An OLD YORKSHIREMAN IN NEW YORK. (6) Terror at the DMV (part 2)

On our first visit to the DMV I could see Magnus start to brew when he realized that all wasn’t going well. But once we were in his truck he went ballistic, ranting and screaming at the Government and their agents, who now were abusing not just him but his English friend too and monitoring our every move. It was a stressful hour listening to him as we drove back to the Outer Cape but the thought I’d have to go back, stressed me out even more!

The day dawned, ‘DMV II- the Sequel’. I just had to go back and get things sorted. This was the country of automobiles; I loved my bicycle but realized that one day, living where I was, I’d have to drive something, somewhere.

I approached Magnus about another ride down Cape to the DMV. He’d been on a pretty even keel during the intervening weeks, and been ok with me, mainly I think because he now considered us on the ‘same side’, it was us-and-them.
The last trip he’d offered to take me and wouldn’t even take money for the petrol. This time I thought I should sweeten the pill with money for fuel and the offer of treating him to a Chinese meal on the way back at what he’d told me was his favorite restaurant. Deal done.

This time I was adamant I would get things right. So I checked, double and triple checked my documents and got everything I possibly could notarized. I read and re-read the list of documents and finally to make a good impression on the lady on the desk, and the trigger- happy cop, I thought I’d dress up a bit and look smarter.
I found a white shirt- and ironed it! (A strange experience), pressed my jeans (weirder), polished my wedding shoes etc. etc., combed my hair and had a shave, which hurt a bit as the disposable razor I found had been disposed of several times before. And wore the jacket we’d buried my Grandad in back in Yorkshire- (if you get my meaning). I looked strangely smart. Not only, I thought, would I be getting my license but I looked so good they’d give me a car to go with it!

So off we trotted down the Cape again. Magnus, staying true to form saw no reason to wear anything other than what he always wore, the same baggy old cord trousers and brown shirt and as winter was drawing on and his truck heater didn’t work, he wrapped himself up in a ragged thrift-store overcoat with the lining hanging out.
We got in the truck.

“We’ll be alright this time Magnus.” I said encouragingly.
“Yeah?” Said Magnus reversing.
“Yes, you’ll see, no problems. I got everything required in here.” I showed him the manila file, with its’ neat typed label ‘DMV Application’. He liked files.
“You sure?” He said as we headed out the drive.
“Piece of cake my friend.” I said, stroking my file.
“I’ll let you drive the truck when you get your license.” He said. What a guy.

An hour later, we arrived at the DMV center again, North of Hyannis. And strolled confidently towards the building. Inside I nodded to the cop. He remained stoic and vigilant, and looked I thought like a ‘Terminator’ clone.
Magnus and I joined a line that was moving slowly forward towards the counter. The same lady who’d rejected me before was there, the one who’d put me right before. I projected inner smiles to her.
Then it was my turn. A DMV steward who controlled the flow of people waved me forward. I expected at this point that Magnus would peal off, and go to the back to wait for me, but when I moved across the line to the counter he stayed at my side.

“It’s alright mate, why don’t you go over to the chairs.” I whispered to him as we closed in on the line
“I am with you my friend!” He whispered back ominously.“I won’t let them abuse you this time.”
Oh my God , I wondered what he might be concealing under that coat, an axe perhaps?

To my surprise, the steward directed us over to another DMV lady further along the counter. This one was about as friendly as the shredder that’s just eaten your wage cheque.
She had short curly dark hair, graying at the edges. No make-up, and glasses with little diamante wings at the side. She said nothing when we arrived at the desk and looked at us with a fixed un-smiling stare. There was a disdain about her as though we were two bad smells on legs that had just arrived in her personal space.
She made the other lady look like a cuddly toy.

I felt my confidence drain away and worse, when she turned a little to take in my thrift store Viking minder with that same look, I felt him tensing up and inflating about an inch. Then I noticed him reach inside his coat.
Seizing the initiative I lifted up my manila folder. This will impress her I thought, and from it took out in order all the required documents. Each filled in with neat print and held together with a large paper-clip.

“I would like to apply for a Massachusetts State driving license please maam.”
I said as clearly and respectfully as I could muster. I put on a delightful English accent something akin to a character in an Evelyn Waugh novel, even though at that moment she reminded me of the teacher at junior school who made me eat every spoonful of an unwanted bowl of cold semolina until I was sick.

She took the documents from me, removed the paper-clip which she kept at her side of counter. Then she went through each assiduously, searching every line, until the last paper was reached. Then she pushed the papers back to me, and the paper clip.

She said.
That word was like a cattle-prod to Magnus.
“No?” I tried to keep calm.
“No!” she repeated as she slid the documents another inch.
“But why not?” I asked.
“We do not accept, the short form of birth certificates before 1960.” She said.
“But this is what birth certificates in from England in 1950 looked like. I had it sent specially. It’s precious and rare.” I held my little pink birth-certificate quivering in my fingers, “It’s precious to my mum too. Look, it’s written in ink with a quill pen, it’s old and real!” She went on like an uncaring machine.
“The DMV requirement in such a case such as yours’ she enunciated deliberately and slowly, “ is the long form birth certificate. Which must be presented in person with other forms of identification.” She said. Her words were like the lid of a stone coffin falling into place. For a moment I thought it was her coffin.

Magnus lurched forward and grabbed the counter top, I thought he was going to lift it off the desk. In the last few seconds he had turned almost purple and grown another foot. I could hear his coat ripping. Then he started to rant, and shook the desk, banging it with his huge fist.
I remember wondering if we’d hear the shots from the cop’s gun a nano-second before they hit us and what would it be like to be dead.

But strangely enough even though he’d become ‘Magnus the Monster’ and other people on the counter, (I could see from the corners of my eyes), were leaving for the bunker, inside what I remember is the look on her face; strangely she didn’t flinch from the giant who was about to turn her into a Viking smorgesborg, rather she stared straight at me, not him, with a look of paralyzed fear.

The anger that poured out towards her across that desk from both of us continued for what seemed like an age, whilst she continued to stare at me and me alone. Then, all I remember was being delivered onto the asphalt outside in the car-park, by a steward and the cop who delivered a strong warning that if that ever happened again we’d both be charged and incacerated, somewhere darrk, dank and securely forgotten.

Back in the truck, we were so angry and so mortified that silence fell upon us and neither said a word.

“Is that it.” I said fifteen minutes later down the road. “The restaurant?”
“Oriental Moon.” He said indicating the turn into the restaurant carpark.

Inside we ordered quietly. We had done our best and had been rejected by authority once again; this time my very best efforts to please had been rejected. Perhaps some great cosmic influence was at work that I did not understand. I took out my birth certificate from the safety of my wallet and looked at it.

“1950.” Said Magnus. “I didn’t think you were that old”
“I feel older now.” I said.
“I told you it is a conspiracy, maybe now you will believe me.”
“I believe you, it’s a conspiracy.” I said.
“By the way, you’re bleeding” He said nonchalantly.
“You’re seeing things.” I said assuming he still had Blood Lust.

Then the food arrived. I’d ordered plenty, looked like I wouldn’t be needing the money for my drivers’ license after all, Magnus could enjoy a feast.
I looked across the bowls of noodles and fried rice that had arrived and to my nutty friend and protector. He was calm now thankfully, his attention re-directed from dark thoughts of revenge, and mass homicide to chopsticks and crispy duck.

“I am going for a pee.” I said dejectedly, as I folded the proof of my existence and replaced it in my wallet. “And I’m going to cut my throat.”
I was resigned to being a second-class carless alien for the rest of my life in autoland America. I might as well kill myself.
“Looks like you already did.” he said without looking up from the steaming shrimp.

As I walked across the restaurant, something other than what he’d just said was bothering me, something other than official rejection. Why had the woman on the desk been so fixated on me while Magnus raved?

I had a pee and went over to wash my hands. I didn’t really want to look at my sorry face in the mirror above the sink, but couldn’t help it. I met my reflection with surprise!
The front of my white shirt was covered in blood, in all the excitement I hadn’t noticed, I must have nicked my Adam’s apple when I used the old razor that morning.
I stared closer at my neck, there was a little hole on the pinnacle of my adam’s apple and it was still wet still oozing a little blood. I had taken blood-thinning drugs every day since my open-heart surgery, three years before, so if I cut myself it tended to bleed for a while longer than normal

Then I realized that’s what had made her look so scared; as my anger had risen I must have been squirting blood from my throat!

Needless to say, I did a lot of bike riding after that.

An OLD YORKSHIREMAN IN NEW YORK. (6) Terror at the DMV (part 2)

John Sunderland

New York, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

How not to apply for your drivers’ license

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