Friday, July 25, 2008

Blasphemy at the DMV

My driver's license is about to expire, so I went to the DMV this morning to renew it. Overall, the process wasn't too painful. This is not a story of frustration with the DMV, it's a story of regret, having to give up the same photo that's been on my license since 1998. I was so young when that picture was taken--still in my twenties--and the guy at the photo booth that day wasn't in a hurry and took my picture twice and let me choose the more flattering of the two.

Generally, I look really awful in photographs. Supposedly the camera doesn't lie, but I've seen enough horribly unflattering photos of attractive people to know that the camera does lie. Indeed, it seems to actively seek to make some people look ugly. At least, that is the ideology I must cling to or become too depressed to function.

Anyway, that 1998 license photo was fabulous, as far as driver's license photos go, and it caused me to have an amusing adventure in a Charlottesville bar. I have a group of friends who share my birthday and one year, on our birthday, we all went out drinking together with the hope that generous bartenders would bestow free drinks on us in honor of the day. We weren't so lucky getting free drinks until the last bar we stopped at--I think it was Starr Hill--where a guy sitting at the bar took an interest in the five lovely birthday ladies and bought all of us drinks. He told us he was a hairdresser and he was very flamboyant and funny, one of those guys you tend see in bars late at night and then tell your friends the next day, "We met the funniest guy last night..."

So he bought me a purple haze, a drink I'd never had before and has since given me a lifelong aversion to Chambord, and then, wanting to make sure he wasn't being taken advantage of, asked to see our driver's licenses to prove it really was all our birthdays. I handed him my license, he took one look at it and said, "What is this? Little House on the Prairie? God Damn Laura Ingalls!" And he was right. I looked exactly like Melissa Gilbert in that picture.

Maybe that's why I liked it so much.

So today, sitting in the DMV I knew my chances of having a second flattering photo were next to nil. I'd brought a book to read while waiting--The Hard to Catch Mercy by William Baldwin--and had gotten to a scene where someone is caught stealing biscuits and says that Jesus made him do it. This struck me as funny and suddenly I thought, "Jesus please let my new license photo be flattering." Shocking! I never pray for trivial things and here I was invoking Jesus, of all people, in the DMV. I thought it would serve me right if I walked out of there with a picture of a 90 year old hag with a toothache, which is how I look in most pictures.

It turned out not quite as bad as all that. The new photo makes me look like a frustrated sales manager in her thirties whose mother is hounding her to get married and who dates a series of striped-shirt assholes and hates her job and lives in a cramped townhouse close to the interstate. And I get to keep it on my license for the next ten years! At least no one will mistake me for a character on Little House on the Prairie.


  1. That's funny! Is the DMV as creepy there as ours in my town? It seems like every loser in a 12 mile radius parks there for the DAY and I refuse to bring my kids there because it ICKS ME OUT.

  2. I was hoping for a side-by-side photo of your old driver's license next to Laura's picture