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?

Why I don’t move back to San Jose

Last week in Newport, it was “Dine Out for Samaritan House” day. Once a month, a local restaurant offers a percentage of its proceeds to support the local homeless shelter. That shelter was founded and is maintained by people I know, mostly from my church. Years ago, I even did a story about it for the local newspaper.

This month’s restaurant was Nana’s Irish Pub in Nye Beach. I had a hankering to try bangers and mash, so I invited my friend Pat to join me for dinner after her shift at Samaritan House. When I walked in the door and paused by the bar to scan the crowded tables, I realized half the people in there were people I knew. It soon turned into a party, complete with beer and Irish music in the background. We talked, gossiped about our priest, and compared Irish dishes. I don’t have a Celtic palate—more Mexican and Italian—but my bangers and mash were good and Pat nearly swooned over her bread pudding.

I had already been to Nana’s the previous week for the church ladies’ monthly lunch. Best Reuben sandwich anywhere.

The same thing happens at Georgie’s Beachside Grill every Sunday when friends fill the tables after church. Party time. That simply does not happen back in San Jose. People commune with their phones.

Newport has 10,000 people, fewer than fill the average professional sports stadium. Everywhere I go, I meet people I know, and that makes my life as a childless widow a lot less lonely. For example:

* I go to the hospital for minor surgery. The anesthesiologist is a music friend. The nurse goes to my church. All of my friends have the same doctor.

* When I visit one friend at the local rehab facility, another friend is just down the hall, and I pass yet another just leaving.

* When I shop at Fred Meyer, I meet at least one and more likely a half dozen friends as I peruse the vegetables and stock up on dog food.

* I go to see a play. I know the guy handing out programs and most of the cast members. One is my hair stylist; another is a writer. And I know the performing arts center so well it feels like home. I have been on stage, backstage, in the dressing rooms, and in every section of the seating area. I have sung in the lobby and in both theaters. Unlike the enormous airport-like facilities in big cities, there is no way I can get lost here.

* When Annie and I go hiking, we wave at the drivers of every vehicle that passes us, and they wave back.

* I not only know where everything is at the J.C. Market, I know what the J and C stand for: Jim and Cleo.

* My neighbors have promised to take care of me should the mega-earthquake and tsunami come. I know they will. They have already helped me plenty, feeding Annie when I go away, fixing my gutters, power-washing my house, and sharing halibut and elk from their fishing and hunting trips. My dog Annie and their dog Harley are in love.


* My mortgage for a four-bedroom house on a massive lot near the beach is a third of what people are paying to rent apartments in San Jose.

* I get paid to play piano and sing solos at church, even though I don’t have a music degree.

* We don’t have black widow spiders, yellow jackets, poisonous snakes, or poison oak.

* I can run four or five different errands in a half hour because everything is close, and there are no crowds. I can even renew my driver’s license in a half hour.

* We complain about the traffic if we have to wait for three cars to pass.

*“Nature” is right outside my door. I don’t have to drive for hours to get to it.

* I am still awed by the beauty I see in every direction. Not concrete and cars, but the ocean, hills, forests, and wildflowers.

Some of my relatives don’t understand why I stay here. Sometimes I do want to go home. I miss my family so bad it hurts, and the rain gets tiresome when it comes day after day. I’m not fond of ice and snow. It gets frustrating when I have to drive for hours to the airport or major stores. What I wouldn’t give for an Olive Garden restaurant. And I’d kill for an electric or gas heating system to replace the pellet stove. But I don’t miss the traffic, the smog, or the crowds in which everyone is anonymous. My father doesn’t even know most of his neighbors. When he goes out, he almost never meets anyone he knows, and no one gives way for an old man with a cane.

We born-again Oregonians don’t want lots more people to move here. With luck, the weather and the lack of jobs will keep out the crowds. Maybe I can claim some rights to Oregon soil. My Fagalde great grandparents settled in Oregon back in the 1800s. If only I could visit them on their ranch and talk to them.

This summer I will have been here 20 years. Fred and I lived together on the Oregon coast longer than we lived together in San Jose, and I have stayed five years since he passed away. Someday I may have to go back to California to help my dad or deal with his house. Maybe I will need the kind of health care I can’t get here. But not today. This is where I live. Like the dead hydrangea I have spent the past week trying to dig out of the ground, I have put down thick roots that would be nearly impossible to cut.


P.S. Somebody help me get this stupid plant out of the ground. I have company coming this week, and it looks awful. Anybody got a chain saw?


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