The Photo I Won’t Be Sharing on Instagram

Car driver license womanDoes anybody like their driver’s license photo? It’s like they purposely catch you when you’re making a goofy face, and then you’re stuck with it for years. Right?

I did like one of mine. Back in California, the day I turned 40, I got all dolled up—hair, makeup, a flattering outfit, contact lenses—and my picture came out great. I not only aced the test, but I looked beautiful. If only I could have kept that license forever. No such luck.

Friday, getting squirrelly from too many rainy days in the house, I decided to get my license renewed. It was going to expire in a month, so why not get it done?

The Department of Motor Vehicles in Newport is different from big city DMVs. You don’t wait long, and the workers are relatively friendly. Also, everything is in English, and all the people are white. I’m about as brown as we get.

I walked in, saw they had a new take-a-number machine. This one was like they have in parking lots. Push the button, it spits out a ticket. Uh-oh, I got #13.

Before I could sit down, the shaggy-haired worker at the middle window called #13. It was all very quick. Still this height? Actually not quite. Weight? Unfortunately yes. Still need glasses? I pointed to the spectacles on my face. I answered a few more questions on paper: Vision corrected? Yes. Driver’s license suspended? No. Do I use drugs or alcohol to the extent that it would impair my driving? What fool would answer yes to that? Sign here, take the eye test. Read this line, see this flashing light, done. Pay $40.

Next step, the photo: I thought I was ready. Good hair day, check. Makeup, check. Flattering outfit, check. Sign here, take off your glasses, look here, snap. Wait, was I making a face?

Oh, yes I was. He typed a while and printed out my temporary license, handing it to me without comment. What the heck was I doing with my mouth? I was definitely making a weird face. Did I want to live with this for four more years? Not any more than I want to live with a certain president for that much longer.

“Can we try the photo again?” I asked. It’s not like anybody else was waiting.

He said it would cost another $26. He did not seem eager to do it. I’ll live with it, I said, and slunk out to my car. I sat there a while staring at my temporary license. I had nothing but time on my hands. I had $26. I went back in.

I took another number, 16, went up to a new guy, bald with a goatee and pictures of his nine (!) daughters taped all around his cubicle. He handed me a new license application. I had to start over, except for the eye test. Sign here. Pay here. Back to the camera. Not a word of sympathy, instruction or encouragement. I took off my coat, sat in the chair, looked at the lens, started to smile. Click.

Again, I was handed the temporary license without comment. Well, I didn’t look ridiculous. But my smile was only half-formed, and the circles under my eyes stood out. Oh well. I could see this guy had no patience for prima donnas. At least my hair looked good, and the colors will be nice on the permanent license. It’s me, just not my favorite version of me.

All of this took less than a half hour.

Oregon has some strange rules. I remember my dad sweating out the written test every time he renewed his license. They made him do it quite often once he passed 70. But here, I have only taken the “knowledge” test once, a month after Fred and I moved to Oregon in 1996. We sat side by side with our paper tests and #2 pencils. I had been so busy unpacking I hadn’t studied much. The laws, speed limits for example, were just different enough from the laws in California that I got confused. People sitting outside the testing area teased us as if this were a contest.

Well, Fred won. Perfect score. I passed by one point. That was 23 years ago. Why would they assume I still remember the rules? Never mind. I brought home the rulebook, and I’ll read it one of these days. The photo was challenge enough. That, and figuring out what my hair color was now that the white hairs have come out in force. I decided they wouldn’t go for “tweed.” I wrote down black, being optimistic.

Going back for another picture was embarrassing, but at least people won’t laugh whenever I show them my license. Although everyone needs a good laugh.

Ah, Oregon.

Tell me about your DMV photo experiences. Have you ever asked for a do-over?

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

One thought on “The Photo I Won’t Be Sharing on Instagram”

  1. I have had one (ONE!) driver’s license photo that I actually liked… I almost shed tears when I had to give it up.

    I actually once had the lady taking my photo look at the result and say, “Umm, let’s try that one again,” lol. I didn’t get to see it, but if SHE thought it was bad enough to redo…!


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