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Now Serving Zero Seven Four

April 7, 2007

As I have gotten older, I have noticed that birthdays become one or two week extravaganzas. First, you have family obligations. This can be as simple as a card from your aunt to dinner with your parents. Second, you have friend obligations – dinners, phone calls, text messages, parties, drinks, brunch, more dinners, etc. Third, you have work obligations – cake, lunch and the mandatory “from all of us” card. Finally, as a result of technology and the internet, there is this new phenomenon of myspace and facebook birthday greetings. Random people you have met as friends along the journey of life can now send you a quick birthday greeting because myspace reminds people of your birthday. All of these events cannot possibly take place in one day or a couple of days – thus creating the weeklong extravaganzas. I remember in the first grade my birthday party consisted of five friends (I even invited a girl, quite shocking for that age) having cake and presents at the local McDonalds after a soccer game. A simpler time indeed.

Now that I am officially twenty-five, my weeklong extravaganza has not concluded. I still have a couple of dinners planned, a present from my family and a few calls to return. Well, besides being a quarter-century old, twenty-five marked another rite of passage for me – a trip to the Department of Licensing.

Now I don’t remember for sure, but I think I lost my license when I was twenty. The DOL had just shifted from every four-year renewals to every five years. If I had not lost my license, I would have been issued a horizontal license when I turned twenty-one. But that never happened. I lost it and I was issued a vertical license (a vertical license is a quick reference for id checkers for legal drinking age), which didn’t come due again until 4/6/2007. I remember looking at my new license in March of 2002 and seeing the renewal date of 4/6/2007 and wondering how much different my life would be five years later. I remember specifically thinking if I would be married, have a “real world” job, where would I be living, etc. Five years later, I have my answers.

Last week, I tried going to the DOL while I was at work in Federal Way. But the wait times posted online said 1:45 minutes. This was infuriating to me. Because I checked the wait times of Seattle, Kennewick, Spokane, Auburn, Yakima and even Aberdeen and they on average had wait times of less than a half hour. Not one hour forty-five minutes. On Thursday, I tried going to the Federal Way location before they opened. And when I arrived, the line was wrapped around the building.

My license expired yesterday. And when I was rear-ended a few weeks ago, the State Patrolman scolded me for not updating my address (it still had the 1918 McMurray St address – my mom sold that house four years ago). So to avoid any possible run-ins with the law, I hopped on the 48 this morning to Greenwood to get a new license.

It was packed when I got there an hour after they opened. I pushed the button by the front of the door and got my number, 074. As I looked for a place to sit in the small office, a computerized voice came on over the loudspeaker and said, “Now serving, zero three one.” I couldn’t believe it, there were 43 license renewals in front of me!

Because I was riding the bus, I had brought a book along with me. Which saved me from boredom. But I probably would have been okay because the DOL is a great place to people watch: The father who took his son to get his license for the first time. The angry man who said “fuck this shit,” to the DOL employee and then apologized to the room for his language as he stormed off. The DOL employees who only give you only seconds to stand up and come over when the computer announces your number – they skip to the next number like nobody’s business if you don’t come. The five-year old Vietnamese girl who is getting her id card for the first time.

I am reading The Year of Magical Thinking, and it is a great book. It is so great that I got so engrossed in the book that I completely blocked out the computerized voice calling out numbers. As I finished chapter 11, I realized that I had not been paying attention. I panicked. Seconds later the voice called out zero six five. I was safe.

I sat anxiously as 069, 070, 071, and 072 were called and did not show up. They must have decided to “fuck this shit,” too. 073 was a middle-aged woman who got the DOL employee who I deemed to be mean. Moments later the computerized voice said the magical words – Now serving zero seven four. I got up and bolted to the station.

I looked at my freshly printed temporary license and I scanned to the expiration date – 4/6/2012. I realized that I would be 30. And I had all the same questions that I did when I was twenty. Would I be married? What kind of job will I have? Where will I be living? What will my life look like then? A driver’s license is truly a marker into the past and into the future. It allows you to reflect on your life and dream about tomorrow. You can imagine all the possibilities and laugh about all the memories. The process of getting your license renewed is not an easy one. But for all the reflections and dreams I had while sitting on the 48, it was well worth it.

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