The Right Word


For 46 years my driver’s license has described me as having brown eyes and brown hair. That changed last week when I went to the DMV to renew my license.

I was not looking forward to the experience. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to actually go to the DMV office; my previous several renewals were all done by mail. Even so, I remembered my last DMV experience as a dismal wait followed by intractable bureaucracy.

This time, having no option, I went online and made an appointment. On the chosen day, I checked in at the front desk, clutching a paperback novel, prepared for a long wait.

I was amazed when my number was called almost immediately. The clerk I was assigned was friendly and even had a sense of humor – for a DMV clerk. After reviewing my paperwork, he deadpanned he couldn’t process my license because I was wanted in three states.

I told him the convictions had all been overturned and we moved on.

Things got serious quickly when he asked me, “Are there any changes to the information on your license?”

When I said, “No,” he looked up at me.

“What about hair color?” he asked.

“What about it?” I said. “There’s still brown in there.”

“Not much,” he replied.

My wife had previously suggested I try “salt and pepper.” I was pretty sure that wasn’t an option. And now I was under the direct glare of a DMV clerk.

We held each other’s gaze for a few moments, but I surrendered first.

“Fine. Call it gray,” I said.

“There. That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“No. Does your license say bald?”

I didn’t actually say that, but I thought it.

After that, I stood in a line for a new photo – which they insisted on taking with me not wearing my glasses – and the whole ordeal came to an end.

And, to be fair, it really wasn’t much of an ordeal . . . except for the hair color thing. The entire process took less than a half-hour and everyone I dealt with was pleasant and professional.

I just hope, when my new license arrives, people will recognize me without my glasses and with a new hair color.

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