The Department of
Motor Vehicles'
War Against Geezers
Part II

I am now going to tell you something hard for you (and me) to believe. The Safety Branch of the California DMV may be staffed by guards on loan from Guantanamo Bay, but on occasion, HMO's can show heart.

When I got home I called Dr. Day's secretary and poured out my story. She said she would do what she could, and, by god, on the 30th of August, the good doctor took an hour out of his lunch break to puzzle with me over the Safety Bureau's impenetrable form.

He and I have both done bureaucratic paperwork before, but this one took the cake. It could only have been cooked up by a lawyer who had previously been employed fulltime writing partnership agreements for Enron.

We did our best and by 1:30 I was back in the now familiar drab offices of Safety. I gave the form to Medusa's sister and asked for a receipt so I could get back to my driving. "You driver's license has expired," she said.

"I understand, but you can give me something so I can drive, right?"


"Why not?"

"Because your license is expired."

"When will it be renewed?"

"You have to wait until your interview," she yawned.

"When will that be?"

"Maybe a month or so." And she turned away from me to attend to more important matters. Like buffing her fingernails.

§     §     §

Let us pause here for me to summarize. I had been driving with hand controls since 1953. For the last two decades, my insurance company has cited me as a "safe driver." I drive all over the place, usually forty thousand miles a year. I hadn't had a single accident since coming to California in 1977.

Yet, because a lone clerk in the local office of the DMV had seen wrinkles on my face and me in a wheelchair, I had been stripped of my beloved right to drive.

I was already disabled. By getting me enmeshed in the bureaucracy of the Safety Branch of the DMV, I was being disabled even further. Despite every wonderful promise written into law by the Americans with Disabilities Act, for three months I lost the freedom I cherish the most: the freedom to leave my house, to drive myself to the store, to drive to the movies, to visit friends, to travel out in the world. The boozer and I were, in the eyes of the DMV, essentially the same.

My hearing is coming up in a week or so. Before I go to the place where they will undoubtedly lock me and my wheelchair in their dark dungeon forever, I want to give you a bit of advice.

Given the laws of chance, someday you will be like me: you'll grow old, and wrinkled, and --- possibly --- you'll get about with a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair.

When the time comes when you have to go to your state Driver's License bureau to renew, be damn sure your are prepared. Especially if the lady at the counter looks at you with gimlet eyes, asking too many unfriendly questions.

Lie cheat and steal, throw a fit, fall down, fall out of your chair, throw up, break down and cry --- do anything: just get your license before they get you out the door.

Else you will find yourself mired in a world of deadlines and questionnaires and loss of rights --- a world formulated to test you to the limit, to see that you go through most, if not all, of the Dantesque circles of hell.

--- L. W. Milam
Go back to Part I


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