So, in about a week and a half, I’ll be singing the Beatles big hit: When I’m 64. I’ll talk more in a future day’s writing about the impact of this birthday, but suffice it to say it was never a number that I ever dreamed of claiming, especially since I am still 37 years old…
However, one thing I did discover, with the aid of my sons, is that it’s been six years since I once again claimed a North Dakota driver’s license. In 2015, after 20 years and three different licenses in different states, I finally came home. That’s great, but it’s not like coming home to your parent’s house, and your room is just like they left it. In the world of driver’s licenses, you will read that they put your birthdate on your license, but they also put your (license) expiration date. And just like that carton of milk that is in your refrigerator, after the expiration date, your driver’s license will go bad. Mine was going bad, and the clock was ticking to get a new one.
Of course, nothing is truly simple in this time of CoVid. It’s ironic, but before the pandemic seized our national culture, the powers that be decided that, because they could do it, I guess, they would change the licenses for every individual in the nation, by requiring them/us to not just renew a license, but to get a “Real ID.” With a Real ID, we were told, we could open the door to all sorts of things that we could do freely and simply before 911, like flying on a plane, or going to Canada with just our driver’s license. No! the Real ID meant that you somehow passed a special test and qualification that now allows you to go on a military base (just try to do that without other qualifications!) or go into a courthouse, or – my favorite – go into a nuclear power facility! All these wonderful experiences can be yours, once you have a Real ID. The process is fairly simple: you have to go through all the files and boxes in your house and try to find every bit of ancient identification that had been given to you or your parents. Things like a stamped birth certificate, a social security card (the real one, even though it says on the card “Not to be used for identification purposes”), your driver’s license, which the government issued to you in the first place, plus you will need to prove that you didn’t just pick up these things willy-nilly, so you have to produce your property tax form, your mortgage payment bill, and at least two other bills that show you actually live somewhere. Like I said, it’s a hoot to go on that scavenger hunt. Oh, by the way, if you are a traditionally married woman who took her husband’s last name, you also need to rustle up your marriage license that hopefully will show that you have legally changed your name…
So, with all that pile of info, you can just jump in the car, drive over to the motor vehicle department, and get your new license, which looks exactly like the one you currently have, except for the addition of a little gold star in the upper right corner. It sort of feels like you did well in third grade, and you get rewarded with a stamp on your paper.
But wait a minute – have you forgotten your ol’ pal CoVid? Instead of walking into the office, and taking a number and sitting in a chair for a very long time, now you have the pleasure of making an appointment to come in and bare your life’s facts. Without an appointment – forget it. You will never drive again. Of course, with the appointment comes the other conditions. You can’t show up more than ten minutes before your appointment, so when you do, so you won’t be late, you get to sit in your car in subzero weather, wasting gas and watching the clock. Such fun.
You then approach the door wearing a mask, as if you were going to rob the joint, but someone stops you at the door, also wearing a mask, and mumbles the questions we all love to hear: Have you been sick? Do you know anyone who’s sick? Have you been anywhere where people have been sick? Have you gone on a trip to a sick place? Did any of your dead relatives have the Spanish Flu during World War One? Did you wash your hands this morning? Why or Why not? Have you been to the doctor for any reason whatsoever?
Once you finish the interrogation, you then are commanded to squirt stinky stuff on your hands, which will ensure that everything is completely sterile. Then you get a number, and are told to go sit somewhere in a huge room, at least 300 feet away from anyone else. We are an obedient people if nothing else, especially when we are looking for a gold star.
So, I sat and watched the light board, telling me when I could stand up, and go to the proper window. I handed over my file of documents under the plexiglass barrier, and tried to listen as the person on the other side, wearing a mask and mumbling through the plexiglass, directed me to do something. She pushed a form to me, and told me to fill it out.
Just a comment: I had been sitting in the room for a good 15-20 minutes, with nothing to do. Could it be that I could have filled out the form at that time? Even more, I set up my appointment online – could I have filled out the form online and had it already entered into the DOT computer? These are things to consider as we move into the 20th Century… not 21st – 20th.
The form asked me to reveal even more about myself. Date of birth – ok, although it’s on the birth certificate. Height – not a problem. Weight – I decided it was fair to put my hoped-for weight. After all, it’s about New Years, and everything is going to change then, right? Eye color – green, that’s fine. Then they asked, “Hair color.” They shouldn’t ask that of newly retired men, who don’t dye their hair like their cute wife does. “Brown?” “Grey?” “Brown/Grey?” “Salt and Pepper?” “Distinguished?” “Transitional?” I went with Brown/Grey.
Finally, after certifying that indeed I had brought documents, they scanned them into the government computer, and then they had me take off my mask, and get my picture taken. Let me say that in nearly half a century, I have never had a good Driver’s license picture taken. I kept the streak going.
Finally, they produced my card, and told me to make sure all the info was correct before leaving. I looked at it, trying not to look at the picture, but just the facts, and I realized that on the license, all they put is date of birth, sex, height and color of eyes. Why ask the rest?
The best news of the day came when I looked at the effective dates. The next time I have to go through this, I will be 70 years old. And I got a gold star.
Some days are simply more complicated than others. Some tasks are that way too, although they become that way as layers and layers of “stuff” are accidentally painted on the requirements for doing something very simple. There are frankly some things in our lives over which we have no control or direction. The best we can do is to complete the task given, in order to receive the prize that’s offered. A new license, a gold star. It’s probably best to just not “spit into the wind,” as Jim Croce sang, but to do what we need to do, and then move back into the world where we can make good decisions and hopefully live intentionally as persons of honor, faith and love.
And I’ll keep the license hidden in my wallet, until I need to cash a check.
Word for the day: disaster. Pronounced dis-AS-ter, it’s one of those words we learned as children, although we only learned the definition, not the origin. A disaster is defined today as an unfortunate event, or a calamity. Disasters can be of nature, or of human activity, or just waking up with really bad hair.
The origin, though, takes us back to the time when it was believed nothing was an accident, or just happened. The word is originally Greek, the Latin, then Italian, then English. In Greek, dus means “bad,” and aster means “star.” Therefore, it was believed that when a terrible thing happened, it was caused by the position of a planet or star. An “ill-star” had the power to create bad happenings. It’s similar to “star-crossed,” which means something, like a romance, is not favored by the stars. Lots of power given to twinkling lights, I would say…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.