Saturday, May 4, 2013

California Driver

I’m now a California driver, my car has California plates, and I’m registered to vote in San Luis Obispo County.

I had made an appointment with the Paso Robles DMV office for 12:45 p.m. Friday, May 3. Bev, the blond woman who helped me, got everything done in less than an hour.

Because her desk sat across the room from the photo machine and from the front door, we did a number of do-si-dos, with Bev going through the office and me skirting outside the U-shaped counter.

First, we met at the front door and went out into the heat (96 degrees!) to check the car for mileage and verify numbers on title and registration with the one in the dash.

“We’re on a roll,” she said as we returned to the building.

Then the eye exam. Until my last renewal in Oregon, I never needed glasses to pass. Now, even with my new prescription lenses, I fumbled through three lines of letters when using only my right eye.

“Whew,” she exclaimed after I read the smallest line perfectly with my left eye. “I thought we were in trouble for a minute.” I didn’t say so, but it worried me, too.

She handed me a pencil and the driver test. I said a mental ‘help’ to the power of the Universe before I began. About three questions into it, in spite of signs at every desk prohibiting cell phone use, brrrrp, brrrrp from the cell phone of the guy sitting next to me! He fumbled to shut it down. No one said a word to him.

Then, a young man renewing his license missed four questions, one over the limit. A DMV worker read him one of the questions he missed – several times in a loud voice – so the kid could pass. Nice, but another distraction. I plugged my ears.

I finished, not daring to review for fear of second guessing a correct answer. I watched Bev grade my answers. She marked one on the first side. I held my breath as her pen drifted down the second side.

“Good job,” she said. “You missed just one.”

She handed me the test. I should have trusted my first choice on the one I missed. Still, I exhaled in relief.

“I hate to give up that number,” I said as she punched a hole in my Oregon license. “It’s so easy to remember.” She nodded.

She retrieved the car registration forms set aside earlier and entered my new California driver number in the space provided.

A young man trying to expunge his record leaned on the counter near me. Bev had called for a coworker to help, but he whined his questions at Bev. She replied, calm but firm, that she didn’t have the answer. He asked the same question several ways. She repeated her reply with patience. Her coworker arrived and she turned back to my papers.

“You need a screwdriver?”

I shook my head. “Brought my own.”

She smiled. “Put the stickers on in here. It’s too hot outside. The one with the stickers goes on the back,” she said, handing me two shiny new plates and one set of stickers. “And bring me your Oregon plates.”

I frowned. I had told her when we were outside how I remembered the number: “ZPF 812. Zane’s Pet Frog Ate One Too.” And she had laughed.

Now, I asked, “Can I keep one?”

“Well, I only saw one plate when I was checking your car.” Did she wink?

I returned a few minutes later. “Thanks so much,” I said and handed her one Oregon plate.

I’m going to write a letter to the Paso Robles DMV about the excellent service I received on a busy Friday afternoon.

I walked out humming that old Beach Boys tune. I’m a California girl again.

Dream on, old woman. You're just another California driver!