I’d been dreading this day for months – the final day before my state driver’s license expired. Recently, my state had passed legislation requiring that the licenses of those convicted of certain sex offenses be marked “Sex Offender” in bold capital red letters in two different locations on the front of the card.
Red letter days are supposed to be joyful occasions, but not so much in this case. I certainly wasn’t going to submit to this particular humiliation by renewing my license any earlier than necessary, so I procrastinated until the very last moment. Perhaps I was simply in denial. Maybe I was hoping against hope that our elected representatives and the courts would miraculously come to their senses and see the utter insanity of this policy before Thursday rolled around. But, of course, that didn’t happen.
That morning, I prepared myself mentally by indulging in a sumptuous meal. I’ve always believed that bad things seem even worse on an empty stomach. I showered, shaved, and put on a new shirt. “Look good, feel good, and you’ll be at your best,” is what my mother always told me. I drove the scenic route to the licensing agency. I was in absolutely no hurry to do this. I pulled into the parking lot, took a few deep breaths, and strode into the airy office with a smile on my face that didn’t reflect the churning in my stomach.
For the first time in my life, I was hoping for a long line… and yet there I was, the only customer in the place. A woman beckoned me to her station, and I handed her my expiring license with a smile. “I need to renew this,” I said. I silently considered adding some pithy remark befitting a condemned man on his way to the gallows but realized that I’d probably then have to explain it, which would only make things worse. She cheerfully invited me to have a seat in another lady’s cubicle and I did.
She asked me if any of my information had changed. I thought, everything has changed. My life has been turned upside down. I was nearly bankrupted. Society now considers me a monster. I smiled and said, “No, nothing’s changed.”
She was undoubtably viewing my information on her computer screen and the digital proof of the license as we chatted. SEX OFFENDER. Big. Bold. Red. Letters. If this perturbed her in any way, she gave no indication of it whatsoever. Instead, she asked, “Are you a veteran?”
I responded, “Yes, I am. Why do you ask?”
She positively beamed, “We can also print “VETERAN” on your license! You know, in case you want to get a military discount while shopping or at restaurants!” I chuckled and told her to go ahead and add it.
Not that I’ll be showing off my new red-letter license to the cashier at IHOP anytime soon.