I must pass my Minnesota Class D knowledge test, which wasn’t easy. Previously, I failed it three times Maybe that was because I hadn’t fully studied the driver’s handbook. Ya think?
Perhaps recalcitrant me thought, I’m not going to do what the State wants me to do. I used to crave power. I was a revolutionary.
But passing the test was instructive. I visualized it. I resolved to think through each of the forty questions more carefully, without getting nervous. About a driver’s test, you ask? I hadn’t taken a test in more than fifty years.
But here I am on a snowy day at the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles.
And I’m not going to do what the State wants me to do. I’m just not.
But I did.
I only got two questions wrong. I was a winner! I gave the thumbs-up sign to the service reps who had directed me to my test computer.
But I wasn’t prepared to stand in line waiting for a different service rep to hand over a rash of paperwork to fill out.
Because I was a winner.
My first clue that I was different: The bespectacled working woman singles out a small group of Somali women standing in front of me.
Somalis are an ethnic group in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area that makes up the largest Somali diasporas in the United States. By 2018, approximately 43,000 people born in Somalia were living in Minnesota, and approximately 94,000 Minnesotans spoke Somali, Amharic, or a related language at home.
“You’re not listening,” she blares at them, newcomers dressed to the hilt in their good coats, earrings and dressy hats atop their well-coiffed heads. They were respectful, meeting up with American bureaucracy.
“Maybe they don’t understand what you’re saying,” I retaliate. A former Somali-American woman dressed in jeans, who spoke fluent English, accompanied the newcomers. We chat. She came from Ohio. I tell her I had moved from Tucson to participate more in my grandchildren’s lives.
The working woman leads the newcomers into the inner chamber of the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles.
A short security officer admonishes the rest of us waiting in the impossibly long line in the hallway outside of the important DVM activity: “Stand outside the door in single file. Single file only, don’t go inside until you’re called.”
“This is such bullshit,” mumbles a young, possibly 7-foot tall Black man with dreadlocks. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t need an ID.”
“Yeah, that little security man (who was also Black, as were most of my compadres in the line) needs something to do. Makes him feel powerful, I guess.”
A very large woman behind me, wearing a pancake velvet hat, pipes up: “I was just telling my husband the same thing. It’s a little bit of power.”
Oh yeah. We all chuckle. The would-be basketball star young man is still mumbling to himself.
A young woman with turquoise clumps of hair who looks like a trucker storms out of the DMV inner sanctum carrying wads of applications.
“The U.S. government is rotten through and through. Fuck them,” she bellows, stomping up the stairs.
Suddenly, the working woman gets down from her perch again. Emerging into the hallway she removes her glasses and stares at the line of humanity. I’m next in line. Disputing the short security man’s instructions, she tells me, “Get behind the door. Just watch through the glass window for me to wave you in. Don’t come inside until I do so.”
“What if I can’t see you waving me in?” I ask. Guess I’m ready for an argument, standing up for all those behind me who wouldn’t dare. They know what it’s like to grapple with authority. I take my chances. I’m an old white woman with purple hair.
“She’s waving you in,” the tall guy taps me on the back to let me know.
“That’s demeaning to wave people in like that, like they’re a herd of cattle,” I say to the working woman sitting back at her perch.
She doesn’t yell at me like she did at the Somali women.
“What can I do for you?” the working woman politely asks. I tell her and she hands me the appropriate papers to fill out, which I do. A nice Somali-American man calls me up to window 10. Super efficient, he is.
He hands over my new license plates. “That will be $137,” he says. “Welcome to big tax Minnesota.” I feel a pang of sadness. My old Arizona license plate will hang under my former Maine plate in my apartment bathroom. Part of the decor.
Perhaps I didn’t want to give up my Arizona license plate with its purple saguaro against a colorful desert background. My Arizona life rests firmly in the past. Minnesota blue license plates will match my ocean blue Toyota Prius.
I’ve lived in three different parts of the country. Because I can.
I have the luxury of owning a car. Of procuring a free global entry card with my Visa credit card that piles up travel points. Someday after covid dies, before I die, I intend to travel to Sicily.
Because I can.