending on the lighting.
It’s not a big enough problem to keep me from seeing a dog dashing across the road in front of my car. But it makes it hard to read the words in a book – or those little letters on line five of the eye chart at the DMV, where the difference between a C and an O is one well-placed floater. And it’s not correctable with glasses.
And so I worried when the guy asked me to press my forehead to the viewing screen and read all the letters on line five of the chart.
“Perfect!” he said when I recited them, and I breathed a sigh of relief. One near miss, averted.
And then the lies, concessions and confessions began.
“Five-seven?” he said, reading details from my old license to see if they still belonged on my new license. And I nodded, telling the first lie of the day.
Oh, there was a day in my youth when I could claim to be a full rompin’ stompin’ 5-foot-8 tower of manly stature, but 70 years of gravity will have their way with you. Today, I’m probably closer to 5-foot-6-and-a-half, but out of consideration, I wanted to spare him the decimals. So yeah, let’s say 5-foot-7.
“One-sixty-five?” he said, checking my weight. He looked me up and down as I considered my answer, just to see how many lies I planned to dump into this official document.
“Sure,” I said. “Actually, 160.” He made the change, and though my answer was close to the truth, it was really a concession. My weight on the scale after my shower that morning was only 158, but if he had asked me a couple months ago, I would have had to say 173 and rising.
Since my wife’s death in February, I have been on the “grief and whiskey” diet – very effective if you want to drop 15 pounds, though I don’t recommend it. I figured I’d be back over 160 soon enough once my appetite came back. Maybe by the time my license gets here in the mail.
“Hair – brown,” he said, reading from my old license, and he looked up at me. He didn’t wait for me to answer. “Or do you want to say gray?” Apparently we were nearing the threshold of his twisted-truth tolerance.
For the record, I haven’t had a brown hair above my collar bones for most of this millennium. “Well,” I said, “if you saw me running away from a crime scene, what color hair would you tell the cops you saw waving from the sides of the perp’s head, just beneath the bald patch?”
A kindly man, he just smiled. “Brown or gray. Your choice.”
Apparently, “silver fox” wasn’t an option, and I’m still probably a few years away from “mostly flesh,” so I said: “Let’s go with gray. I’m not planning on dying it anytime soon; I don’t have the patience to keep touching up my roots,” I confessed.
“Well, that’s about it,” he said. “Do you still want to be an organ donor?”
“Sure,” I said, and I couldn’t help but smile. He smiled, too, and – consummate professional that he was – I have to give him credit for not giggling.
Because let’s face it, if you saw a shrinking, graying, dwindling guy standing in the “organ donor” line, would you think he was there to make a deposit or a withdrawal? I don’t know if organs typically have a freshness date attached to them, but I’m pretty sure most of my “sweet creamy giblets” have turned into yogurt, or maybe aged cheese with streaks of blue or green mold running through them.
He marked it down and handed me my old license and a form to take to the cashier to finish up the details.
So my new license is due to arrive in the mail in a few days, and when it gets here, I will tuck it into my wallet – a bundle of lies, concessions, confessions and near-misses.
But let me add one caution to the pile:
All the lies, concessions, confessions and near-misses took up so much room on my license, there wasn’t any room left next to my organ donor stamp to write: “Best if used by June 1998.”
I’m just sayin’.
• Tom “T. R.” Kerth is a Sun City resident and retired English teacher from Park Ridge. He is the author of the book “Revenge of the Sardines.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.