Friday, May 18, 2018

The Soul Crushing Path to Freedom

Many people were shocked when my Mom died suddenly in January. A lot of those same people were even more shocked when my Dad bought a motorcycle. I think I blew everyone’s mind when I started riding with him and he bought a second motorcycle.  
The truth is, I have wanted to try out riding a motorcycle for years. As far back as 2001, I was shopping for a way to get into the motorcycle world. Every single time I started talking things over with my family Mom was the major factor in me choosing not to try and learn to ride.  
Even Dad got in on the act. He pointed out what a lonely lifestyle it can be. You rarely see a couple riding on two motorcycles side by side. Sure, there are times when there is a girl on the back of a bike, but you cannot exactly have meaningful conversation whipping along as 60 miles an hour with your butt in the breeze. Better, then, to stick to what you know.  
I started riding in March. Dad gave me pointers. I like to think I took to it like a fish to water. I love the road. I love driving. I think a motorcycle is a much more intimate connection with those things. Pardon the analogy, but it is a bit like the difference between safe and unsafe sex. A car can be very responsible, but the motorcycle just feels so much better. The risk is very likely part of the reward. 
I started out riding in the yard. The day Dad first let me ride the Ninja I laid it down on the grass in the backyard (street bike, new rider, loose soil, wet grass). I wasn’t hurt. I don’t think I would have slowed down much if I was.  
Rides around the yard and driveway found their way to the school parking lot down the road. I spent about fifteen minutes there before I knew I wanted to ride on the road. Gosh, was that a pleasant upgrade. Paved roads feel much better under smooth tires than a beat up old gravel driveway.  
Dad and I started making short tandem trips. I took the lead. That is where you put weaker riders. Dad gave me lots of tips and tricks. I really started falling in love with riding. After a couple of months, and a trip up the Dragon, I knew I was going to need to get street legal. I wasn’t willing to risk a ticket anymore.  
It was time to get both serious and responsible. I decided to buy my own bike (there will be another post explaining that experience soon). Dad had bought me a helmet. I decided I wanted a full-face helmet instead. I invested in a new lid.  
Most importantly I decided to take a basic riding class. I can keep the bike on the road, but the class served a couple of very practical purposes. Trained motorcycle instructors could teach me the fundamentals (many of which I was doing wrong) and then assess my ability to ride. Also, the class waived the necessity of taking both the written and practical riding test from the state of Tennessee. I couldn’t sign up fast enough. You can find links to the class I signed up for here. 
The class took place on the weekend from 8 am to 5 pm. It was an absolute blast. I spent the weekend riding a 200cc Suzuki Dual Sport. I learned better clutch control. I showed off how well I ride curves (giggity). I passed the riding test. My U-Turn game is super strong. I passed my written test. I really feel I did quite well. I came out feeling like a much stronger rider.  
Then everything fell directly apart.  
I couldn’t get to the DMV Monday because I had to take an early shift at work. No big deal. I can be patient at times. 
Tuesday, I got up at 730 and hurried to the DMV. Knoxville only has one testing center anymore. It is located, perhaps ironically, in Strawberry Plains and not Knoxville. I wasn’t the first person to get there, but I was the first person to get out of my car and get in line.  
As soon as they unlocked the door at 830 I hurried inside. There is no longer an employee waiting to make sure you get the appropriate forms. You go to a kiosk, take a number, and then wait in line to see someone at a desk. The kiosk sorts applicants into categories that determine which line you are waiting in.  
I ended up second in line when I negotiated the kiosk. Most of the time was lost waiting for the kiosk to scan my license. When I realized the laser wasn’t working, I quickly punched in the information it wanted manually. Having my driver’s license number memorized has come in handy more than once.  
I was at a desk by 830. The “nice” lady behind the counter quickly demanded my birth certificate go along with my driver’s license. I hadn’t seen it on the list of necessary documents and logic hadn’t said it would be necessary so it was at home.  
Sadly, I had 2 more appointments stacked up for Tuesday. I didn’t have time to wait. I exited the DMV defeated and confused. I presented a state-issued photo ID. I look a little different now than when it was originally issued (better beard, neater hair, better glasses, 100 pounds lighter) but the photo is undoubtedly me. What does my birth certificate bring to the mix?  
I know I presented my birth certificate and social security card way back in 1994 when I got my first license. My birth certificate isn’t a photo ID. Even if it were it would be about 38 years out of date. I seriously don’t get why, if I have an existing license, the DMV needs this particular document. Still, you can’t argue with mindless, thoughtless, and meaningless bureaucracy. I lost a few hours’ sleep. I drove out a little bit of extra gas. I missed a day of legal riding. All of these are sacrifices I can tolerate on the path to following the rules.  
Wednesday (today as I am writing this, but this saga will continue… sorry spoilers) I again got up. This time I didn’t aim to be first in line. I got up. I found my birth certificate. I made the drive back over. This doubles the gas spend on trips to the DMV, but I can ALMOST believe that I should have predicted the silly demands of a place that labels itself a part of the Department of Homeland Security.  
I expected a crowd. I budgeted an hour and a half of time to obtain this license endorsement. I brought everything from the day before plus my birth certificate (feeling your pain, Obama). I once again negotiated the kiosk. As best as I could figure by the cryptic alphabetical system I was about 13th in line overall but sixth in the initial line.  
Forty-Eight minutes of waiting later I was once again staring into the soulless eyes of a DMV employee across a blue counter. She was happy that I had the demanded birth certificate. She then handed me an application to fill out for my license (I already have a class D license) and told me to go sit down, fill out the form, and wait for my number to be called again.  
Wait, What? Why on earth would I need to apply for a license when I only need an endorsement? I didn’t ask. This demand is brought to us by the same people who think I need to prove my already documented lineage to add an M to the D already on my license.  
I sat down broken hearted and filled out a form that is nearly identical to the form I filled out in 1994. That is when I looked at my place in the new line. I was eighteenth in line. My time hadn’t quite run out, but there was no chance that I could wait through that monstrous queue. Defeated I took my filled-out application and retreated back toward home with little time to finish my errands and make my way to work.  
My plan for Thursday is simple. I have the form. I have all the requisite attachments. I should be able to walk up to the kiosk, get my number, go to the counter, and be done with this saga. I have very little faith that it will happen. I know I have spent three times the gas on this I have intended. Someone really should pay. No one will though. I will get up early sacrificing sleep and see if I cannot make this work.  
(For the record, I know that the above is really an ending and it could easily have been posted to the blog.  My readers get some new content. I could then go let the events of Thursday unfold and make a second post as a follow-up. I don’t do that for a couple of reasons. One, I had to be continued type of stories unless they have a good length. Hopefully, this saga ends tomorrow.  Second writing this gives the reader a bit of an insight into my process.  
I write most of my posts in Microsoft Word before copying them into my website software to post. I reread and edit them for content, grammar, and syntax.  I didn’t always do this. In fact, part of the “charm” of my early work was how grammatically poor and unedited it was. I say this facetiously. There is no charm in appearing ignorant when you want to improve your skill and be known for something. 
These parentheticals are a part of my writing process as well. When I first started writing fiction I would write almost complete stream of consciousness without much of an outline. If I had a subject I would just allow my brain to weave a tale. Stray thoughts then went in brackets on the page. This allowed me to pick up threads of other ideas when going through the editing process. Good or bad this is my habit and it remains to this day. I believe I stole this concept from the afterward of a Piers Anthony novel. I could be wrong though.  
I think leaving these parentheticals mostly intact is fun on non-fictional blog posts. It is a deeper peek into my brain. Even though all writing is a form of telepathy {See Stephen King’s On Writing} these little asides are special. They take us off course. Granted this one is a rather silly example of the form.  
More on the main subject of the blog, and hopefully success, will follow) 
I got up Thursday morning around 730. I debated hurrying to get first in line at the DMV and decided to go back to bed. My brain had other ideas. I left the house at 8. 
I didn’t make it to the DMV to watch the doors be opened. I did roll in about 840. It wasn’t crazy crowded. I no sooner dealt with the kiosk than my number was called. Really, I was pulling my ticket out of the machine when the robot voice called me to the counter.  
I hurried to the counter with my license, my birth certificate, and my form. I felt genuine hope. The girl behind the counter looked at my paperwork, handed it back to me, and told me to go wait in line. I have NO idea why this stop was necessary. I waited in line to make sure I was sorted into the right line. This is simply stupid. 
I spend the second wait hypothesizing all the things that they could do to not allow me to get my license. About fifteen minutes later, I was back at the line. From here the story is pretty much downhill. I watched the robot behind the counter do her robotic paperwork. I paid. I got my little paper license and left.  

Christ, what an ordeal. It seems I just needed to abandon all hope before my plan came together. Thanks for sucking away a piece of my soul for the majority of my week TDMV. I need to take a nap. 

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