Saturday, January 03, 2009


Sitting with my seventeen-year-old at the Department of Motor Vehicles., I am amused by the thought that this is similar to watching a movie, however instead of watching on a screen, we are thrust into the middle of the scene. A young woman behind me shares loudly with her friend the ‘he said, she said’ drama of her recent break-up by reading the back and forth text messages between she and her estranged boyfriend. It is highly personal and she is highly unaware or indifferent to the fact that we can all hear her.

In front of us in the one hour line is a woman with her teenage daughter, here for the same purpose that we are; to take the written knowledge test for licensing. It is obvious that they are mother and daughter as they resemble one another and they chat quietly making sure they have brought all of the correct documents. They stand together for quite some time until the girl tires of standing and slips out of the line to find a chair to text message. She wears the usual uniform; UGGS and a North Face jacket, flashy new cell phone beneath her polished fingernails. Mom continues to stand, holding her daughter’s place in line. Her purse catches my eye; cranberry colored leather with pockets and buckles with a tear in the leather where the strap attaches to the bag. She is neatly dressed in jeans and a simple jacket, no distinct labels and tired black leather shoes. They had looked so similar these two women until this moment and now the distinction is clear between them; the giver and the taker.

After standing in line for at least one hour, we are shifted over to ‘the chairs’ where we await the calling of names in painfully slow order to step into the back to take the vision and written tests. Our conversations to this point have been few and bizarre. “Did you ever think about what it looks like inside the gas tank of a car?” Tyler asks me. “No.” I answer honestly, shaking my head. “Seriously think about it…” he continues, “Imagine if you could not see inside of a glass but simply put the liquid in and poured it back out when you drank, but could never see what it looked like inside…it would be weird, right?” He asks.

I stare at him for a moment wondering who thinks these things, but I know my answer. He does. Cadence does. Divergent thinkers. But do divergent thinkers pass driving exams? We see a girl emerging from the back with tight lips and frantic eyes that begin to leak failure down her cheeks. “I got six wrong.” she squeaks to her mom, pulling her coat from her mom’s arms and walking head-down toward the door. I think about the fact that Tyler has not once opened the manual for this test. He attended the 30 classroom hours at a driving school and said there was no need to study...he got it. We sit quietly for a while, he texting and I enjoying a baby across the room. I see another girl with the manual in her lap, flipping rapidly through the pages, taking in all that she could in her final preparations. “Did you even get one of those books?” I ask him. He nods. “Shouldn’t you review it?”

“I’m so sick of that book.” he answers without looking up. “We used it in those classes.” The gate opens from the back and a girl who looks younger than sixteen emerges, this one unable to hide her distress. Tears stream down her face and she rushes to her mother, “I failed.” She chokes out between sobs, “he said I didn’t ….” and the rest was lost as she pushed her way to the ladies room where her sobs were even louder. Ten minutes later, her mother followed her in.

“It’s not looking good.” I tell Tyler, “Are you going to cry if you fail?”

“Well yeah…” he answers as if that was a dumb question, “And then I’m heading straight for the Ladies room. Actually,” he continues in a pseudo-serious tone, “I never really pictured myself driving until I was twenty eight.”

“Twenty eight?” I ask him, my eyes wide. “Yeah. See, I don’t really need to drive. Right now I have my friends that drive and the bus and….you,” he shoots a dimpled grin, “and then I’ll go to college. I’ll live across the street from my classrooms so I won’t need to drive. Then when I graduate, I’ll get a job in the city and be able to walk to work. Besides, there are other means of transportation like bikes and skate boards and roller blades… huh…?” He nudges like he’s really onto something. “Think about how great it would be if there were no cars… it would be much better for the environment and everyone could rollerblade. We could replace all of the stop lights with disco balls and just think how much that would save in electricity. Then everyone would just dance at the intersections and there would be no accidents…”

Tyler.” The officer in back calls. He is short and bald and looks like a Marine drill sergeant. Tyler hops up in his purple jeans, pea coat and converse sneakers; his long blond hair covering one eye and spiked earrings poking through. I have the urge to run behind him to remind him to push the hair out of his eyes on the vision test and not to answer his cell phone during the test but alas…I cannot help him. His world is filled with disco balls and roller blades and perhaps 28 is the right age for him to drive.

In about twenty minutes he emerges and sits next to me; no tears, no ladies room. He explains quietly that you need 20 out of 25 correct and once you hit 20 correct answers, the machine flashes and says “pass.” The ‘pass flash’ came after his 20th question.

I guess the disco ball intersections will have to wait.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

GREAT post, Nancy, I am right there with you. I am so not a divergent thinker, btw!

Jamie said...

Awesome post! I want to meet your son, he sounds awesome! Like a real delight!! You have done good!

Jerri said...

Congratulations to Tyler and best wishes to you. Those first few nights they're out on their own are a little hairy.

Divergent thinking is the start point of change, for which most of us long right now. Your kids rock.

Deb Shucka said...

What a great story! What a great kid! I love the disco ball idea, and his strong sense of self. I also love your writing!