COUNTY AGENT GUY
My wife recently had to renew her driver’s license, a process that began with her proving that she is who she claims to be.
I found this development intriguing. Not just because of the possibility of a bureaucratic brouhaha, but also because I, too, wanted to know if my wife is who she says she is.
After all, I don’t recall her ever showing me any sort of ID. For all I know, she could be some sort of sleeper agent, a “00” who not only holds a driver’s license, but also a license to kill.
Alas, nothing nearly that exciting came to light. My wife was told, however, that the marriage certificate signed by our pastor on our wedding day wasn’t legal proof of marriage.
Egads. Could it be that after 30-some years together, we aren’t legally married?
This was worrisome. If we weren’t married, would she agree to retie the knot? And if not, what of our kids?
Would they choose to take their mother’s maiden name?
All my anxiety was for naught. The Register of Deeds provided a document that proved we are indeed married.
Which is a good thing, because I didn’t want to go through that whole tuxedo rental rigmarole again.
As with most things, the process of obtaining a driver’s license has changed over the years.
For many of us, it began with taking driver’s education in high school. For me, it started with getting a driving education on a tractor seat when I was in grade school.
Like most farm kids I couldn’t wait until I could drive a tractor. Driving a tractor was an unmistakable mark of manliness, similar to developing chest hair or paying alimony.
I would ride with Dad as he drove our John Deere B, carefully noting every nuance.
I was the proudest 10-year-old alive when the day finally came when Dad told me to drive the B through an open gate for him.
Upon successful completion of this critical mission, I peeked down the front of my T-shirt to see if any chest hairs had sprouted.
By the time I was 12, I was a seasoned tractor driver. Not only had I mastered our Johnny Poppers, I was also adept at piloting our M Farmall, which meant I was bicultural.
So it seemed like a totally natural progression when I was put behind the wheel of our field car, a 1953 Chevy.
My parents were very safety-minded and didn’t let me drive the ’53 until I was tall enough to see over its dashboard.
They also didn’t let me go on any actual roads. I was only allowed to drive across headlands and down field paths.
I think I was given this task based on my willingness – nay, eagerness – to hoof it a mile or more for the thrill of driving a genuine car.
Before long, I was running to town for parts with the old ’53. It occurred that since I was driving on public roads, I should probably have a license.
I checked into the matter and was informed that I couldn’t get a learner’s permit until I was 14.
That was more than a year away. Outrageous. Despite my anger, I was able to pilot the ’53 back home from the courthouse without incident.
I saw this as the hallmark of a mature driver.
The day after I turned 14 I went to the courthouse to take my learner’s permit examination. Even though it was a small town and everyone knew everyone, I had to show my birth certificate to prove what everyone already knew. That’s big government for you.
I was given a written test regarding traffic signs, rules of the road and other falderal.
Years of attending school had honed my skills in the art of studying just enough to pass tests.
Finally it was time for driving part of my exam. The driver exam guy got in on the passenger’s side and said, “OK, what’s the most important thing to do before starting the engine?”
“Pump the gas pedal and either curse or pray. You always need some sort of incantation to get this old thing going.”
“No. You should check your rearview mirrors. Drive to that corner and turn left. What should you always remember when making a turn?”
“Crank the steering wheel and kick the inside brake and you’ll whip around on a dime and get a nickel in change.”
“Wrong again. Always use your turn signal.”
“Why? Everybody already knows where I’m going.”
Despite a few minor misunderstandings, I was issued a learner’s permit – with a heavy emphasis on the “learner” part.
And as I drove legally for the very first time, I could actually feel chest hairs sprouting.
Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
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