From 2010, four months after I ‘won’ mt lawsuit and was released from prison by court order:
On Friday I went to the DMV to renew my driver’s license. A ridiculously easy task for anyone over the age of 21 made ridiculously difficult for me.
When I was arrested the detectives insisted on taking my license along for the ride …. as they were violating the agreement to turn myself in (see below) perhaps they wanted to be absolutely sure of my identity. In any case, they promptly lost it. It vanished, I was enveloped into the system, driving was not a concern for some four years.
When I was picked up by Connecticut and consigned to Willard C.I. (that is definitely the proper verb) I applied to get my birth certificate and other ID in order to renew my license and insure I had it when I was released – of course, in April ’09 I was sure that was right around the corner. I was told I was not eligible to do so because I was not going anywhere until 2013.
Twelve months and dozens of motions later, I was literally thrown out of Willard – I guess if you’re going to be tossed out of anyplace prison is preferable – and came home to find I had no ID whatever. No birth certificate, driver’s license, social security card, Big Y card, nothing, just an expired passport.
I tried to take care of the matter and found, quickly, Joseph Heller was not writing fiction: to get a Social Security Card I needed a license and a birth certificate; to get my birth certificate I needed my license and social security card; to get my license I needed my birth certificate and social security card ….. and so it went.
I finally received a copy of my release papers from the State of Connecticut, certified, featuring an over-sized photo of a me obviously still in shock with the rapidity of my ‘discharge’. According to the DMV website, as long as my image was on file – and I last renewed in 2003, so I knew it was – I needed a state issued photo ID and proof of residence only. And $66.
We went to the DMV Friday, I carried my DOC discharge, mail addressed to me, my expired passport, marriage certificate, baptism papers (really) stood ready to pull a hair out and submit the pulp. Winsted, Ct, out of the way, quiet, not crowded, no lines, walked right up to the counter and ………………. like a bad ’50’s film noir, I was back in Willard, standing in front of ‘the bubble’ waiting for a bored out of her mind CO to decide to acknowledge my existence.
I started timid, my wife told me later my hands were shaking, I handed over my release papers, asked to renew, and was told “nope, can’t take this, where’s your birth certificate?” I explained -haltingly and in complete disregard of the fact that now that I have been released, now that I sued to be released, she worked for me – my circumstances. I explained that my image was certainly on file, provided my license number, was rewarded with, “why yes, your image is on file”, the ‘but’ was implied.
Get this: to access the image one’s license must be renewed, to renew one’s license one needs … ah, hell, you get it by now. I suggested, she renew my license, check the photo, and if it was not me cancel it. That received the same consideration one would give the village idiot proposing to do your taxes: polite distain.
And so, on cue from months of exactly the same treatment from dozens, if not hundreds, of government employees flush with power, my timidity was replaced by a well rehearsed, completely fake courtesy, a ‘ain’t I a hell of a good guy just trying to get a little help and I’ll be on my way’, smile and demeanor that produced a “I’ll check with the manager, but …..” response that was all, all too familiar.
She disappeared and I stood there ruminating, then stewing on the fact I am sick to death of ….. this. And my reactions to it. She returned with exactly the same expression that was now beginning to rise the bile in my stomach and really piss me off – luckily being behind the high counter gave her immunity to any spleen I might release due to my Pavlovian response to the trappings of authority (read, power, as in power to keep me walking indefinitely).
Then she went through my documents with “Well, my manager won’t take this,” flipped over my passport like the dealer a five when twenty’s already showing …… “And she won’t take this,” flop went my release papers, could have saved myself the embarrassment of presenting …… now anger was about to take over, her attitude and the sudden realization that I did not need to take anything, least of all this from a woman with plastic hair (my wife’s line, on the nose) ….. and was about to probably lose it when she, coyly, said, “so it’s lucky you brought your marriage license, that’s fine.”
And it was over, I’m a person again, I’m driving …… and I am absolutely chagrined and angry at myself that I still harbor … vestiges from the four and a half years of powerlessness. That’s what it can do to one … I suppose I should be grateful I don’t stand in front of doors waiting for them to open …… It is all so insidious……..