Turning 16 in the state where I live means one can obtain a driving permit and 180 days later, an intermediate license. As long as the rules and curfews are kept, an unrestricted license will soon follow.

I remember going for my permit. It wasn’t a big deal really.  I had studied the driving manual for weeks before turning 16 and I was confident in my ability to retain the information between its pages.  Waiting to take the test was longer than the time it took for me to complete it.  I remember standing in front of the computer screen reading one questions after the next.. A. B. A. A. A. B. C. D. A. A. A. …..   I was done!!  Then I thought, “Wait. Twelve questions? That’s it?? TWELVE??  I studied for WEEKS for this test and I got twelve questions?”   As I stood in line waiting for my turn to hand over my test to the old grumpy DMV lady I started to panic.  I worried about those twelve questions.  Thinking to myself I asked, “Did you choose too many A’s in a row?  Maybe that A, next to last should have been a B.. or a maybe a C…”   As I inched closer to the front counter, I noticed that the DMV lady had a mouth like an angler fish; too many teeth, pointy and discolored, crammed behind lips that curled downward.DMV  lady I could hear her raspy voice chewing into the man in front of me. Apparently he had forgotten something he needed to obtain a renewal.. but I swear I saw him provide at least 26 pieces of paper, a urine sample and what looked like his left kidney.  I couldn’t imagine what else grumpy fish wanted but her growling and gnawing was enough to have me look over my documents one mo’ gin.

“Next!” she snapped as I watched the mauled man in front of me, sulk away like a beaten dog. I swallowed hard and stepped up with my arm full of paperwork.  Before grumpy fish could ask what I needed I spoke too fast and in one continuous sentence.  “Hi-I-need-to-get-my-permit-heres-my-test-ss card- ins card-birth certificate-and-letter-from-the-judge-thank-you!”   I stood there with a nervous smile on my face while grumpy fish stamped my test and copied my information.  It seemed to take way too long. “Do you have a ticket?”    My heart dropped so hard that it punctured my stomach and fell straight to my feet.  My head spun dizzy as I asked myself, “Ticket?  What ticket? No one told me about a ticket..I need a ticket??”     Over-emphasizing each of her next five words, her voice sarcastically ripped through the stale air, “Do. You. Have. A. Tick-et??!”    My panic turned to anger. Who did this butter-face think she was talking to and before I realized that my brain filter had dislocated, my mouth released my by brain was thinking.  “Look here you old fish… I don’t know what your problem is or what you’re talking about. I have given you everything on the list of requirements. I have been here for two hours and heard you find some sort of problem with every single person before me. Perhaps you need to go back to bed and try to wake up on the right side!!”   Grumpy fish sat silently behind the counter for several seconds, her beady little eyes peering over her chained on bifocals at me.   “A PARK-ING TICK-ET!!” She hissed.    I stared back. She meant a ticket to validate for parking. Omg I felt like such a jerk but… she was mean.   I did have a parking ticket but damn it if she was going to know after I had just called her an old fish because that would have made me a bigger asshole than I already was.  Instead of handing her my ticket I hissed back with mockery,  “No. I. Donnn-t. Have. A. Park-ing. Tick-et.”  Grumpy fish let her eyes slowly roll back down to the paperwork, made another punch of red ink, slid it to her right and barked, “Next!’

Next?  What about me?  Where was I supposed to go?  Was she letting me through or telling me to leave?  I stood there clueless.  “Um, ex—cuse me??”  My hands flipping upward and voice giving clue to hostility.  Grumpy fish without looking up pointed to an area two partitions over. Glancing over I could see that was where I needed to go to get my photo taken for my permit. I pulled my purse off of the counter and whispered, “Good luck.” to the girl behind me.

About a month or so later I went back for my road test. I had taken 6 classes of driving school plus had been instructed by my husband on how to drive.  I was confident–probably too confident in my driving ability.   Once at the DMV my test car was inspected, permit and insurance card was taken and I was assigned a Sheriff for the ride-along.   “Sweet..It’s a girl. This should be a cake walk.” So I thought.  This small middle aged woman came out holding a clipboard.  She had on thick glasses and wore her stringy dishwater colored hair, long. I’m not trying to be mean or anything but her one of her arms seemed to be on..backward.   I swear I’m not making this crap up. I couldn’t if I wanted to.. I’m just not built for imagination and fantasy.  Anyway, I tried not to look at her because every time I did, I stared at her arm.  I think she picked up on my avoidance and that pissed her off.  I was trying NOT to be rude and this woman was giving me crap for it.  She kept talking to me, waving her twisted appendage around and forcing me to stare at it..  between her and grumpy fish, I’d never get my license.

The test went pretty good until the last task- the turnabout.  I pulled up a little passed the driveway, put on my blinker and backed in slowly.  Before coming to a complete stop, I looked forward (while still creepin in reverse) and before I applied my brakes, I tapped something with my bumper.  The Sheriff lady got out of the car with her little clipboard, walked to the back and began to scribble something down.  When she got back into my car she said I had hit a small pole.  In my own mind I argued that I hadn’t hit anything.. I tapped it.. TAAAAAPPPPPEEEDDD it.   The Sheriff lady through her arm (yes, THAT arm) into the air while squawking, “Of course you know this means you failed???”   The look on my face said it all but to be sure she heard me, I added some personality, “Failed? I tapped something that I can’t even see in my mirror and I failed my whole driving test???”   My dislocated brain filter allowed these words to follow, “..well then of course that means you can walk back!”   I was pissed. This is all true by the way, you can ask my friend Kelly about it. hahahaha.

SEVERAL months later I went back, praying the whole time Hook and grumpy fish were on vacation that day.   On the road test side it was clear. I passed with ease and without any glitches.  Skipping happily to the counter I see grumpy fish. Good feeling gone. Just like that, poof.  I began to pray, more like beg really, to please not let her open up next. Inside I was crying, “I don’t want her… please hurry up lady over there with the big purse and make-up to match…”  Panic was setting in as the man at grumpy fish started to gather his things.  I started to sweat and silently began screaming, “Please. Huuuuuuurrrrry uuuuuppppp!!!!!”   

“Next!”   Damnit.

I approached the counter nervously. Smiling as sweetly as I could and speaking in a soft voice that I didn’t even know I had I said, “Hello,” as I slid everything she would need toward her.  Grumpy fish without looking up took the papers and began to process them. She stopped and looked up over her bifocals at me.  Her downward lips drew upward, the same as the corners of her eyes, just enough to look like the Cheshire cat instead of her grumpy fish self, then she hissed, “Do. You. Have. A. Tick-et?”Cheshire