As I moved into retirement, in order to shrink our monthly financial outlays, we decided to use some resources both to pay off a loan for one of our cars, and also to purchase the car I had been driving as a district superintendent. I made the arrangements, had the money transferred, and voila! We now owned two more cars outright. Sort of. I realized the next stop on our fun financial merry-go-round would have to be the place where, beyond owning the cars, we would have to make sure they were legally registered and titled as authentic North Dakota cars, belonging to Cheri and me. On top of that, my old conference car had South Dakota plates, since that is where the conference office is located. This meant only one thing: I would have to go the Department of Motor Vehicles. (insert “shudder” here.)
I’ve had to work with six different DMVs over my lifetime, getting cars registered, titled, etc. You know how, in your life, there are those experiences that are treasured memories, sweet moments that are cherished, important and significant milestones that are honored? I can assure you that none of those six trips to the DMV falls anywhere near any of those categories. It’s always been the worst of bureaucracies, and expensive and fraught with the opportunity to have forgotten, or actually, not known that a certain piece of paper should have been brought along, and how could I have been so stupid as to have not done so! The only worse experience is trying to get a change in a driver’s license. They needed my social security card for ID, even though it plainly states on the card that it is not to be used for identification. I couldn’t find my card that day, so I brought the paper stub of the card, which included all the information that was on the card, and actually additional information, like the address when I got the card back more than 50 years ago. They turned it down – they needed the actual card, even though… there was no use arguing. Brick walls won’t debate fairly. Just a word to the wise: make sure to keep your social security card in your home safe, so that you can access it to drive legally in your home state.
Anyway, I started to amass all the material I thought would be needed to complete this tremendously important legal obligation, because I am sure that I would be the only person in North Dakota without a legally registered vehicle. The only one. Of course, into the file folder I put the two titles, one from each state, and copies of my car insurance, and copies of my current registration for each vehicle. On top of that, I had to fill out the three-page application for title change, which included the declaration that the car had not been in an accident, and that there was no one else who owned the car, and my mother’s grandmother’s maiden name, and our cats’ nicknames and favorite toy, and the calculation of sales tax, license plates, and a host of other fees that were listed only by their initials, with no where to find what the initials stood for – I just was supposed to calculate the SMP, the FSSO and the whatever else. I took a risk and left if all blank, hoping they would fill it out for me, as a courtesy and service of their office.
I then went on-line to see when the DMV was open. Did I mention we are in the midst of a pandemic? Instead of finding that the office was open 9-5, I discovered it was only accessible by appointment. No problem – my optometrist is the same way – so I nicely wrote the email, asking if I could get a time on Wednesday of that week (this was on Monday), and hopefully in the morning, and could they please explain what these crazy initials meant…
A half-hour later, I received an automated reply, stating that access to the office was only possible by appointment. I knew that. They also informed me that, due to CoVid, they were backed up in their processing. That was a bit harder to figure out. Did the disease run through the Department? Were the computers infected? What had changed in their work, besides having to wear a mask? But, as is the case, they are in charge, so they told me the next available date would be twenty days later, at 11:10am, and if I agreed, to send an email back confirming the date and time. I did so, and then I received another email stating I had been accepted (I felt so proud) and with it came a stern warning that, 1) I must not show up more than 5 minutes before my appointment, or I would be turned away; 2) I must wear a mask, or I would be turned away; 3)I could only process the items I had requested – if I brought additional items, I would be turned away… the file sat on the desk for nearly three weeks.
The day before the big appointment, I found myself on edge – almost panicky. There were so many ways this could all go wrong. What if there were a secret form that I hadn’t discovered? What if I had used my nickname instead of my legal name? What if…? That night, I even dreamed about walking down a long corridor, trying to find the find the right office, and being told I only had four chances, or … I would be turned away…
The morning of the big day, I left plenty early, and so of course ended up at the office about 15 minutes before the 10 minutes before the appointment. I just sat in my car, looking down, for fear I would be found out. At 10 minutes before, I went to the door, face mask on, and a worker, with face mask, eye shield, and – no lie – hospital protective gown checked my name off, and told me to stand on the “2X” spot on the floor. I kept looking around for a disinfectant shower nozzle.
After a few minutes, one of the windows was open, and I walked up to the processor… and it was a totally wonderful experience! She was kind and helpful and explained things, and took my pieces of paper and sorted out what she needed, and typed in information and told me how much I owed, and stamped my check, and then even gave me my new titles AND my new license plates, which by the way had really neat numbers on them: 999 DDN. As I walked out, barely ten minutes later, the worker at the door said, “Thanks for coming – have a great day!”
So, I’ve been thinking about my trip to the DMV. I’ve also been thinking of Chicken Little, who went yelling around the farmyard, “The sky is falling!” And I wish someone – Henny Penny, or Goosey Loosey, or someone would have said, “Wait a minute, Chicken – maybe the sky isn’t falling – maybe it was only an acorn that bonked you on the head…” I/We, when faced with having to do something unfamiliar, and even uncomfortable (like wearing masks, or dealing with cars), can often have the tendency of building up the future in fear so much that it almost feels as though the sky is indeed falling, or ready to fall any moment, or certainly will fall when I have to do this task I don’t want to do. Isn’t it odd that often, our expectations are based on bad experiences, instead of believing it will all be fine in the end? There is so much right now that invites us to worry or fret, when the truth is, they may just be acorns.
The way we keep that from happening, is to train ourselves to be thoughtful, and instead of acting in a reactive way, to responding with a lowered anxiety, and to remind ourselves that God is with us, even when going to the DMV. There is nothing we cannot handle or go through in this life that would not be better if we would only act with intention, and not fear. So, have a good day, ok?
Word for the day: deasil. It’s a Gaelic word, meaning “to the south.” It’s actually a fancy way of saying, “clockwise” or going to the right in a circle. Folklore said that if you want to bring someone good luck, you would walk carrying a lighted torch three times deasil. I’ve never tried, it, but then again, I’m not much for a believer in luck. The opposite word is widdershins, which actually comes from the Old German meaning “to travel against.” Go counter-clockwise, or left-wise, and you are widdershins. It was believed that all demons would approach the devil from the left, or widdershins.
Actually, the very earliest use of the word, widdershins, was to describe a bad hair day! You know the kind – if you have hair – and you wake up, and brush your hair, and it goes the opposite of where it should… “My head is all widdershins!” By the way, the word is an adverb, so you can’t “widdershin” as a verb. That’s probably not a bad idea.
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.