Click here to read the first part of this story.
Note: Last we left things, I had just failed the vision portion of my driving test, under very murky and nefarious circumstances, and I have been ordered to leave the building by a cruel government worker known as Haggatha…
The evil Haggatha, after relishing the look of dissatisfaction on my face, sneers happily, then turns and flounces her way toward a door marked “Employees Only”. I’m assuming said portal leads to the deep-freeze locker-room where she keeps what’s left of her soul.
I turn the other way, banging through the “special exit door for losers” and out into the parking lot. I work my way across the asphalt, carefully avoiding the shifty people who were still standing around and looking suspect. (Really, what are those guys waiting for? This is obviously a poor part of town. If you want a handout, shouldn’t you try to panhandle in a place where people have money? Like Connecticut?)
I finally get to my car, where I discover an amazingly-large splatter of bird poo on my front windshield. (How big was that bird? Damn.) Great. Like I need something else to devaluate my existence. I find a Whataburger napkin in the glove box and attempt to do a bit of hazmat cleanup. Naturally, because I am not destined to enjoy my life today, the napkin instantly shreds apart and the bits become stuck in the now smeared-around goo. It looks like a piñata has melted into the glass.
Sighing, I hop into the car, start the engine, turn on the windshield wipers, and twist the little knob that should activate a geyser of water to assist the wipers in their cleansing ritual. Instead, there’s an odd belching noise, followed by a single droplet of water shooting out of the spigot and plunking ineffectively in the hairy whiteness. Terrific. I’m out of fluid. And the wipers have now smeared the circle of life all over the windshield, leaving a hazy, blurry patina that looks a lot like that vision test I just failed.
I slap off the wipers, throw the car into gear, squeal out of the parking lot with a bit more exuberance than I really should display (can you blame me at this point?), and make my way home. During said transit, I have the joy of making all my maneuvering decisions based on the three-inch square of window glass that is not obscured by avian recycling or the sordid remains of a candy-stuffed animal. I full expect to be pulled over at any time by the police or an official from PETA who is convinced that I have done something unseemly with a llama.
I get back to the Fortress of Solitude, and I immediately dig out all my insurance crap. Since my vision has been crystal clear until about two hours ago, I don’t have any eye doctor lined up. I don’t even know what type of optometrist to look for, since the news of my blindness is still fresh. I pick a random name out of the approved list and make a call.
Receptionist Person: “Thank you for calling the Happy Eyes clinic. Can I help you?”
Me: “Yes, I need to set up an eye exam. Apparently, I lost my vision today.”
RP: “Excuse me, what was that?”
Me: “I’m sorry. I’m a little frustrated. I went to renew my driver’s license today, and I somehow failed the vision test. Until that moment, I had 20/20 vision.”
Slight pause, then RP: “Did you take your test in Irving?”
Me, somewhat startled: “Why, yes I did. On Sixth Street. How did you know?”
RP: “We know lots of things. You’ll need the Haggatha exam. Can you be here tomorrow morning at 9?”
Totally flummoxed, and feeling slightly surreal: “Um, okay. Yes, I can do that.”
RP: “See you then! Have a great evening.”
Did that just happen?
The next morning, I traipse into the Happy Eyes clinic. I fill out the appropriate paperwork, and then I sit around and wait forever until it’s my turn. I’ve never understood this disparity between what I consider to be an “appointment time” and how care providers define the term. I think it should be the exact moment when you will be ready for me to “step through the door on the right”, not the general day that you might be able to fit me in. Maybe someday the medical personnel and the time-keepers of the world will get together and come up with a better plan.
After a few fitful naps in an uncomfortable chair, it’s finally my turn and I go through that door. The doctor starts doing her thing, shoving instruments in my eye and running tests. It doesn’t take long before she reaches a conclusion. “There’s nothing wrong with your eyes.”
“I know this. I can spot a Taco Bell from 3 miles away. But they won’t let me get a driver’s license until I’m wearing glasses and can pass the vision test.”
She frowns. “I can’t even write you a prescription, you don’t need one.”
I slightly panic. “No, don’t say that, you don’t understand. I must get this driver’s license. It’s become a personal mission.”
She sighs. “Well, I suppose I could give you a little bump in your left eye. You might have some slight trouble with that one in about twenty years.”
I relax. “Please do. And thank you.”
We finish things up, and a bit later I’m marching to the eyeglass place that just “happens” to be next door to the optometrist (LOVE that arrangement), clutching my sacred slip of paper. These folks do their thing, and in a few hours I am sporting a pair of designer-knockoff eye-ware. I jump in my car and head to the decrepit building on Sixth Street, ready for a showdown with Haggatha and her intense bitterness.
Imagine my devastation when I learn that she’s not even working today. See, that’s how it always goes with me. I feed my disgruntlement, stoking the fires of resentment and plotting my enemy’s destruction, and then they call in sick. I never get the revenge or validation that I need. This is why I’m bitter and I will have to take little soothing white pills for the rest of my life.
The new, non-Haggatha lady at the window pulls up my records to see what needs to be done. “Oh, it looks like you need to re-take the vision test. Did you get the glasses?”
I bite my tongue very hard, as I glare at her through the just-ground-and-polished lenses that are clearly sitting on my nose. “Yes, m’am, I did.”
“Okay, then. Please step to the back and we’ll fix you up.”
Once more through the door.
I zip through the vision test with no problem. In fact, I’m kind of disappointed when we run out of lines to read. As a special flourish, I even tell her what the tiny copyright date says in the lower right corner.
She doesn’t care. “Let’s see. We’ve got that out of the way, so now you just need to take the physical driving test. Please take a seat and someone will be right with you.”
I do so. Once again, “right with you” has a different meaning for these people, but eventually someone does show. A tiny woman clatters out of the soul-locker and clears her throat. “Mr. LaGoose?” (People never even TRY to say my last name right. I got over it years ago and I’ve moved on.)
I stand up. “That’s me.” I smile broadly like we’re best friends.
I guess she’s not looking for new acquaintances, and she’s all business. “Pull your car up to the first slot on the side of the building.” Then she turns and vanishes back into the soul-locker. Well, then.
I traipse outside, climb in my car, maneuver to the designated slot, making sure that I am precisely-parked in the exact very center of this slot, and then sit there with the engine idling, nervous and expectant.
Three hours later, Tiny finally appears around the corner of the building. To my surprise, she marches past me and stands next to the second slot. What’s up with that? I get out of my car and look in her direction. “Did I misunderstand something?”
“Yes, I told you to park in the second slot. You’ll need to back up.”
Oh God, here we go again with someone who just wants to make things more difficult for no reason. Haggatha might have called in sick but she sent a replacement. I don’t even bother to argue and get back in my car. I very carefully ease backwards, because even though maiming her might prove temporarily enjoyable, it just might affect my score, and that’s the more important carrot dangling in front of me in the long run.
She finally opens the passenger door, and she lets out a small squeak of surprise when the automatic seat-belt thing slides down and around the window frame, allowing her access. (Make note that this car had those things, it will prove critical in a bit.) She hops in, the automatic upper belt slides back up, and she secures the lower belt. “Exit the parking lot.”
I put the car in gear and head toward the nearest marked exit.
“Not that one. The one on the right.”
“But you didn’t-”
“Yes, I did. The one on the right.”
I grit my teeth. Great. She’s one of those people who has conversations in her head, only shares part of it with you, yet still expects you to get all the details. I pull out of the parking lot and we’re on our way.
At first, things go okay. She has me change lanes and turn corners and such, ticking things off her checklist as we go. But then she apparently gets bored with this and starts messing around with my car. First, she leans over and pulls up one side of the floor mat. (What the hell?) I guess she didn’t find anything of interest, because she soon lets the mat flop back down with a small, disappointed sigh.
Me, stupidly: “Can I help you find something?”
“You need to keep your eyes on the road. You’re in control of a moving vehicle.”
I grimace and get my four eyes back where they belong. But she distracts me again. Now she’s actually digging in between the passenger seat and the center console, grunting, fingers clawing. (Is there gold down there? A bootleg copy of a Grateful Dead concert? The life that I really should have been given instead of this one?) After several moments of struggle, she pulls out a discarded straw wrapper and holds it up. “This is littering.”
In my own CAR? What is wrong with her? “Uh…”
Then she actually opens my glove box, throws the wrapper in there, and slams the little door shut. (Well, thank God, because I didn’t know how much longer I could last, knowing that tube of paper was on the loose.) I decide to just ignore the whole thing.
She finally looks out the window, after quite some time of not paying any attention to what I’m doing, despite this being a driver’s test and all. She doesn’t like what she sees. “What are we doing this far down the street?”
Excuse me? Aren’t you the one giving the directions? “Um, you haven’t said to turn yet.”
She lets out an exasperated sigh. “I told you we were just going around the block.”
No, you didn’t. You’ve said more about the contents of my car than where we might be headed. I stifle myself again. “Which way would you like me to turn?”
“To the right. And keep turning right. That’s how you go around the block.”
My spleen ruptures on its own. I just want this hateful woman out of my car before one of us ends up featured in a true-crime documentary. “Okay, I’ll just keep turning right.” Unless I see a cliff. Then I’m driving right over it.
Eventually, we get back to the decrepit building. She directs me off to one side, where there are some orange plastic cones spaced about. “Time to parallel park,” she announces.
Oh. Forgot about that. I’m so not good at this. I decide to negotiate. “How is my score so far? Can I skip this and still pass?”
She looks at me in horror. “Why would you want to skip this?”
Because I can’t stand the sight of you. “I always have trouble. I’ll probably fail this part anyway. Just being honest.”
She glares at me for a few more minutes, then sighs and reviews her clipboard. “You’ll pass by one point if you don’t parallel park.” It clearly pained her to say these words.
My heart surges. “Great. I’ll take it.”
Her mouth sphincters into a tiny nub of disapproval, but then she relents and proceeds to fill out this and that, flipping pages and circling and checking and signing. “Okay, we’re done. Take that approval form to the processing office and they’ll issue your new license. I’ll go file the rest of your paperwork.”
I very delicately say this, knowing I don’t want to screw things up this close to the finish line. “Um, I don’t have a form. Is this something that you’re supposed to give me?”
She sighed dramatically, a tinge of possible madness wafting on her exhale. “I just gave it to you. Have you already lost it? That’s an official document and you need to be more responsible.”
All I can think to do is look at my hands, which are empty. The words I want to say will not help me in any way.
She looks at my hands as well. Then she looks at her clipboard. “Oh,” she says, the wind a bit out of her sails at this point, in more ways than one. She takes a form, one that was right there on top of her stack, and hands it to me. “Don’t lose it this time.”
Bite the tongue. Bite the tongue. Bite the tongue. “Thank you!”
She hurriedly gathers her things, ready to exit this evil vehicle of litter and sin where people are unpatriotic about finishing tests. She throws open the door and starts to leap out.
The automatic seat belt whips into downward action. She’s already got her head out the door, so it catches her by surprise. No real damage initially, but in the midst of her sudden flailing about, the strap tangles in her hair and we learn that she’s wearing a wig, which is now half hanging off of her head. She disengages the seat belt from the runner, hurls it to the passenger floorboard with startling force (“The power of Christ compels you!”), leaps out of the car, slams the door, and marches toward the building, her hair still jacked, looking like a drag queen who has had one too many cocktails during open-mic night at the Twirl-and-Curl Saloon.
Once she can no longer see me, I smile for the first time in two days.
Carma will get you in the end…
Previously published in “Memory Remix” and “The Sound and the Fury” as “Run Around- Part II”, and then as part of the “Dispatches from the Wasteland” series here on Bonnywood. Modified mildly for this latest version.
Secondary Note: Checking the archives, I see that I have three other serialized stories concerning discombobulations at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Hmm. Is it really me that has a problem and not them? Surely that isn’t the case, right?
Categories: My Life