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.