99 Problems

The daily struggles of urban living as a quadriplegic explained one by one. It's so much more than not being able to find a parking space.

99 Problems — #1 Attack of the Flying Pens

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Square-PenThe Date: Friday, July 19, 2013
The Place: Los Angeles DMV
The Task: Attain CA drivers license
The Scene:

Everyone knows that inner city DMV offices are the closest manifestations to Dante’s’ Infernos of Hell. So in preparation of being tortured and in attempt to be a good citizen, I called ahead, made an appointment, and arrived to the DMV promptly with a file of all appropriate certificates and titles. I was as prepared as a gifted student on the first day of school. Or as I can safely recall it, my first day of high school. Obviously because I was so put together I was directed to a shorter, different line especially made for disabled people and people with appointments. Considering I met both criteria it seemed logical that I be bumped to the front of the line, but instead of making a fuss I waited patiently behind another woman in a wheelchair with an ACE bandage wrapped around her knee. I would have engaged in a conversation and asked about the woman’s disability except it was pretty obvious by the way she squirmed in her bulky, rental wheelchair she was still coming to terms with her injury. It was either that or perhaps it was my quadriplegia that made her uncomfortable.

Regardless I eventually was handed a number–A055.

It was hard to know what the number meant exactly because instead of an organized numerical line like imagined, letters and numbers were being called all over the place as if I were in a senior citizen BINGO hall–G076, A052, B121. So I carefully watched the little TV set until finally my number AND letter were called. I had some business to take care of besides taking the California drivers written exam. I needed to change my last name now that I was married and also register our sweet 2008 Toyota Sienna mini-van for new CA plates. After living bicoastally between Florida and California for a year it was time to commit to the state with the highest taxes best weather.

So there I was… finally a winner of the California DMV lottery system and sitting in front of a counter that came up to my eyeballs. First there were things to prove, like that I existed, I was married, I owned a van, I am disabled, and finally that I had been through this rigmarole before and had a driver’s license elsewhere. Then just a few government stamps of approval and a couple “mmm-hmm’s” from the plump lady behind the counter I was sent upstairs, where the California State written driving exam takes place in tiny cubicles.

Upstairs there were no tickets and no numbers, but only one man waiting in front of a red line, which was a pleasant surprise from the two hundred people meandering below. Upon being called to the counter, by name and not number this time, I was told to show all of the same documents from downstairs and then asked to sign yet another document. For most people, signing documents is as easy as breathing, an activity done without any thought or concentration. For me it’s a little more difficult. Having no dexterity in my hands makes some pens difficult to hold and/or write with, so in attempt to keep the peace I carry my own Sharpie pen. During this particular transaction, however, the man behind the tall counter offered me one of those black, square shaped office pens so quickly that it caused me to freeze from action. I was faced with a conundrum. Do I attempt to take the pen that has defeated me so many times before? The slippery pen that comes along with a curly bungee cord and is glued somewhere on the other side of the counter where I cannot see? Or do I deny the young, man’s pen, his politeness and take an extra five minutes to dig in the bottom of my purse for that ole’ faithful Sharpie, all the while looking like the incapable handicapped that I am?


Sort of.

I reached for the government’s pen diligently, first with my right hand and then with my left. I was determined to be efficient, to be normal, to be like every other sad person in this building that uses germ-filled public facilities when suddenly the bungee holding the pen popped.

Catapulted is the word I would use to describe what happened to the pen next. While I was athletic enough to cling on to the pen for a few seconds, I lost all control when it came down to maneuvering the object to its correct writing position. Like an arrow, no a dart, the pen snapped away from my hands and launched up, over the counter top and towards the nice young man of service. The bungee had been pulled so taught thanks to the distance between my seated position and the pen’s permanent home, the nice man was unexpectedly forced to jump out of dangers way. There was no time for a warning and no time to make any of this appeared planned. The look from my husband standing next to me said it all.


The exchange of apologies came fast and furious once the dust settled and no one claimed any injuries.

Nice man behind the counter:  “Oh my god. I’m sorry. I should have been more careful. I think I might have a different pen.”

Me: “No, I’m sorry. I should have known. I nearly stabbed you in the neck. Sorry ‘bout that.”

Next came a conversation that needed no words. While my husband fumbled in my purse for the Sharpie, the young man and I locked eyes. He silently opened the discussion with the tilt of his head.

Him: No offense but, um, should you even be driving? I mean how do you drive? You can’t even hold a pen.

Me: It’s cool. There are a lot of little things I can’t do, like tie shoelaces and open mail. But driving a $70,000 machine with these fumbling hands in one of the worst states known for road rage and traffic? Shoo, piece of cake.

Fifteen minutes later I had completed my 36-question California written exam, the answers scribbled in with the required pencil. “Sorry if you cant read this,” I warned my new friend. The form was covered with light pencil scratches on multiple choice answers. I watched him as he looked the test up and then down, and then on its backside. “You passed,” he announced cautiously.

“That’s great news,” I said, smiling.

Want more problems? I’ve got plenty. Keep on reading, its good for you.

99 Problems #2 My Kitty Has Super Powers
99 Problems #3 Los Angeles Sidewalks Are Cracked Out
99 Problems #4 Strangers Touch Me
99 Problems #5 I Once Offended a Woman With Lupus.
99 Problems #6 I Hate Parking Garage Ticket Dispensers

Posted Saturday, July 20th, 2013 in 99 ProblemsTags: , , , ,
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