Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Driving Me Crazy

Honestly, don't post for a week and everyone gets the bends. It's nice to be missed, but goodness! I was having some life experiences, thank you very much! Sheesh!

Actually, the main event this week was the final concert of my beloved Las Vegas Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus. It was awesome. Powerful. Transcendent at times, and I'm not just whistling Dixie. I didn't even notice when the harpist's music was caught by the air conditioning and fluttered away like a deranged sparrow. During the one number where she and two flutes were the only accompaniment, no less. She snatched that music outta the air, jammed it back onto her stand, and started strumming like crazy. Hardly missed a beat.

The kid is 15, and already a pro.

Anyway, it's been wrenching and tender and hopeful and weepy, and my blog is just one of many things I've neglected while navigating those emotionally turbulent waters. (I'm writing this wearing a 10-year old nightgown while every stitch of clothing I own is waiting its turn in the laundry line from the netherworld. With luck I'll be dressed by May.)

Also, I'm working on a 'guest post' for MMB right now, and that is occupying what few synapses haven't been employed getting 150 young musicians to all sing and play the same notes at the same time and at the same rate of speed.

However, since a number of you (including my far too bossy little sister) have asked for another post, I thought I would share with you my own personal experience of trauma and growth which took place on September 11, 2001. It's a story of hardship and triumph, a testament to sheer endurance and one woman's determination to overcome against insurmountable odds, a memorial to the unbreakable American spirit which enables all of us to nobly press forward and spit in the face of tragedy and heartbreak, giving the metaphorical finger to enemies of freedom everywhere.

On September 11, 2001, I had to renew my driver's license.

A little background:

Our family had moved to Las Vegas from San Juan, Puerto Rico, just a month earlier, because we've always had a knack for arriving in a new locale at the most hideous time of year for that particular corner of the planet.

Who moves to Las Vegas in August? I'll tell you who. The same people who moved to Seattle in November, 1990, which marked the beginning of the wettest, snowiest, most diabolical winter the northwest had seen in 50 years. (Yes, yes, I know it's been bad this year, too. Las Vegas hasn't exactly been a paradise, y'know. I've had to wear a sweater nearly every day for the last four months. So quit whining. We're all suffering.)

Where was I? Oh, yes. Who? The same people who moved to the Caribbean in July at a time when the power was out which meant, of course, no air conditioning. But at least there were plenty of mosquitos so big they required FAA licensure. Yep, that was a plus.

So, in keeping with our track record of not googling the climate before calling the movers, we arrived in Las Vegas in August, 2001.

After a Celestial Kingdom-esque week at Mandalay Bay (at taxpayers' expense, no less, so, you know, thanks for that) we decided to find a place to stay that was closer to where our house was being built.

Our first attempt was a seedy little joint called Santa Fe Station. Without going into a lot of ugly detail, let me just assure you, it was NOT Mandalay Bay. It didn't even qualify as Mandalay Bay's dumpster. Mandalay Bay would have seen a dermatologist to have Santa Fe Station lanced.

And the first thing the criminals at Santa Fe Station did was "lose" my driver's license, which I had left at the desk as collateral while we toured a room, in case we, I don't know, waltzed off with the vibrator or something.

Eventually, we settled on a hotel that didn't have a 'pay by the hour, red lampshades extra' option, and I determined to take care of a number of details that had fallen by the wayside in our move, including replacing my license.

The first order of business, however, was the most urgent: I was out of Prozac. Unless we wanted the new town slogan to be "Whatever Happens in Vegas Goes Up in a Mushroom Cloud", DeNae needed to get her hands on some happy pills, pronto.

So I contacted the insurance-recommended doctor's office to schedule an appointment. The receptionist's response was a little odd. I asked if the doctor was, in fact, taking new patients. And she said, quote, "Uhhhh..."

So I called the insurance company to explain that, apparently, the doctor was booked up and her office staff was under some kind of gag order that prevented them from forming actual words, and could someone please shed any light on the situation?

True story. It turned out the doctor had been murdered. By her mother. Who then killed herself.

So, no, she wasn't accepting new patients at that time.

I thanked the insurance company representative for the heads' up, offered several suggestions on how to improve customer service starting with "not referring clients to dead people", and asked for another recommendation.

I got another name, and on September 11, 2001, I went to see this doctor to pick up a scrip for my anti-goforyourthroat pills.

Now, by the time my appointment actually came, I knew all about the terrible events unfolding in New York. I had two little kids with me (my kindergartner and my 3rd grader), and they kept watching the TV while we waited in the lobby, drawing pictures in the notebook I provided of planes crashing into buildings and people falling out. I'm not making this up. My husband keeps one of those pictures on the wall of his office. Kinda reminds him of why he does what he does.

After 45 minutes of waiting, during which time I filled out a small rain forest worth of forms, the receptionist informed me that the doctor would not see any new patients unless they could provide a copy of their driver's license. I explained that my license was currently being used to establish a new identity for the night manager at Santa Fe Station, and that I therefore could not give them anything to copy.

Well, then, sorry. No license, no appointment.

No Prozac.

I don't remember much of what happened after that, but I'm pretty sure at one point I actually swore in Klingon. Whatever the case, one thing was clear: My life was only going to become more complicated in this town if I didn't have a driver's license.

So, being the Prozac-deprived semi-psychopath I now was, I concluded that the only logical course of action was to take myself and those two little ones over to the DMV and get a Nevada state driver's license, essentially from scratch.

This meant taking the written test. Which I did with my kids crawling around my feet on a floor so filthy with DMV germs that the creation of anti-bodies which resulted likely immunized them from every major communicable disease, including whatever virus it is that makes otherwise sane adults think Will Farrell can act. So that was good.

After I passed the test (barely, since who really knows or cares how many drunken prostitutes can legally be permitted in a rented Humvee limo on Prom night? The Nevada test gets down to practical matters. The answer is "42".) I began the long day's journey into oblivion that only battle hardened DMV customers can appreciate.

And of course, there were TVs everywhere, all tuned to that feedback loop that had my 3rd grader and children like her convinced that NYC was being attacked by several hundred planes crashing into several hundred buildings.

Four scary-drawing-intensive hours later, my number came up to see a clerk and finalize the paper work for my driver's license. Passed the eye test. Yes, I'll be an organ donor -- do they take Wurlitzer? Weight, umm...let's go with 165. That's right, lady. One-six-five. You got something to say? Didn't think so.

Now, for the ID part. I was prepared. I had looked up the required documentation for receiving a new license when the old one was partying with its other fraudulently obtained credential buddies (that's what they called it on the web site, verbatim), and handed the clerk both my social security card and my birth certificate.

Uh oh. Hmmm. Yeah. Weeeelll, there could be a problem here.

It seems I had caved to social pressure and that blasted institution called "tradition", and changed my name after I got married. And as a good doo-bee, I changed it with the Social Security Administration as well. So now these two perfectly legitimate forms of ID had different names on them.

The clerk assured me that everything would be all right, but she had to get the OK from her supervisor to proceed.

Cut to the supervisor. This guy was in his early 60's, and had obviously retired in all the ways that mattered except the one where you stop showing up for work. His desk was EMPTY, except for his hands folded snugly and tight atop an unused blotter. There wasn't even a name plate. He was so inert he could have been described as "glacial". Am I painting a vivid picture here?

The clerk walked over to him and explained the situation, quite well, I thought. Had a license. Was stolen. Has the proper ID. Passed the test. Needs Prozac. Stat.

He listened impassively, then rose to join her at the desk where my two now-starving children and I were waiting. Without even acknowledging I was there, nor, for that matter, casting a reflection on any mirrors, he looked at but did not touch the two cards on the desk. Looked a second time. Looked up at the ceiling (awaiting revelation?). Looked back at the cards.

Looked, finally, at me, and without so much as a hint of irony observed, "Your married name is not on your birth certificate."

And with that, he turned and walked the eight feet back to his desk, where he refolded his hands, stared into space, and waited for someone to drive a stake through his heart.

Seriously?? That's how you handle things, you cold blooded, vacuous waste of carbon and polyester?? By cleverly ascertaining that my parents had not signed up for the Ambassador Class Birth Certificate which included the Prescience Package, and therefore had no way of predicting what my married name would someday be??


And this is where my version of the total structural collapse we'd been watching all morning took place.

The clerk started to say, "It's all right, dea--" but was cut off by, "No, it's NOT all right! (Initiate chin quiver sequence) Nothing about this horrid place (engage tear ducts) is all right! It's hot and it's dry (proceed with nose running) and everything is covered with rocks and dirt and people steal your stuff and make you go without your Prozac (activate sobbing protocol) and kill off your doctors! And I can't open a bank account or (big gulps of air) register my kids for school or even get a friggin' library card (thank clerk for tissue) because I don't have a driver's license! And now that (shrieking volume at full throttle) USELESS IDIOT over there tells me I can't even GET a driver's license because I wasn't freaking MARRIED when I was BORN!!!
And if that isn't enough, I don't really weigh 165!! What the hell is THAT all about???

And so it was, that on September 12th, 2001, I loaded the same two children into my van, packed up my social security card and my birth certificate, and drove the 110 miles to St. George, UT, where I obtained a copy of my Utah driver's license, which I had acquired one summer while on leave from Puerto Rico in violation of at least thirty good laws and seven or eight stupid ones. There were no lines. There was no fuss. There were no supervisors questioning my parents' precognitive abilities. Simply, "Stand here, please. Smile. Hazel is such a lovely eye color. No, you don't look an ounce over one-sixty."

So, yes, September 11, 2001 really was a terrible day. Traumatic. Horrifying. Called into question my faith in humanity. Left me feeling vulnerable and exposed to the whims of sociopaths bent on world domination. I don't know that I'll ever get over it.

And on top of it all, there was that crazy stuff in New York, too!


Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

You should send this one to MMB. It's fantastic.

Mallory said...

First off, I'm glad you took a blogging break while I packed, moved, dealt with no Internet, unpacked and finally got reconnected with the world. Very kind of you, because that makes one less blog I have to desperately try to catch up with.

Anyway...I've had to blast my way through all kinds of red tape, too. Mostly at the University I attended. Places of higher education really are just so stupid. I'll have a moment of silence for you this Sept. 11th.

Karen said...

The doctor was shot by her own mother??

And, btw, you are a fantastic writer! I don't know if I've told you that before.

(And no, don't worry. That wasn't all I took out of this I-want-to-take-a-blowtorch-to-all-government-offices story!)

Lara said...

Wow. I've heard that moving to Las Vegas can be something of a major culture shock, but I never imagined! And that's aside from the climate shock, which, I totally understand because I moved to Phoenix in August.

Kristina P. said...

OK, so before we stayed at the horrible Fremont hotel, there was a place on the strip called The Westward Ho. No joke. I thought Grissom from CSI was going to show up at any minute. We stayed there about a year after we were married, on our way back from California.

All the rooms had twin beds, on these immoveable platforms. It was delightful.

myimaginaryblog said...

I'll second the nomination that this one go to MMB. You can tell a piece of literature is powerful when it makes a stranger want to go back in time and shake another stranger by the shoulders (the stranger I want to shake is of course the semi-retired guy at the DMV.)

myimaginaryblog said...

P.S. I remember hearing that kids seeing the 9/11 footage aired over and over wouldn't realize it was the same footage being shown over and over, and would think it was many planes crashing into many buildings. But I heard that weeks later, when it was too late to undo our TV watching (although, to be fair to myself, I really had kept the TV off much of the time anyway.) And then, sure enough, my son asked me about "those airplanes that keep crashing into buildings."

By now he and his sister don't have any conscious memories of 9/11, though. But in a way I think it's worse that it's part of their subconscious concept of ordinary life.

Also, I was already thinking about 9/11 today, because before 9/11 my brother fooled me one April Fool's Day calling me up to tell me about a very 9/11-like scenario he claimed was unfolding in the national news. So when *I* had to call him on 9/11, I said, "Now, you know this isn't April Fool's Day." And now I can't think of any *tasteful* April 1 jokes to play on my family.

(My word verification is "worst" which is, I think, a comment on this comment.)

That Girl in Brazil said...

Wow. You sure you weren't in Brazil? Cuz I could tell you some stories ....

Though not half so well, of course!

AS Amber said...

Really? A sweater?? We got another bum-load of snow today to go with the bum-load we got on Monday. So you may consider something a little more practical for the weekend. Although Sat & Sun are actually supposed to be ok-ish.
The doctor was MURDERED??? I don't think I've heard that little nugget before!
The Mandalay Bay is amazing. We stayed in the very top room one time. The presidential suite. A guy Tav works with knows the owner.
Are you feeling relieved to be done with LVMYC&S? I'm sure I got those letters wrong.
Another vote for submitting this to MMB!

DeNae said...

The whole doctor story is actually quite sad. She was an Asian girl, engaged to a white guy. The very traditional mother disapproved, strenuously, it turned out. Rather than let her daughter 'shame' the family, she, well...

I learned these details a few years later from a nurse practitioner who was, coincidentally, refilling my Prozac prescription.

She went on to finish the story: Apparently the fiance was devastated by the murder, and went into a tailspin. Then, after 4 years, he decided to get his life back. He started doing things like rock climbing and hang gliding. And believe it or not, he was killed in a parachuting accident.

I am completely and totally NOT making one word of this up.

AS Amber said...

Oh my holy crap! That's CARAYZEEEEE! Kind of a Romeo & Juliet type of a thing!

tammy said...

Hot, sweaty, dusty, and no Prozac....I so understand.

Heidi Ashworth said...

I went into labor with my youngest on 9/11/01 but didn't give birth until the 12th. Even so, I would say you had a much harder day. This was hysterical.

prozac said...

Not to sound mean or anything, but this has got to be among the most entertaining things I have ever read, even if it was at someone else's expense. Being a true geek, I was truly laughing beyond reason when the bit about swearning in Klingon came up. http://www.prozac.bz

Lisa Loo said...

Reason #423 that I don't ever want to move again---can't be having any interruption in my med schedule. Honey--I lanced the boil on the butt of Prozac years ago--I now take what my Dr and I lovingly refer to as a "med cocktail".

SO said...

Isn't 42 the answer to life and everything?

Great story! I laughed. I cried. I wished I'd had a wooden stake to drive through the heart of the evil that lived in the DMV for you.

Sher said...

I was on the edge of my seat for that entire story! If you are anywhere near as entertaining in real life as you are on your blog, then I am in for a real treat tomorrow!
p.s. That's why you should move to Utah. We're much nicer, here.

Motherboard said...

Sheer brilliance. You are a gifted wordsmith my dear!

Lunch today was fantastic! As I read this I could hear you telling this story! (L.C. says to tell you she wants to come next time!) I really did enjoy myself... it was like meeting up with my long lost twin. :>)

Qait said...

You seriuosly crack me up! I hope it's alright if I follow your blog and that you don't think I'm some creepy stranger sneaking around your stuff...my own blog is not so funny to read, but you're welcome to it. I'm also Mormon--and I love your music musings. I'm a harpist. ;)

Becky said...

Fabulous post. I knew I never liked Las Vegas. Or DMVs.

Becca said...

Brilliant. As always.

Jen said...

One of my favorites! At least one of your children did not comment on a "very large man" in his loud 3 year old voice at the DMV...he was soooo astonished that he could even "move" because of his size, that he of course had to make it known to EVERYONE waiting how amazing it was. Ya, gotta love it :)

Sue Q said...

Just reading this makes me feel like I need a Prozac. Right now.

You have a gift for words, and I'm glad you decided to share that gift on MMB. If, for no other reason, to keep the rest of us bloggers humble.

You also have a gift for getting yourself in amazing situations, and getting out of them is equally thrilling to read about!

Lynne's Somewhat Invented Life said...

And you are good to read in the morning too. Starts the day off with a good laugh.