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Face-off at the DMV

By tonyrussell - Posted on 24 June 2014

  I took Kevin to the DMV yesterday to get his learners permit.  I’d planned on sleeping in, but Patty roused us at 7.  “It could take most of the morning,” she said, “and you’ll never get the grass cut if you sleep in.”  She seemed to believe that was a negative.


We got there early, before the doors opened, but two dozen people were already ahead of us.  We slowly worked our way toward the front of the line, and were almost there by 10 am.  I’d read the sports section of the paper twice, and Kevin stayed busy texting on his phone.  But then things took an odd turn.  


The lady in front of us had been dragging a box full of files behind her as she moved along, although I couldn’t see a strap or rope attached to it.  When she finished at the counter and started to walk away, I yelled after her, “Ma’am, you’ve forgotten your files!”


She turned and glanced at the box, looking puzzled.  “You’re mistaken,” she said.  “That’s not mine.”  And she left.


“Huh,” I said.  “Surely that wasn’t moving itself.”  And just at that instant, the file box gave a lurch and leaped to the counter, while Kevin and I stared, astonished.  The clerk, however--who must have seen almost everything by now--simply asked, “Do you have your birth certificate?” in a bored tone.


“Uh, I have this charter of incorporation,” said a muffled voice, as the box ejected a thick file.  


The clerk barely glanced at it.  “We require an official, certified birth certificate,” she said, handing it back.  She stared past it to us. “Next.”


Kevin and I started to step forward, but the file box didn’t give up that easily.  “According to the Supreme Court,” it said, “a corporation is legally a person.  Do I need to get my lawyers?”


She glared at it and waved a supervisor over.  He pulled her aside, and the two of them huddled for a heated conversation.  We couldn’t hear what they were saying, but she was clearly agitated, while the supervisor seemed to be trying to explain some technicalities to her.


Kevin leaned close to me and whispered, “Why does it need a driver’s license anyway?”


“It drives the economy,” I whispered back.  “And the nation’s political agenda.  I don’t know how it’s been managing this long without a license.  It’s lucky it didn’t get pulled over.”


“Oh, now I get it.  I see what you’re saying,” he said.  “It drives global warming, too.  All kinds of things, I bet.  I wonder what kind of drivers exam it has to pass.  You wouldn’t think they’d give it the same test the rest of us take.”


“Maybe it gets a commercial license,” I offered.


Just then the clerk returned to the counter, and she was clearly in a bad mood.  “We have to accept your charter of incorporation as a form of birth certificate,” she told it reluctantly.  “Let’s get the rest of the required information.  What were your parents’ names?”


It flipped to the back of the charter and waved a list of corporate officers.


“All of these people are your parents?” she said incredulously, as if she were dealing with some alien life form. 


“Just list the first two,” it said curtly.


“Charles and David?  But they’re brothers!”


“What’s the difference?” it said, obviously irritated.  “Take it up with the Court.”


She went down the page.  “What’s your date of birth?”


It flipped to another page.  “Right here:  Conglomerate.  Founded in 1940.”


“Height and weight?  What color are your eyes?”


It glared at her.  “I’m a legal fiction.  I don’t have any real substance.  How can I have height and weight and eye coloration?”


“I can’t write down that you weigh zero pounds and have no eyes.  That means you’re too small to get behind the wheel and legally blind.”


“I don’t need to see where I’m going.  All I care about is the bottom line.  Everything else is beside the point.”


“We can’t turn somebody with no vision and no conscience loose on the highway!” she exclaimed.  “That would be dangerous.  Irresponsible.  Criminal!”


“Look,” it said, “I’ve been cleared to manipulate the leadership of the entire country, steer the economy, handle defense contracts for trillions of dollars of military hardware, market billions of pounds of pesticides, clear forests for strip malls, manufacture and sell drugs, and frack for oil in the middle of your water supply.  And you’re going to give me grief over a driver’s license?  I don’t think so.”


“Think what you want,” snorted the clerk, “but you’re not getting a driver’s license as long as I’m standing here.”


And then one of those unexpected magic moments occurred.  While the file folder threw a tizzy and blew out the door, loose papers flying like trash in a windstorm, everyone in the office began clapping, and together we let out a cheer for an ordinary clerk in the DMV, who had more gumption and common sense than the majority of the justices on our country’s highest court.


© Tony Russell, 2014

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