Recently I was flipping through the channels and I came across the movie, “Cool Hand Luke.” It was past 10 p.m. and the movie was just starting. I remember watching it with my Daddy many times, therefore I had to stay up and watch it again for old times’ sake.
The movie starring Paul Newman has a lot of memorable quotes and some really good music. Though it was made in 1967, you can still find it on television quite a bit. In the movie, Paul Newman plays the part of “Luke,” a cool, opinionated gutsy prisoner on a chain gang in the Deep South.
The line that most folks remember from the movie is when the Prison Captain, played by Strother Martin, tells Luke, “What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate.” At the end of the movie, Luke says it back to the Captain just before he is shot (facing recapture).
Unfortunately, I would experience “failure to communicate” the next day when I visited my local DMV in my home state of Virginia.
My task was pretty simple, but I knew going in that I was going to have problems. My simple task was to get license plates for a car.
The problem was my driver’s license was expired. Now, how I’m walking around with an expired driver’s license is another story.
More than two months previous, in November, I had gone into the DMV to get my new driver’s license, I remembered the day well – it was my birthday. I took the day off to take care of some things including getting an inspection sticker for my car and a couple of new tires.
I bought the tires from a “Used Tire” place. The fellow who worked there was very nice, letting me come back and pay him later in the day because his credit card machine wasn’t working. He had a lot of tattoos and not many teeth. I liked him.
Before going to the DMV, I had stopped and bought a Mallo Cup which had a “50 coin” in it. You have to be a Mallo Cup fan to know that they still put “cardboard coins” in the package with the candy. It was my 50th birthday, so I remembered it.
Originally, it took about an hour to get to the counter at the DMV to get my license, but I enjoyed the time and people watching because I wasn’t in a hurry. Watching folks in the DMV, you kind of understand the way things are now, as opposed to the way they used to be. The lady took my picture and my money and told me, “You should receive your new license in the mail in seven to ten business days.”
A couple of weeks later, my new driver’s license still hadn’t shown up. Figuring it would show up while I was away for the Christmas holidays, I didn’t worry about it. I had a piece of paper saying “it was on the way” that was good for 30 days or so.
A month passed and I still hadn’t gotten my license. I called the "DMV hotline” and got a nice lady named Donna who didn’t really believe me, and told me my license was mailed on December 2nd. She assured me that she would note it as lost and put in a request for another license to be mailed out to me.
So I waited another couple of weeks and still nothing. Again, I decided that I should wait longer before calling again. However, it was getting kind of frustrating because folks who want to see your driver’s license at stores and airports tell you, “Your license is expired!”
About two months had passed since my original visit to get my license renewed and it still hadn’t arrived in the mail.
Needing the new tags for my car, I headed out to the DMV knowing this was going to be trouble.
Our DMV has a system of “hoops you jump through” before you get to actually do what you need to do. The first person you talk to is a lady at a check in desk who asks why you are there. When she asked me, I simply told her I was there to get a tag for my car.
She was nice and gave me a form and asked for my driver’s license. I gave her my expired license. She looked at it and said, “Your license is expired!”
I said, “Yes Ma’am, I came in back in November to get it renewed and it never came in the mail.” She gave me another form to get another driver’s license, the tag form, a slip of paper with a number on it like they give you at a crowded ice cream parlor and told me where to get a clipboard and a pen.
My number was “T122.” I sat down and filled out the paperwork for the tag; I wasn’t going to fill the driver’s license form again. It was 30 or 45 minutes until my number appeared on the screen and a computerized like voice called out “T122.”.
The folks there are nice, but it was toward the end of the day and they were moving a little like they had been dragging 100 pound bags of feed behind them in the barn and they had been doing it all day.
The lady behind the long counter started helping me with my tag, but then – she asked me for my driver’s license. I gave her my expired license and of course she told me, “Your license is expired!”
I said, “Yes Ma’am, I came in back in November to get it renewed and it never came in the mail.”
Then she asked me, “Have you checked with your postal carrier?”
I said, “No Ma’am.”
However, when I said it, this picture of my mailman, “Mike,” popped into my head. Mike is wonderful, he’s nice to my dogs, he wears shorts in the dead of winter and always waves at me. He would remind you of “Cholla,” the leader of the motorcycle gang, “The Black Widows” in the movie, “Every Which Way But Loose,” starring Clint Eastwood.
But you just don’t ask Mike the Mailman questions. You just don’t mess up his system.
As I was in a trance thinking about the absurdity of asking Mike about my driver’s license, the lady left me standing there at the counter. She walked around a while behind the counter with the other folks “helping” people. It was late in the day and she seemed as if she had been dragging two 100 pound bags of feed around the barn all day.
She came back and started typing on her computer. She found what she was looking for and said, “I see where you called about a month ago and were told your license was mailed on December 2nd.”
To this I replied, “Yes Ma’am, the lady also told me she would send out another one. I still don’t have a license.”
The nice lady then told me that I “might have to pay for a new license.” I convinced her that I would not do that. Again, she was very nice (well, kind of nice) and I got to talk to another lady.
The DMV is not so bad; they just have a lot going on. The next lady brought me my tag and asked for my driver’s license.
I told her, “I don’t have one. I don’t drive. I simply want a new tag for my car. It stays in the driveway. I go out there and listen to the radio sometimes when I need to get away from things. Sometimes I hear voices in my house and I get scared. I bought a car just to sit in. My dog usually sits in there with me.”
She looked at me like I was crazy.
Finally they all got together and decided to take my picture again and send off for another driver’s license. They didn’t charge me anything.
One of the ladies simply said, “You should receive your new license in the mail in seven to ten business days.”
“Yes Ma’am,” I responded.
I walked out the door understanding the present overall state of things.
I got my driver’s license in the mail “two business days” later.
I don’t know what else to say other than, “What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate.”
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