Rarely before in mankind's history has there been a place as cruel and wretched as the Department of Motor Vehicles. I awoke last Monday filled with zeal and the determination to, after nearly eighteen years, enter the world of automobile operation by taking my learner's permit test. Eager to begin my journey, I threw on what I hoped would be a flattering shirt for an ID picture, hopped on my favorite bus, (the 71c Shadyside) and made my way downtown.
I marched in the front door, warmly greeted the security guard, noted the "Now Serving E15" sign, and confidently stepped into the main office, ready to take my test. My enthusiasm was quickly quashed as I grabbed a small piece of paper with "F95" on it. I felt the flimsy tan slip of paper, and it was in that instant that I realized my day had been sacrificed up to the gods of bureaucracy and inefficiency. I would be hard pressed to find a way to salvage it.
I tried to study my learner's permit materials but found myself passing my eyes over the information without reading it. I turned to solitaire on my cell phone but again I was left with an intense and immediate sense of restlessness and the sign only read "Now Serving E30." Desperate for some form of mental stimulation, I read every card front and back in my wallet, memorized the numbers to the Whitehouse and House of Representatives switchboards from my ACLU membership card, and still only looked up to find "Now Serving E32." As I I felt my mind begin to drift into atrophy, I remembered a game I frequently play to amuse myself on PAT buses: the "Stranded on a Desert Island" game. To play, you imagine that by some freak act of nature you and the people around you are transported to and stranded on a desert island and attempt to figure out what would happen.
My mind began to race and I started to assign roles to everyone. There was the quiet, empathetic woman in her 30s that would serve as the calm and level-headed mother figure of the group and inevitably counsel the hotheaded middle-aged businessman in a navy pinstripe suit and Rolex watch, after he isolated himself by flaunting his status and income to the rest of the group. There was the somewhat awkward teenager in his basketball shorts and little-league baseball t-shirt that would probably be my best friend (even though I'm sure we would get on each other's nerves). Then, as the case usually is with things such as these, there was the South American woman in her 20s who would prove to be the object of desire amongst the male refugees and the source of jealousy amongst the other females on the island. There was the deceptively disheveled-looking, toothless elderly gentleman who would end up knowing everything there is to know about island survival but die from lack of medical care and leave us helpless. There was the squirrelly looking fellow with a "Carnegie Mellon University" shirt on who could probably assemble a radio out of some twigs, a fish, and a wristwatch and of course an equally squirrelly looking fellow with a "Bob Marley" shirt on who could probably assemble a bong out of the same materials.
I looked further to find a stocky fellow who had a construction helmet in his left hand and his social security card in the other and knew that he would construct our shelter and perhaps our escape boat with the help of the really ripped guy in a "Stop Snitchin" shirt and black dickies but only after they had a momentary clash of cultures. Initially the stocky fellow would treat the ripped guy disparagingly for being a "gangsta," but they would find after they had a common goal (survival) that they could get along swimmingly. I also spotted the shifty girl with track marks on her arms that would steal some of the food supply in the middle of the night and be exiled from our group of survivors. There was the square shaped guy with a "Super Bowl 35 Champs" shirt on, who should have been wearing his beer distribution helmet. However something was missing; finally I spotted our fearless leader, a quiet but collected middle-aged man in a generic polo and jeans. He would have the perfect mix of distance from the petty conflicts between islanders and strong leadership and end up leading the group. Behind him I checked the "Now Serving Sign" and saw it change to "F95" and my mind flew 3000 miles from our remote island back to the DMV. 15 minutes later I emerged with a learner's permit, a state identification card, and a deep bond with my fellow DMV survivors.