Motor Vehicle Divisions

Recently, I went to the Motor Vehicle Division to get an Arizona driver's license, and, much to my surprise, it was a smooth and painless procedure. Even with my expired out-of-state license, I was in and out of there in about an hour, new license in hand. No test; no eye chart; just a little waiting. My heavily digitized signature looks more like "Darryl Krebbs" than "David Kish," but I couldn't be happier with my license photo. Again: surprising. There I am pictured with a nice big smile, ready to impress any future cop who may hold my fate in his or her hands.

Folks in Virginia no longer have that luxury: the luxury of smiling for a driver's license photo, that is. According to The Washington Post, new security technology requires potential drivers to maintain a "neutral expression" for the photo; no teeth may show. Virginians must pose as if they are having a mug shot taken.Their new state slogan may as well be: "Virginia is for Frustrated Lovers."

I never got a license in Virginia, but I have held licenses from five states, including Pennsylvania, where I somehow passed the road test in a 1963 Chevy Impala. I remember weaving between cones in that boat, and how the officer next to me wildly swayed back and forth in the sofa-sized bench seat. (I also remember the transmission falling out at my senior prom, and my uncle towing my date and I home with his gas-company truck! Damn that beautiful car!)

The California written exam was truly absurd; I nearly failed it. (Aren't tests always absurd when you nearly fail them?) Most of the questions were about child seats, and all of them were so extreme in their safety-obsession that it was really hard for a reasonable person to guess the right answer. For example, if the question were: When driving 45 mph on a wet road, what distance should you keep between you and the car in front of you? Then the answer, of course, would be E) At least two states. I managed to acquire that California license, which was good, because in California, driving is more of a duty than a privilege.

Shortly thereafter, L.A. High School gangsters stole a car, went for a joy ride and crashed in my front yard. When the cops came, my neighbors and I all clammed up. I remember thinking, that would have been a much more useful question: When gang members crash in your front yard, what should you do? A) Give the cops a detailed description including which way they ran. Or, B) Shut the hell up. Seriously, the safer answer is B!