I wrote lots here about ceaseless visits to the Department of Motor Vehicles with number one son, who like his mother, encountered some hurdles on the path to becoming a licensed driver. Now it seems like the boy has been driving forever and when he leaves for college I am demoted back to chauffeur duty for Spuds who it seems has an inordinate number of places to go. When it is determined that proximity to my office is insufficient reason for him to remain at the behemoth and miserable Marshall High School Spuds is told that he can return to the far flung charter in Pasadena with the proviso that he become self transporting as soon as possible.
I hadn't hustled Spuds off to the DMV when he is first eligible for a learning permit at age 15 ½, thinking he'd be at school near my office. He is fully 16, plus three weeks, on the day of his appointment. I navigate the Lincoln Heights office like a pro. I know the short cut and the location of street parking. I have our documents in perfect order. I quiz Spuds on the sample test and he seems to have mastered the material. I am chill and thinking maybe that history won't repeat itself. Spud's number is called and the clerk is astoundingly spaced out and wearing the tightest pair of black spandex pants I have ever seen. I presume that processing a learner's permit is not outside of the usual parvenu of clerical functions but our lady is utterly stymied and asks other employees for assistance, which is provided, albeit noticeably grudgingly, several times. She remonstrates me and says I shouldn't let Spuds drive until he is eighteen and asks for payment twice and glares at me suspiciously when I tell her that I've already paid.
The application is finally complete and Spuds is sent to be photographed and tested. His hair is sticking up and I feel bad that he'll be stuck indefinitely with this photo but I keep my mouth shut. He passes the exam and is issued a permit. He notices his name is spelled incorrectly and returns to the window. The application is voided and then corrected and he is photographed again before I get a chance to address the cowlick. We are almost home when he notices that his permit indicates that he is a female. We return to the DMV. The original clerk chastises Spuds, who being stressed out about the pending test, did not check the application for errors, She tells Spuds he'll have to return another day and begin the whole application process again but a supervisor steps in and helps a different clerk override the archaic software. They spend about forty five minutes processing the application manually during which time I am able to discreetly smooth Spud's hair with some spit. He notices himself that the third photograph is far superior.
We are encouraged to fill in a complaint form and I get the impression that there have been other issues with the befuddled clerk. I describe her incompetence but do not mention the camel toe. I request an additional form to file a compliment for the two employees who take it upon themselves to rectify the problem and commend their courtesy and professionalism. It seems labor unions make it just as difficult to acknowledge a superior employee as to fire an incompetent one. Unions still play the proletarian card and have concertedly maintained visibility within the Occupy Movement. The embrace of the Occupy Movement may just be a smokescreen to conceal organized labor's culpability for the number of politicians who are beholden to union coffers. Still, there is a ton of documentation, particularly in the food service industry, that workers who are not protected by a union are exploited appallingly. It is unfortunate that the funds and energy that are expended ostensibly for the protection of selected groups of workers can't be spread equally to insure the protection of all employees. I am unsure about the future of organized labor in this country but I do know with great certainty that lessening government regulation of business does not bode well at all for union members and non-members alike.
Finally, Spuds has a legitimate and accurate learner's permit and the ramifications of this start to sink in. I love it that his older brother can drive and I have availed myself of this as much as possible often as shamelessly as “Go pick up a gallon of milk so I can remain prone on the sofa watching Teen Mom.” My mother admonished me to drive safely even when she no longer remembered my name. I doubt I will ever be at perfect peace when I know that one of my sons is behind the wheel of a car. I remember squeezing the shoulder harness strap until I lost feeling in my hand while practicing with my previous student driver and here I am again. I do love the freedom of not having to transport them hither and yon but I dread hours in the passenger seat training another new driver and the doubling of the “kid out driving among the potentially insane” angst after he gets his license.
Joe College returns for the celebration of his 19th birthday for which we will use a Groupon and not buy his preferred Baskin Robbins Ice cream cake because the icing has the mouth feel of Crisco. I still can't get used to the table set with only three places. When Spuds starts motoring the house will be even emptier and I won't be able to beg him as frequently to neglect his homework and watch TV with me. While I am a prime candidate for major maladjustment to empty nest it does warm me to witness the satisfaction and increased self confidence they reap from their growing independence. When I dropped the boy at college I was elated but felt also an undercurrent of fear about what will await him in four years. I envisioned him returning defeated, with a degree, debt and no prospects, to Casamurphy like so many of my friends' kids who have ended up back at home post-graduation. Now I'm a bit more sanguine as it seems the world is waking up to what's really wrong. The message widely disseminated and is apparently sinking in, proving that Facebook is good for more than stalking ex-boyfriends and looking at cute pet tricks.
The boy's birthday present is a contraption that will play the hundreds of our old vinyl records that he rescued from our garage sale and transfer them to his I-Pod. The boy is cynical about the newly burgeoning protest movement and while he is mad about vinyl he is unsentimental about schlepping back to Redlands crates of the same records I dragged there when I started college myself. I don't really miss albums. They scratch and warp and take up a lot of space although I did gift a comedian friend with the observation that it is difficult to clean a lid on an MP3. I hauled my records and stereo to college in 1974. The Vietnam War had just ended, largely due to a grassroots protest movement similar in origin and spirit to the Occupiers. We met every Wednesday at Johnston College for community meetings. We'd ended a war. Well, in truth it was folks a bit older than I was, although having co-opted their fashion sense and music so I thought I could take credit for the war too. We thought we could do anything and that what we said was important. During the eighties I was embarrassed by this hubris but having a kid who feels ineffectual and hopeless I guess it wasn't really so bad to feel that way. I hope my son's sense of possibility is kindled. I've tried talking to him about the significance of the Occupy movement and how genuine change could brighten his own future but as a parent I have no credibility. Maybe some of my old Dylan and Phil Ochs albums will do the trick. If nothing else he'll make the discovery that marijuana used to come with seeds.