THE MOTOR VEHICLE LICENSING AGENCY
Forget the Church, forget Capitol Hill: this is the seat of power and reverence in America. This is where you can, if you’re good, get a permit. I have one finally. I hold it up, as a priest holds up the Host. I have been to the Promised Land, and returned with a driving license. Not the first time, or even the second or third, for nothing good comes easy. But, I learned the Vehicular Truth, I walked the line, I stood in line, I did not cross the line, because a Gorgon was guarding it. A Gorgon turns you to stone with just one look. They only had threes Gorgons in the whole of Ancient Greece: they have five in every Motor Vehicle Licensing Agency throughout the state of New Jersey.
I bowed my head when I came to the front of the line. I did not look directly into her eyes, for she was fearsome. I have very shiny buttons on my shirt, and I looked at her legendary face in one of those.
I gave her my UK driving license, and softly asked to be allowed to drive the wide-open New Jersey freeways. She looked at my UK license with disdain.
-We got a Russian here, she yelled to her superior. What do we do with Russians?
-I’m not Russian, I whispered.
She glared at me, rising to her full height. I adjusted my button nervously to follow her, and it came off in my hand.
-We got a Russian with attitude, she said, and he’s holding everyone up.
I looked around at everyone I was holding up. They all had their heads bowed in reverence: the young, the old, the rich, the poor, priests, nuns, drug dealers, drunks, Mafia bosses, actors, pimps, homecoming queens of either sex, and the homeless. All waiting in line, hoping to be called, praying that the pain would not last too long, or prove unendurable. The Mafia boss lifted his eyes and shook his head silently at me: you don’t mess with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Licensing Agency.
She held my UK license up to the light, and pointed.
-UK, she growled. The Ukraine. That’s in Russia, aint it? You think I’m stupid?
You won’t believe what happened next.