Except this time

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #117: except

Does anything ever go the way we expect? Notice that expect and except have the same letters, with a slight twist. Look forward to seeing where this prompt takes you.


Before March 2020, I would have answered V.J.’s question quite differently. Life was plodding along…as expected…for the most part. And I must admit I took it for granted and sometimes whined (mostly privately, but not always) about how monotonous everyday activities and plans sometimes were.

Not to say that I wasn’t enjoying my retirement and new adventures in writing, photography and blogging – because I was – very much so. But, you know, same old same old.

Now it’s a different story. Exception defines most days…right down to the minutia.

I will share one example.

Driver’s license renewal time came and went in the Spring – put off due to the state wide shut down. Okay, I was fine with that. I applied for and was mailed a temporary license that expired in October. I was fine with that too.

Since I needed to convert to the Real ID license format, I would eventually have to appear in person. Again, that was okay with me.

Renewing a driver’s license (every 4 years) has always been easy.

Except this time.

In August I called the NH Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to make the required appointment – online not allowed – and after a 30 minute hold (totally expected), connected with a nice lady who set up a date and time. Her advice: Don’t come too early. Mmm..that’s different.

I arrived at one of the (only) four open DMV locations at exactly 12:50PM (for a 1PM appointment) on a sunny Wednesday in September. Clutching my passport, temporary license, social security card and mortgage statement, I had proof of who I was…although these days I’m sometimes not sure who that is anymore. Mask in place. So far so good. I walked across the parking lot and followed the one-way arrows up the ramp to the entrance.

The door was locked.

That’s when confusion set in. Not what I expected. What the? A few other masked citizens were milling around – staying away from each other – muffled voices asking the obvious. What’s going on? Why are the doors locked? Nobody had an answer.

So we all stood patiently. Waiting. Reading the yellowing signs on the doors about Covid-19 transmission and using hand sanitizer and masks and distancing. Nothing about why the doors were locked.

At exactly 1PM, the door opened and a woman with a DMV badge stepped outside holding a clipboard. She began shouting names from a printed list. Ostensibly those with an appointment around 1:00. I marched over after hearing my name called. A small group of us obediently lined up – spaced about 6 feet apart. I’m thinking to myself this is so weird…

And then Weird jumped to a whole new level when the woman with the clipboard started shouting again…

Does anyone have these symptoms? Fever? Shortness of Breath? Loss of taste or smell? Cough? Runny Nose? Sore Throat? Vomiting? Diarrhea?

Diarrhea? I am standing outside under a bright blue sky with a group of strangers – all here for a driver’s license or to register a car – and we are disclosing whether or not we have diarrhea. I know it could be a symptom of Covid, but seriously? And who is really going to answer any of those questions – in public – in the affirmative? It was one monotone No after another.

Even after six months experiencing the pandemic, this was NOT going the way I expected. After we all declared ourselves free of digestive and respiratory difficulties, we entered the inner sanctum of the DMV.

First the eye test.
Check-in Lady: Look in the machine. You don’t have to touch your face to it now.
Me: But it’s a bit wavy standing back.
Lady: It’s okay – what can you read?
Me: Um..the middle row has JRDL I think.
Lady: Great! You passed.

I was given a number and took a seat in the waiting area for the next step in the process.

It did not take long…

First the Review of Paperwork. I held my breath, hoping it all passed inspection and matched as I thought it should. It did.

And then…The New Photograph.

Lady at the desk behind the plexiglass: Stand over there and remove your mask. Look at the lower red light.
I attempted a smile. She let me review the photo on the screen. Oh my. I looked positively manic. Eyes popped wide open. Mouth stretched into what could be mistaken for the prelude to a scream. And I thought I was smiling.
Me: Well, I look a little tense.
L.A.T.D.: I’ll take another one.
I attempted to smile less tensely.
L.A.T.D.: Well what do you think of that one? Do you want another try?

I experienced a remarkable cosmic shift moment as I stared at my reflection. Even though the paperwork all proved I was who I said I was, this photo did not. Or did it?
It was then I decided that the face staring back at me from the screen was a perfect illustration of all that had gone on since March.

Me: No, that one is fine, thanks.

For decades I have always held out for a more flattering photo at the DMV.

Except this time.

I will own my authentic Pandemic Photo until 2024 when license renewal happens again.

A 2020 memorable “Portrait In Time” when exceptions ruled.

It will also most likely match my expression the next time I pass through the TSA checkpoint at the airport.

23 thoughts on “Except this time

  1. For those over 65, whose licenses expire before the end of the year, licenses have been automatically extended for one additional year. I wonder how our DMV will do when all those extended licenses come due!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. BRAVO! BRAVO! This is a fabulous write, Andrea…I was hanging on every “next thing”, completely sympathetic/empathetic…and some parts were amusing, though “dry humor” or bittersweet would better describe. You’re so right that “expect” and “except” are different animals these days…there isn’t much left that’s “same-o, same-o”. I’m frankly astounded that you’d have to answer to ‘personal’ symptoms–aloud, in front of strangers. There are laws against public humiliation in most/many jurisdictions…which begs the question: in a time of pandemic do we lose rights of respect and sensitivity, written in statutes?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Leslie. It did get to the point of numbness about what obviously are personal questions. It was like we were all on automatic – so used to those questions by now that the privacy piece of it was lost. The most important part is staying safe – which I totally get. But relying on answers to publicly asked questions doesn’t make me feel any safer. It was just so bizarre. So very unreal. Like everything else. Later I realized I hadn’t been as astonished as I would have been before the pandemic (and that in and of itself made me stop and take notice). I then had to just find a laugh somewhere in it. I have no idea what laws may be out there, but I think people are just tired and want to get to where they are going.


      1. I agree with you–we’re numbed, tired…and the best recourse is to find the humor! πŸ™‚ I’m having a cranky day…still searching for a laugh as I chow down on Oreos like it’s my last meal πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  3. As if anyone would answer yes to any of those questions publically, and be sent home…Loved your storytelling 😊 My driver’s license is up for renewal end of this month, and we are allowed to renew for our regular 5 years with our current photo. It just so happens my current photo is one of the best D.L. photos I’ve ever had, so I’m quite happy. I just hope I’m not stopped and asked for my ID, they might not believe it is meπŸ˜„

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Heather πŸ™‚ Yes, nobody would answer those questions and then be sent home. It’s so ridiculous. We all operate implicitly trusting (or not) each other to do the right thing. Time will tell if that trust was deserved. That’s great you can keep your current photo and if anyone ever questions if it’s really you, shame on them!! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Are you sure it wasn’t your weird new-length hair, sloppy scarf, dirt-stained shirt and broken glasses? You know, all the things we’re not bothering to get around to as the COVID days go by? But seriously, I’m not sure anyone but a photographer would think of capturing that moment in time for posterity!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, your description of an alternate scenario would certainly have added another aspect to the scene. πŸ˜‰
      Perhaps you’re right…only a photographer…. As I see it – there are times when photographs tell the story that words can’t fully express.


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