Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
Thursday 10:12 am . . .
Our Mongolian book collectors are tied up at the moment. We’ve been informed that they’re sitting in a Federal Detention Center, in Seagoville, which is right outside of Dallas. They’ll be there pending an investigation by INS into their recent activities in the US during the last few months. Apparently, they’re here on expired work visas, and have worn out their welcome. And unless they manage to stage an uprising in the next few weeks, they’ll be shipped back to China.
Billtruck had a good laugh as he told us that he had been watching from satellite as it all went down. He’s even going to make us a tape where we can dub in our clever comments. Hal thinks we took ‘irrationally absent-minded, juvenile risks’ in our dealings with the Mongolians.
Ms. Josephine was so tired from debunking the floating blue people, that she dismissed our parking lot event with the wave of a hand. “Boys will be boys,” she said as she recorded her notes into her workstation.
Turns out the glowing blue people that crossed through their yard was actually a neighbor down the street who is in his early seventies, likes to wear a powder blue dress, and has a hard time remembering that he’s a man, and not Gretta Garbo. Ricky says that neither of us win the bet, but I’m pretty sure I just got screwed out of a pizza.
Anyway, I had my driver’s test to prepare for, so we spent most of Wednesday on my specific techniques. I probably parallel parked about 2,000 times. I can almost do it with my eyes closed.
Ricky and I even practiced high-speed breaking and J-turns—that’s where you go really fast in reverse, then turn the wheel and hit the brakes to bring the car sliding around like in the movies. And, though I doubt I will ever, in a million years, find a reason to do this maneuver, Ricky says we’ll have it our repertoire.
Angela called me Wednesday afternoon. Our conversation was strange, almost as if I was only talking to half of her. The other parts of her personality were distant. Lost somewhere. This thing with Jesse, it’s really taken its toll on her.
She told me about the funeral, when and where it would be held, and asked if I would go with her. And, I know this sounds mean, but . . . I told her that I would feel out of place. Especially after the other day at the bookstore. I told her I didn’t belong.
“Just go there with me, Jack. For me,” she said as she started to cry. I hate it when girls cry, even when it’s not because of something I did—which isn’t often.
In the end I agreed to take her. It’s on Saturday morning, so with any luck, I should have my driver’s license by then. I’ve already taken the computer exam, and aced it with a 96 %. The D.P.S. lady in line said that I did wonderful. And even as the words were coming out of her mouth, Ricky is behind me rolling his eyes.
Right now I’m just waiting for them to call my name and I’ll meet some Driving Test Administrator at the curb out front. I didn’t like the idea of using Ricky’s Porsche Cayenne for the test because I didn’t want the Administrator guy to think I was a rich jerk who just cruises through life. The fact that I’m in my mid-30s and just now getting around to obtaining my driver’s license is cause enough to raise those kinds of suspect thoughts.
“ . . . Jack Pagan, Jack Pagan, please make your way to the test area in the front of the building.”
That’s me, I say to Ricky.
“Unless there are other Jack Pagans here in the great city of Dallas,” Ricky says, glancing around as if there might be another me. Ricky is just full of shenanigans, lately. I think it’s his way of dealing with stress.
He hands me the keys to the Porsche, “Just like we practiced, Jack.”
No! I tell him. Nothing like we practiced. I need to pass this thing.
And then I walk out into the hot Texas sun. I have all kinds of rules going around in my head as I approach the curb. This short woman, thin as a rail looks up from behind thick bi-focal glasses. Her hair is yellow, bordering on green, and it’s pulled back in a kind of ponytail with loose strands of hair falling down to her white and pink blouse. More of an effort at a ponytail, really.
She looks up at me, “You must be . . . ” she looks down, and the sun is focused through her glasses into two super-white dots on the clipboard, and at any moment I think the paper is going to burst into flames. I bet she killed lots of ants when she was younger. She looks like the kind of woman who would do that.
I’m Jack Pagan, I say thoughtfully. I’m here for my—
“ . . . oh, right. Well,” she looks out at the parking lot, “where are you parked?” Her voice is pleasant. Kind of soft and innocent. Maybe she didn’t kill all those helpless bugs.
She tells me her name is Janet. She doesn’t give me a last name, not because she’s pretentious or anything. Just kind of simple. So, Janet and I, we make our way to the Porsche. I feel like I have to apologize for the luxury of the SUV.
All I can think to say is, “I’m not a snob or anything . . . ”
She laughs, “Oh, I have guys who come in here, stuck in their mid-life crisis, and they have their Corvettes all polished. And you know what they do, they hit on me the whole time I’m grading their driving performance. Some of them actually fail the test in order to see me again.”
Well, I say, I have a girlfriend. Although, technically we haven’t used the words girlfriend and boyfriend, yet. But, you know what I mean. So you don’t have to worry about me. I’m just trying to get my license so I can be a productive member of society, instead of a drain on its social infrastructure.
“Wow,” she says with a giggle. “Did you memorize that to impress me?”
She smiled, “Don’t you worry, Mr. Pagan. If you put half the effort into your driving as you do your preparation, you should do just fine.”
Well, I told her, I put at least half the effort. Maybe even sixty-five percent.
She laughed. I let her into the passenger’s side of the truck and we took a ten minute course where I performed several left hand turns, a few rights, two stop lights, three stop signs, and even a blinking yellow light near a railroad track. I yielded correctly. I maintained a safe speed. And when it came time, I nailed my parallel parking.
Funny thing was, she told me that I didn’t even have to pass the parallel parking because I had done so well, already. I told her that I wouldn’t have felt right about getting the license without it.
We actually had a pleasant time. Janet was very nice, she smiled a lot, and I realized that there are good people in this world. I’m so glad there weren’t spooks following her. They would have been really distracting during the exam.
When we made it back to the DMV, I parked and we walked back into the building. I was glancing over her shoulder at the clipboard and she caught me, holding it to her chest. “Mr. Pagan, you passed with flying colors. But I’m not, by law, allowed to show you my test sheet.”
Yes, of course, I said. I wouldn’t want to jinx it or anything.
We entered the building, getting almost knocked back by the blanket of cold air that met us. Ricky was talking to some attractive blond girl that was waiting for her turn to get her license renewed. She’s nothing but blushing smiles, in some trance, as I give Ricky the good news.
As I’m recounting the excitement of my test, she’s just kind of smiling at him, twirling one of our ALG business cards between her fingers. And I know, for sure, that at some point in the not to distant future, she’ll be slinking around the loft at about 2 am., wearing nothing but one of his long t-shirts, looking for something to drink.
“Jack, this is Keri,” Ricky says.
That’s Janet, I say. She was my test examiner. She says I passed.
Keri, with her thin bone structure and greyish-green eyes, she says, “Nice to meet you, Jack.”
Janet waves at Ricky, “You have a nice vehicle.”
“Thanks,” Ricky says, “you’re doing a great service to all mankind by giving him a license.”
My eyes are going back and forth, not sure what the pecking order of politeness is at this point.
“Jack,” Janet says, “if you’ll just come with me.”
Yes, of course.
Ricky and Keri, they’re making pre-sexual intercourse eyes. They may not even know they are, but I know. Before they start making out I head off with Janet to get my picture taken. I’m about to be given carte blanch to negotiate the mean streets of . . . everywhere.
Today is a great victory for me.
After my picture, I’m waiting for my temporary paperwork. Apparently I won’t be leaving with my actual ID card. They’ll send it to me in the mail in the next five to seven working days.
While I’m waiting for Ricky I feel my phone vibrating. I pick it up and it’s Hal. Yeah, Hal. The computer wanted to know if I passed my driver’s test. Of course, he already knew, because he hacked the DMV, but he just figured I’d appreciate the thought. Hal seems to care more about my future than my so-called brother. Silly computer.
I’m not sure if that’s a reflection of my being a lonely loser, or my friends thinking I’m one.