DMV

 

 

This story was read aloud at:

 

 

     It was a good Friday night out with friends.  But somewhere in the middle, there was a reminder of anger from the past, which my modern brain has understood and catalogued and inspected and neutralized.  But the reptilian, the old part of my brain, still has something to say.
     Nathan and I left our West Hollywood homes and walked to Fat Burger for dinner.  We discussed writing and travel and jobs and money during dinner and while walking up La Brea in darkness.  This was when I started to take pictures.   My new camera has a 3200 ISO setting and the lens has image stabilization, which is the technical way of saying I can take pictures in the dark now, without flash.   We turned right onto Hollywood Blvd and I took pictures.   Pictures of Spiderman posing outside the Chinese theatre.  Pictures of the murals scattered down the street.  Pictures of sex stores, and neon lingerie.  And a picture of two blurry men in front of three-foot wide lips gently sliding chopsticks into her mouth, which obviously has no Freudian connotations.
     The point of this journey was the Frolic Room at Hollywood and Vine.  My friend, who goes by the name Normal, is planning weekly trips to visit dive bars in the Los Angeles area.  Now the Frolic Room was once a dive bar, but it is no longer.  It is too clean, there are too many people who do not look like alcoholics, there are not enough people who obviously cannot live without a drink.
     TJ was inside drinking and we hung about and friends slowly started to trickle in, we discussed bars and alcohol and fire and camping.
     At some point in the evening I was standing at the bar waiting to order drinks and I scanned the area.  As a former bartender I looked at how the bottles were placed, what type of cash register, where the ice and speed rack were and then at a sticker on the tip jar.
     When I saw the sticker I felt the hairs rise on my arms and a sudden feeling of tension in my fingers. 
     It was a white two inch square sticker with a grinning orange Cheshire cat and said “I LOV your smile” with the e missing from the word love.
     It was twenty years ago, and I was sixteen.  You should know something about me at the age of sixteen, I was five foot six, ninety-eight pounds and a complete wimp.  Because I was easy to pick on, I found the being invisible the best thing to be.  I spent my time in the school library and avoided confrontation at all cost. 
     I had just turned sixteen was it was time for the drivers license test.  The tester and I drove off in my mothers Ford Fiesta.  I don’t remember the tester, I think it was a woman, but I can’t be sure, but we did the drive around the block and parallel parked and all the other things and I did good.  Maybe a point here or there, but I knew I would pass.  The last thing before pulling into the DMV in San Clemente was a right off PCH at a traffic light.  I had a right turn lane and a red light, the cars across the way making the left had a green arrow. 
     Now theoretically speaking the cars making their left would stay in the left lane, and I making my right would pull into the right lane and we would all be happy driving off in our two lanes.  But the first car was a large Cadillac and does what most people do while making a left turn, they did not stay in the left lane but allowed the momentum of the turn to pull them into the right lane.
     Then the next car and the next car did the same thing.  Once they passed I pulled into the DMV and parked.  The tester said I failed.  I couldn’t understand.  The tester said I failed because I had not forced the issue with the Cadillac.  The Cadillac had taken my right of way, and I was supposed to force the issue.  I was supposed to push my little Fiesta into the roadway and force the Cadillac to stay in his left lane.  The Tester deducted thirty points, ten for each car that had cut into my lane. 
     I was furious.  Timid little me began yelling at the tester.  I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it had to do with trying not to get hit by a Cadillac, and it might have strayed into a discussing of her mental facilities.  The tester left and I had to go inside the DMV to do some paperwork.  And still steaming, I walked out the building and someone handed me a sticker that had a grinning Cheshire car and it read “I LOV your smile”.
    
    I ordered my gin and tonic and a couple beers and walked back to my friends who were picking music from the jukebox, and the anger was gone as fast as it came.  But my mind started to analyze, to think about the stupid government bureaucrat, the horrors of the movie Brazil, the stupidity of making a sticker without the e on the word love, and the difference between the deep seated fear that arises from the ancient part of our brain and the modern intellectual part that we think can control it. 
     I was standing near my friends, daydreaming, when Normal told me she wanted a picture of her in the bathroom, she wanted a picture of her in all the dive bar bathrooms.  So they watched the door, while I photographed Normal on the toilet, and somehow she looked like Hunter S. Thompson. 
     And I am not sure which part of my brain enjoyed that.

 

 

 

Home