F135. The robot at the DMV, cleverly disguised as a woman, assigned that number to my High School Kid on Friday. Actually, we spoke to her twice that afternoon. Note to self: bring original birth certificate, not a copy, to avoid pointless trips to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
F133, Window Twelve chimed an automated female voice. My eyes flicked up to the screen. G100, Window Two. H128, Window Five. While I waited I held Marlee Matlin’s memoir I’ll Scream Later in my lap, but how could I read? The real story starred my fifteen and a half-year old son hurtling down the Coming of Age path.
F134, Window Two. G101, Window Five. H129, Window Eight. The countdown made me squirm. Each new broadcast brought car keys closer to my son’s grasp and his bum nearer to the driver’s seat.
At that moment we were seated on hard, white plastic chairs with a hundred or so fellow Angelinos. Nearby, a young couple whispered excitedly to one another; a man played video games on his phone; a toddler swung his legs back and forth, bored.
I wasn’t bored. G102, Window One. H130, Window Four. F135, Window Ten. Bingo. I nudged my son who was focused on the 2012 Drivers Handbook.
“Let’s go,” I said. “Window ten.”
“Wow, I didn’t even hear them call our number,” he said.
As we stood at the counter, more numbers chimed in the background like a game of Bingo. Present proper paperwork, read eye chart, fork over $31 dollars. You win.
The man behind the counter told my son to place his right thumb against the glass top of a small box to record his print. Huh, that’s new.
He pointed to yet another line. That’s not new. But before I could say cheese, my kid had scrawled his signature on the permit and slid in front of the camera.
“Smile,” I said. He humored me and grinned. Against all odds, he took a decent Drivers License photo (something that has eluded me for decades). Then he moved to the last line to take the written test.
That’s when his smile faded. The area is restricted and its kind of like watching your kid go to school on the first day of kindergarten. You can’t go with. They go it alone.
Gulp. That’s when it struck me. The Coming of Age path image is all wrong. Your teenager doesn’t just go down a road, passing milestones until he or she magically morphs into an Adult. It’s more like playing Bingo. Experiences fill in the spaces of your life and each new one is part of a pattern. No one goes in the same order or gets there at the same time. Part of you is a kid. Part of you is an adult.
“You passed, dude!” the friendly man told my son. My son’s face lit up. Another piece to add to the board.