These days no one goes anywhere without a driver’s license.
Forget just the airport — today you need an ID to buy a beer or even use your credit card. And it doesn’t matter that you are closer to 80 than 21. Getting carded by bartenders has gone from flattery to annoyance. And it continues.
But the driver’s license, of course, contains more than just proof of your DOB. There’s a photo too. A postage stamp snapshot that is emblematic of your life. Strangers who intersect with you get to inspect it, occasionally adding comments, as they have with me: “You look better when you’re smiling.”
And over the last five years, that photo has served me well. At my age, five years is like three lifetimes. When it was taken, I was 47 and had never stared at a college tuition bill. I owned three cars, had one credit card and was regular. Back then Pluto was a planet, Bernie Madoff was a genius, John Edwards was husband of the year, Facebook was the stuff of broke Harvard geeks, Lindsay Lohan made Disney movies and the Jayhawks and Northern Iowa were never found in the same sentence.
In that photo, I look happy. Heck, I was! Young, energized, even ecstatic. And one other thing: my hair was black, with slight silver on the sideburns. A look slightly more aged than the one that’s been gracing this column for the last 10 years.
And time passed. The world fell apart but my smile remained. Every time I pulled it out, I was still stuck in a simple time, a simple life. Meanwhile, however, my car count went from three to five. College tuition bills went from zero to two, and the dollars mushroomed. Kid #1 moved into a house with five college dudes and a Keg-O-Rater. Kid #2 joined a fraternity that doubles as a Douglas County aluminum recycle center. As parents my wife and I watched the world endure sexting, texting, cyber-bullying and cultural decline that was nothing short of a race to the bottom. My 401K became a 201K and the demands of work, parenting and life escalated.
And one day I turned 52. And my wife said, “You got something in the mail. It says you need a new driver’s license.” And boom, on Tuesday, Feb. 8 I’m standing in line at the Mission location. At 6:55 a.m. there are 15 people waiting for the doors to open.
So there I was, with only one goal — get out and get to work. See tuition, infra. To the credit of the state, this office was an amazingly efficient operation, so 10 minutes later I’m completing the final step in this process, the photo.
“Stand here, look there.” Snap.
It was a grainy shot, printed out on a piece of paper that could have doubled as a McDonald’s receipt. I stared at it, and it stared back at me. There was one problem, however. The photo wasn’t me. It was an old scary guy with huge bags under his eyes. Hair with bangs that looked like a weather front sweeping down from Canada. “Sign here,” the lady said. Boom. I had my temporary license. Yes, it was me. Welcome to 2011.
Twelve days later I’m out of town. My wife calls me. “You got something in the mail. I’m not sure what it is. There is a picture. It looks like an animal crawled on top of your head and posed with you. You are old and tired. With hair issues.”
I hung up the phone. Two days later I inspected it myself. Her take was spot-on. TSA screeners are just waiting to pounce…..