Rules of the Road

It’s that time on the roadway of life again. Driver’s license renewal. The one requiring me to go into the Department of Motor Vehicles in person. No quick clicks online or mailing in a form. Not this time. No, it’s time for a new photo (instant aging, thanks a lot), a written test to make sure I understand the rules of the road and an eye exam to make sure I can see the road.

Damn! This notice comes at a terrible time, while I’m in the middle of moving. But they do give me a few weeks, until my birthday in September, so I figure I’ll take care of it after my move.

I probably should pick up a copy of the latest California Driving Handbook, so I stop by the local DMV on a Saturday morning while out running an errand. I know they are not open on Saturdays (that would be too convenient), but I hope beyond all hope they might have handbooks outside in a rack, like newspapers. No such luck.

I go online to see if I can order one. Only in large quantities, if I’m a teacher. I try calling the information line, but am told the wait will be long. I discover I can download and print the PDF version. It’s 108 pages, which my little printer will not like.

DMVI decide to drive back up to the DMV on a weekday and see if I can snag a copy. A long, snaking line of grumbling, fumbling people coils through the lobby. I look around for something, anything that might hold the handbooks – a rack, table, sign. No such luck. Also, there is no way to move inside to ask anyone without cutting the line. A second look at their faces tells me this would not go over well. A big display up above flashes the waiting time – 20 minutes.

I decide to come home and print out the manual, a few pages at a time, which takes two to three days and several paper jams. But finally I have the rules and guidelines to review and I also have the option of taking trial tests online. The DMV recommends making an appointment and I go online to do that. The first available appointment is a week after my birthday, when my license expires! What will I do? Drive for a week with an expired license or go before it expires and stand in line? I will go and stand in line this week.

This gives me time to review the driving handbook, which consists of laws and guidelines. And this is what I’ve learned so far.

Some guidelines.

It’s a good idea to have shoulder belts and air bags because if I collide at 30 miles per hour, my vehicle stops but I keep going until I hit something and this is the equivalent of hitting the ground from the top of a three-story building.

Watch out for problem (distracted or confused) drivers and pedestrians, such as tourists, those with maps or umbrellas in front of their faces and those driving slowly for no reason.

Don’t honk at a blind pedestrian.

To avoid aggressive driving and road rage:

Don’t cut off or tailgate.

Don’t make gestures.

Don’t honk unless it’s an emergency, like a big truck is about to drive into me.

Don’t make eye contact with an angry driver.

Some rules. It’s illegal for me to:

Follow a fire truck or ambulance for looky-loo sightseeing.

Tow more than one car or anything more than 6,000 pounds.

Let anyone ride on the outside or in the trunk of my car.

Shoot firearms on a highway or at traffic signs.

Well, I’m glad to know all this. I guess. After reading of all the dangers, from fog and ice to curving roads and tailgating texters, I wonder why I get in this little machine and hurtle down the road.

My postscript: I’m officially good to go for another few years. I look older in my photo (will not elaborate) but also wiser, passed the exam with no mistakes!

Obsessive Unpacking Disorder

I’m no longer suffering from Chronic Packing Syndrome. Nor am I betwixt and between two homes. I’ve landed safely on the other side.

But now I have a new affliction – Obsessive Unpacking Disorder. Not that I really have to rush through all 50 boxes. I’m not on a deadline the way I was packing.

I do have to unpack most of them, however, so that I can walk from one side of a room to another, and from one room to another without tripping and killing myself. I’ve been bumbling around for a week now and have the bruises to prove it.

UnpackingThe cats have already used up a few of their lives catapulting themselves from the box towers onto the fireplace mantle, unsteady bookcases and top shelves of closets. They’ve also risked my wrath running across the tops at three in the morning.

My one shy cat is a holdout. She has yet to venture out of the bedroom. I know how she feels, would like to stay in there myself, under the covers, and will all my possessions to put themselves away.

But if I’m ever to wear my beige bras again (forgot to keep one out), if I’m ever to wear more than one pair of shoes, if I’m ever to eat off real (not paper) plates again, using real (not plastic) silverware, in fact, if I’m ever going to prepare real (not takeout or microwave) food again – then I have to unpack boxes, boxes, and more boxes.Unpacking Zoe

I’m a pretty well-organized person, so most of my boxes are labeled by room with some clues as to what’s in them. But no matter how careful I was, it was so tempting to stuff things in at the last minute to fill spaces. Thus the tangle of bras end up mysteriously entwined with pots and pans or desk accessories. The walking shoes I added at the last minute to the box with the small bedside lamp, thinking I’d remember. Ha!

So I’ve become a bit obsessive, developing a disorder to help me feign some sense of order. Work in the morning (I carried my computer over by hand, so can’t make excuses), unpack in the afternoon, a few a day. Must meet my goal.

It’s like living in a maze that keeps changing. No sooner do I get used to navigating around a 5-foot stack in the bedroom when it’s gone and I trip on nothingness.

My bedroom scaredycat is finally poking her head into the hallway and I wave at her encouragingly from the living room, but of course she can’t see me over the boxes.

Unpacking Linda and Lily
Unpacking Linda and Lily

I feel disoriented outside too. My new home is only around the corner from my old one, but the right angle turn has thrown me off. When I go out the front door, do I turn left or right? Coming home, do I remember to stop at my door, or do I walk right on past? Yes, I do walk by, still on auto pilot to my old home. Do I forget that my car is now parked out back instead of downstairs in a garage? Yes, I do and so have to carry all my flattened cardboard boxes back around, up the long driveway, easier than the indoor maze. I stuff them all in my car and head for the recycle center, grateful I can now drive forward onto the street instead of backing out into traffic from my old garage. And I’m thrilled when I find the recycle center is quiet and empty and I can throw all the flattened boxes I’ve unpacked into the blue bin’s smiling, cavernous mouth.