Harbingers of whatever it was that Kafka was trying to tell us

A trip to the DMV is a metaphysical alteration the likes of which only a hard drug could provide. And as an added bonus, the experience is subsidized by the government!

I showed up with the boy to get his learner’s permit with expectations so low, they were roiling in magma. It wasn’t the kid’s game that worried us. He was locked and loaded, all ready to bag a learner’s permit. No, it was the idea that he would probably be graduating college by the time we got out of there.

Our ticket read B391 and was followed with the dubious promise that “We will be with you momentarily.” This is relative since the DMV measures time glacially. Epochs are written into history in less time than it takes to have your number called. In a DMV, time doesn’t stand still, it succumbs to blunt force trauma.

“B357!” Came a disembodied voice, signalling our hopeless descent into obsolescence. We scanned the waiting area for a couple seats but every single one of them was dressed in pissed off faces. It was a brilliant landscape of bright red Phillies caps and Old Navy dominance. Seriously, if the US Navy could sell the way Old Navy does, they’d have to set up traffic lights across the seven seas.

My personal favorite was the guy sporting a “Winning” t-shirt. Everyone else got refunds on the Charlie Tour, but this guy? He bought a t-shirt. I felt like asking him what he was thinking, but then I remembered that awful prison cage scene in Silence of the Lambs and thought better of it.


“David Justice.” I say in response to a game my son and I play when waiting in line. We take the turns remaining and come up with a professional athlete’s jersey number.

The numbers keep plodding along, “B368!”

We chime in with “Don Mattingly” before turning our social commentary to body art- the new social billboards of a fenced in world, we agree. It’s an identifying symbol, a personal testimony to love, sports, reptilian worship, dates, scripture, song titles, slogans and personal mottoes. Back in the day, tattoos were reserved for servicemen, ex cons and people who blacked out while partying too hard. Today, everyone has a piece of body art excepting for serial killers still on the loose and Ann Curry.

I happen to notice an inordinate number of surveillance cameras sucking up ceiling space. You know, just in case some badass named Penndot robs the place and makes off with a shitload of checks and money orders bearing his name.


“Paul O’Neill.”

“Hey, if you combined an airport terminal, a deli counter and a Walmart, this is what you would get.” My son observes after perusing the joint. I couldn’t be more proud if he would have told me he was dating Miley Cyrus for her money. “B377!” . . . Robinson Cano.

I checklist our items just to make certain we’re good to go when our number is called, lest we be sent to the back of the line- otherwise known as death. I borrow a pen from the counter in order to better acquaint his date of birth with something legible . . “B383”  . . . Yogi Berra.

I’m thinking Yogi would’ve shared my thoughts when it comes to pens on chains. The poor things. Chained up for the rest of their inky lives while their free range counterparts go lost in the wilds only minutes after being purchased.


We shuffle up to Counter 3 with the delicate abandon of marathon winners. Vision test . . check. Fifty seven forms of identification . . check. Forced small talk with “Frank”, whose skin gives off the appearance of shrink wrapped tempura on account of his bad romance with the sun . . check.

When the moment of truth arrives, I turn to my son  “Do you remember the time you ran over your mother’s rose garden with your ten speed?”


“I do, so if you know what’s good for you . . get it done.” He walks away laughing, no idea as to how very serious I am.

When it’s over, he’s wearing a Cheshire smile. “15 out of 15.” We exchange knuckle taps before heading back to Mr. Clambake in order to make it official. Which it’s not, yet. Hey, if Brokaw can take back Florida’s electoral votes, it’s not out of the realm that my son’s test score can be junked too.

“Congratulations, young man” Belches Red Lobster, infusing the air with the stale aroma of Funyons and Dr. Pepper. I peruse the brand spanking new permit which allows my son to drive with a responsible adult and the thought occurs to me. Too bad Evil Knievel’s dead.



4 thoughts on “Harbingers of whatever it was that Kafka was trying to tell us

  1. “We will be with you momentarily.”

    An interesting perversion of structure. I assume that it’s meant to imply “we will be with you IN a moment” — whereas it is actually saying “we will be with you FOR a moment”

    Anyway neither is true as the queue was clearly long enough to circumscribe the globe and the encounter was clearly going to require a mass of bureaucracy.

    Nice piece!

  2. RJ- As far as structural perversions are concerned, the DMV has got it covered. Let’s drink to that some day. As a starting point, anyway. Thanks Maestro.

    Simone- Thank you Miss Dragonfly. Yes, I was chowing down on my Kafka cupcake whilst the boy was busy pretending to have it in the bag.

    Sara- Hey mama. Yanno, I was so nervous on my permit test that I wrote down my birth date rather than the actual date. Lucky for me, the person who signed off on my license to thrill was . . .yes . . . born yesterday. Sorry, I had to.

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