Tuesday, January 09, 2007

January 8, 2007 - Identity

Today, Claire and I go down to the motor vehicle agency to renew our driver’s licenses. This is a much bigger deal than it’s been in the past. It’s the first time, in these post-9/11 days, that we’ve had to comply with New Jersey’s new “6-Point ID Verification Program.”

We’ve done our homework. We’ve heard the horror stories of people being sent back home, again and again, until they could finally present the right combination of documents. We checked the brochure ahead of time, and have come armed not only with our old licenses, but also our passports and a bank statement with our home address on it. Four points for the passport, plus one each for the old license and the bank statement, add up to six. That gets us over the threshold, convincing the people in Motor Vehicles we’re motorists, not terrorists.

The place is crowded, as motor vehicle agencies always seem to be. The system runs smoothly enough, but there’s a whole lot of sitting around and waiting for our names to be called.

The final step in the five-step process is getting our pictures taken. For many people, the phrase “driver’s license photo” has become a byword for “awful.” Ours aren’t so terrible, though. There’s a holographic image of the state seal hanging down over my forehead, but if you ignore that, it’s not a bad likeness.

The whole process is perfunctory and bureaucratic, until it’s time to stand before the camera. The previous steps in the process have all involved data-gathering, and for them we’ve been paged using our full names. For some reason, the photographers call everyone up using first names. It’s almost as though, having run the bureaucratic gantlet, we’ve become friends. Well, maybe not friends – but at least the Motor Vehicle people know we’re not going to wash out now. If you make it as far as the camera at Motor Vehicles, you’re going home with a new license, for sure.

Maybe it’s because we’ve made the grade, but the people who run the cameras are friendlier than everyone else in the agency. No bureaucratic poker faces in this department: these clerks smile back, and even ask if our photos look OK to us, offering to re-shoot them if we don’t like them.

I think these people are friendlier because they spend their days dealing with faces, not facts. Hundreds of times a day, they look into their computer monitors and see real, live people – members of the human race, in all their wondrous diversity.

Throughout my cancer journey, I’ve gone to all kinds of places to receive medical tests and treatments. I’ve been poked, prodded, punctured and palpitated. I’ve been the name on the tab of numerous file folders, and the ID number that distinguishes one billing record from another. But, through it all, I’ve been a person – a living, breathing, hoping, dreaming human being.

The best medical practitioners are the ones who never forget that – who look up at me and see not a case, but a character.

1 comment:

Mary Beth said...

OH, you're a character, alright! Nice Pics. Mary Beth