Monday, June 11, 2012

Department of Public Safety

I like that one "surrenders" an out of state driver's license. You can't "exchange" or "trade" or "swap" it for an in-state equivalent. You don't use any latinate alchemy talk to express how with just some paperwork and an eye exam, poof, your perfectly good Iowa license is gone and a slick new Texas one appears in its place. No, you surrender. You admit to your lawlessness; you concede you are outgunned and you submit to Texasthough, I like to think, with the understanding that you put up a good fight first. The DMV is a strangely combative place, and I like that they have a language of appropriate hostility and domination to go with it.

There is no DMV in Texas. If you've never had a particularly positive experience at the Department of Motor Vehicles, that may sound like some kind of advance, an abolishment of note, a sort of "The Wicked Witch is dead!" event. But of course it's nothing so momentous. You can still plan on giving up half a day to stand in unfathomably long lines at a drab government waiting room hoping someone will be in the mood to give you a driver's license; in Texas, you'll just do all that at the Department of Public Safety. Everything will seem familiarly routine, except for maybe at the end, when the woman with the clip-on earrings who has just said you are this close to getting a vision restriction on your record now signs and stamps and files everything away and you ask, "Is that it?" Because it will surprise you how warmly she tells you, "Welcome to Texas," and it will startle you that, indeed, you genuinely feel welcomed.

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