We all have one or two bureaucracy related stories, the ones that make our hair curl just thinking about them again. Mine has to do with moving back to Italy and trying to establish residency (something that is compulsory to be a fully compliant Italian citizen) and having to explain to a city employee that the reason I did not have a valid Italian id was because I had lived abroad for many years. She was undaunted “But how can you prove to me that you live where you say you live?” After going around in circles for a while, much to the annoyance of the people in line behind me, we reached the compromise that she would dispatch a traffic cop to my apartment to make sure I actually lived there. The whole plan backfired when I wasn’t home, the cop showed up and talked to the only neighbor who had no idea who the heck I was. Residency denied.
But today, I am happy to report, I witnessed my tax money put to good use. The DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) conjures images of Dante’s hell and any respectable American views a visit to one of the field offices with the same enthusiasm he would have for a root canal. After renewing my license three times in a row by mail, the DMV had decided I had aged enough to need a new photograph so with dread I made the appointment on-line and showed up early. What was I thinking?
As soon as I walked into the third circle of hell, I was greeted by the sight of hundreds of people sitting on uncomfortable plastic chairs staring at blue screens filled with numbers and by a soothing voice proclaiming that number G405 was being served at window 5. I proceeded to the appointment window where a pleasant lady told me a little story about her son, apropos of nothing having to do with my license renewal. I barely had time to lay my butt on my very own plastic chair that my number was called – money exchanged hands, I was given a vision test and swiftly moved on to the camera man.
Someone at the Santa Monica DMV must be a huge Lakers fan and I was impressed that a government office was papered wall to wall with Lakers newspaper clippings, gold and purple streamers, posters and assorted memorabilia. While in line to take another hideous mug I will be stuck with for the next 15 years, a voice behind me asked if I wore contact lenses. I turned around to see the cutest blonde, blue-eyed guy I had come across in a while and wondered if his question was a pick up line. “You breezed through that eye test! I missed two letters and nearly failed” he added. If he was trying to flatter me, mission accomplished – it doesn’t take much these days. We talked about glasses until my turn came to pose for the camera. The whole experience took exact 10 minutes from start to finish. I couldn’t believe the efficiency and I was even picked up by a cutie to boot. Come to think of it, maybe he was just impressed that someone so old would have such good eyesight. Never mind – I am sticking to the pick-up story.