“You drive,” I told Ari, 17.
“Can't. Can't find my licence,” he replied.
As much as I dread the encroaching Big Brotherness of our current world, I can't wait until my kids no longer have to keep track of their ID. With so much of their lives nestled in their cellphones, the concept of a wallet becomes more foreign with each generation. Neither ever loses their phones; both continually misplace their wallets. Somehow, Ari had managed to just lose his licence.
His health card has a non-healthy bite out of one corner. He had his YMCA card for two days, before realizing he could just check in with his phone number and name. In four years, I've seen his student card once. He doesn't own a watch. My son invented travelling light.
At least he told me he couldn't find it. Two years ago, when Christopher, now 20, was out, I noticed his wallet lounging on the stairs. When he got home, I tore a strip off of him for driving without his licence. He patiently explained that he was fine, he didn't need to actually have it on him.
“Yes, you do. It's the law,” I told him.
“No, you have 48 hours to produce it. My friend told me.” Oh, well, if your friend told you ...
“That's crap,” I replied.
I pulled up the Highway Traffic Act, because doesn't everyone have it bookmarked? Together we dug down to Section 33, and I triumphantly poked my finger at “Every driver of a motor vehicle or street car shall carry his or her licence with him or her at all times while he or she is in charge of a motor vehicle ...”
“Read down more. As long as I produce ‘reasonable identification’ it's fine.”
“Every stick of ID you own is on the stairs. All you will be able to prove is that you're driving a car you don't own that's insured by a woman who has a different last name than you. The closest thing to ID in the car is a textbook you didn't return in grade 11.”
“And that's why they give you 48 hours to go get your licence,” he concluded.
He's since changed his mind. Pulled over for a cracked windshield in a shop truck he was driving – while carrying his licence – he quickly realized that the smoother things go the better. He saves his snarky remarks and his friends' legal expertise for me, and has decided not to test points of law that can be left to an officer's discretion.
Running errands, I dropped Ari off at the licence place. As usual, a crowd of people sat around uncomfortably, clutching small tags of numbered paper. They stared at them constantly, as if they could pull a Kreskin on the number they held and make it closer to the one in red lights above their heads. The one that hadn't changed in 20 minutes.
I finally joined Ari, glancing around, wondering why the ugly plastic chairs had to be bolted not just to each other, but to the ground. Surely people didn't try to steal them? I watched a clerk finish with 87. No. 88 was in the starting blocks, leaning forward, when 87 got called back. Oh. They bolted the chairs down so people didn't throw them.
You try not to listen. You really do. I watched a woman take a painfully long time at one of the only two open wickets. Eventually, I heard the clerk tell her that this time, her test was better than the last time. Only this questions too many wrong this time! Next time should be the charm!
You are allowed to get eight wrong. Out of 40 questions. The tests are available online all over the place. This woman didn't need a good luck charm, she needed a transit pass. Under my breath I cursed the lack of government intervention that made getting a driver on to our roads as easy as ordering a pepperoni pizza with extra stupid.
Ari finally got called, and trundled to the available clerk with his ID in one hand, his 10 bucks in the other. He came back to me immediately.
“Huh? This is where you got your licence. How can this not be the place where you replace your lost licence?”
“Down the road. Other licencing office.”
I sighed. I've done this three times now. It's just infrequent enough for me to forget. You go to one place to write and get your original licence with photo. You go to a different place to replace that very same thing.
About that more government intervention I was inviting? Forget it.