It’s time. I must get a Tennessee driver’s license and plate today. I am officially 1 day late doing this since Tennessee law requires new residents to get their Tennessee license and plates within 30 days of arriving. In this age of online everything, it’s extremely difficult to get the required documentation to prove that you’re a resident, but I managed to come up with two pieces of acceptable evidence–our lease agreement and a printed statement from the bank.
This is the 4th time I’ve tried to get my license. The first three tries, the lines were too long. Pat went ahead and took care of his two days ago, so now we have a plan as to how to get this annoying necessity taken care of. First, Pat took care of my emissions test for me earlier in the week. Second, we arrive at the Drivers’ Services Center at 8:10AM, 20 minutes before they open, in the hope of being first in line. This did not work out so well–there are already 9 people ahead of us. We stand in the parking lot and watch the other people in line. 3rd in line is a woman with graying hair sitting on a stool outside the door. At about 8:25, a man in a sports jacket and dress pants arrives and greets her. She has been holding a place in line for him.
At 8:33AM, someone finally opens the door. We all file in with the faces of people being sent away to prison. We line up along the wall, forming a square around the room. We celebrate by exchanging silent, happy looks each time a person ahead of us is rejected for not having the right paper work or being in the wrong place–one less person to wait behind when we get to phase 2. But, I feel bad for the graying woman who must have gotten here before 8AM–the man she was waiting for is being relocated here from Mexico by VW. Apparently he didn’t read the memo, because he’s there without the necessary proof of residency. The woman asks him to check his brief case twice to make sure he doesn’t have some document in there that would meet the requirement, but he doesn’t. She says sweetly, “Oh well, we’ll just go to the bank and come right back” in a subtle Southern drawl. But I know what she’s thinking, “You dumb &*#! I waited here for your for over a half an hour so you wouldn’t have to stand in line and you can’t even show up with the &*#^%$@ documents I told you to bring!” Well, that’s what I would have been thinking anyway. 🙂
When we get to the window, the woman checks my documents, makes copies of them, and hands me a form and a number and tells me to go sit in the next room until my number is called. I am prepared for this since Pat went through it two days earlier. We sit down and I fill out my form. It’s now 9:00AM. I pull out my MiFi hot spot and work laptop and get online and start to work. It takes until 10AM before my number is called–partly due to a faulty license printer. By this time, I have finished a presentation I needed to get done before vacation, answered a dozen or so emails, responded to multiple instant messages, and caught up on several administrative tasks. I wonder if I could work from this waiting room every day–I get so much done here!
I walk up and hand the woman my form and other documents. She keys in all the information I’ve written down on the paper. As I watch, I wonder why we couldn’t do that from the web. I ask her if my motorcycle endorsement will transfer and she says “Yes” and circles an “M” on the form without looking at my driver’s license to see if I actually have a motorcycle endorsement or not. Just then, a man walks in carrying a helmet and asks about taking his motorcycle endorsement test. Confirming he has an appointment, she tells him she’ll be with him in just a minute. She finishes up with me and sends me over to wait to have my picture taken.
I stand there remembering my own motorcycle endorsement test. I don’t remember all of it, but I remember the three hardest parts: A slalom through tightly spaced cones at less than 20 MPH, a surprise swerve, and, the killer of those on big bikes, a U-turn at slow speed inside a tight box painted on the pavement. There were 10 people in the group that took the test that day. 3 of us passed: a woman on a 50 cc scooter, a man on a 750 who was taking the test for the third time, and me on my little 250 Kawasaki. I seriously considered staying after and renting out my bike when I saw the next group full of 750s and bigger.
The woman who will take my picture is almost ready and she asks me to sit in the chair. Before she can take my picture, the woman who took my paperwork comes over and I hear her ask the photographer woman, “I’ve got someone here for a motorcycle test. What do I do?” The other woman replies, “Just have him ride up the block a little ways, turn around, and come back.” I find myself wondering how motorcycle death rates compare between Tennessee and Ohio.
After I passed my test that day so many years ago, on my ride back home, I was almost run over 3x. I was happy I knew how to swerve unexpectedly, gear down quickly, and to always have an alternate plan for escape from such situations. By the time I got home, I was also happy that I’d made the decision to trade in my Kawasaki for a 1340 Harley Dyna low rider. Although it was a few more weeks before I got my Harley, when I finally did, the noise and size kept me in drivers’ sights far more frequently than when I was on the Kaw. However, the Kaw was a life saver for the endorsement test–I never would have passed with the rake angle on the low rider. I couldn’t turn that thing around on a 2-lane road, let alone inside the box required by the state of Ohio. Sigh. Those were the days!
The woman at the Drivers’ Service Center hands me my new Tennessee Driver’s license. I look it over. It’s not as colorful as my old Ohio license, but I can’t compare side-by-side because they took my Ohio license from me. Although I’ve lived in other places for a few months at a time in the past, I’ve never become a resident of another state before. I am suddenly struck by the officialness of having a driver’s license and it being from another state. I guess I am a Tennessian–or whatever we’re called. After putting away my new license, I gather up my things and Pat and I walk outside. Pat drives me to transfer my title and get my new license plate (there’s only a rear plate in Tennessee), which, amazingly takes less than 10 minutes. As he rushes me back to my home office for my next conference call, I suddenly realize that I haven’t driven a car in Chattanooga once yet. Oh well, at least I can if I need to!