My plans for a driver’s license started to come together. I received my school ID within a few days of starting school. The trucking course requires a license. The school had a list of students who required learner’s licenses. I was one of those students
To get the learners I would only need to take the written test. All I needed to do was register, provide $10 dollars with the registration and arrive at school early that day. We also needed to produce id that showed date of birth. A teacher would take us down to the Driver License office where we would take the written test.
I registered for the test, which was 2 weeks away. I wanted to get it out of the way. I picked up learners book at school so I could start studying.
I studied on my lunch break at work. I also cut back on my calls to Sherri at nights. She was not too happy about it. She loved attention and was very demanding. She always used to say I don’t love her when I don’t call her at the exact time I said I would. As our relationship developed I soon realized that she was spoiled and always wanted her own way. It was typical from kids from the “upper class” in Jamaica. It did not bother me too much. I still loved the idea I was dating Sherri-Ann Kong the most sought-after girl in school.
I got a surprise phone call during the first weeks of studying. It was Mary Ann, from McDonald’s. We talked for a little bit as I did not want to seem unfriendly. It had been along time since we spoke. Part of me always hoped she would make the first move to call me when I left McDonald’s. I think there was still come chemistry between us but we knew it would not go anywhere. I know Richie would say different being that he had multiple White Spanish girlfriends.
MaryAnn was very understanding when I told her I had to go study. I promised her I would call her once I had taken the exam.
The two weeks went by quickly and the day of the test came. I had taken the day off from work for this. I have waiting to make up for this missed opportunity for a while and was going to do everything to make sure I did.
I got out early and got on the bus. I had to be at school by 7.00 am. I had a seat on the bus so I continued to study. Suddenly the bus jerked forward really hard. It stalled and the engine went off.. All that was on my mind was ‘why me’. The driver turned the engine a few times. The bus started and we were on our way. But I started to worry about the bus. The bus system here was very similar to Jamaica. Buses were on the hour. They were not packed but were always late. It amazed me that the American bus system was just a little better than Jamaica.
As I looked out the window I saw a low ride Toyota Corolla with Panasport rims. All I could think about was one day that would be me. I loved the Toyota Starlet. There was a Jamaican guy on the other block who had a really nice one. It was black with nice Panasport rim with Pireilli tires. It had a nice stripe around it. The interior was custom build and some big speaker in the back. In the past few months my knowledge on cars had grown, as Richie would take me to a garage where they were working on his real car. It was Mazda RX7. He and the mechanics call it a ‘roach’.
The bus pulled up at final terminal and I was off to the office. There were about 10 other students in the office waiting to go to the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV).
“Sign in there”, one of the students beckoned to me. There was a check off list on the front desk with my name.
I scanned the room. I did not see anyone I knew. I sat by myself and continued to review the learner’s book.
A tall thin man entered the room.
“Good morning. My name is Reuben Kolinsky and I will be your chaperone to the DMV driver’s license office. I have a letter here that you need to present at the DMV office. Please listen for your name, get your letter and review. If you do not hear your name or there is an error please see me”
I was the first to collect letter. The letter stated I was a student of the school and listed my name, ssn and date of birth.
I did not take long for the Mr. Kolinsky to go through the letters.
“Ok, everyone we are ready go. Follow me.” Mr. Kolinsky said as he started to walk out the office
We walked out the office and unto a yellow school bus. Soon we were on our way. It was a quiet ride. Everyone was studying on the bus. The DMV office was not very far. It was very close to the Hialeah flea market. Aunt Fern loved to shop there.
There was a line inside the lobby of the DMV office but we were allowed to go right to the front and form a separate line..
It was my turn. The male DMV officer checked the letter and looked at the photo ID. He did not have any emotion on his face. It was like a “screwface” Jamaican policer. The officer looked at me again and then at the police ID I had handed him. He motioned me to the side. Soon everyone to the group was on the side.
Next we were taken to a quiet area and each given DMV Written Exam. I breezed through the 40 questions in less than ½ hour. The questions on the road signs were very easy but the one on road rules were challenging. The other students were still working so I took the exam back to the “screwface” DMV officer.
He told me to wait in the lobby area.
We had entered through the side lobby door so I never really saw the whole lobby area. It was packed. There was barely any standing room. As I leaned against the wall nearest to the counter area I started to think goes back through some of the questions in my mind. I hate to do second guessing my self on the road rules part of the exam but I was really worried about passing. Since high school never try to second guess on multiple choice exams. I had studied hard so I would not come back a second time. I wanted to make sure I took full advantage of this opportunity.
There was a lot of talking in the lobby. I could pick out Black Americans, Spanish and Haitians. As always I was listening and looking around to see if there were any Jamaicans.
Yep, there is a Jamaican couple sitting near by. The man was wearing a Bob Marley shirt and Rasta belt. He was speaking to a full figured lady. They were speaking quietly but I could here the patois. His hands were animated to make a point so that was confirmation that he was Jamaican.
I stopped staring when I heard my name called.
“Yes”, as I approached the desk.
You have passed the exam, he said without a smile.
I was ecstatic but held my emotions within.
Please set back here and wait in that line for your picture to be taken.
The line had about 8 other in there.
The man in front of me started to talk. He had a big smile on his face.
“You speak eh Spanish”
“No” I replied
“Tres time I try” he said. “I happy now”
From my high school Spanish I could decifer that the “tres” was for three.
“Congrats” I said.
“Gracia. Where you from?” he asked
I still had an accent so it was very obvious I was not American.
Jamaica, I replied. I really was trying to keep my answers short. I did not really want to talk. I just want to get my business done.
“Hamiika”, he replied. At first I was puzzled but them I remember that in Spanish a “j” sound like an “h”.
“I am from Cuba.” He replied.
“Oh” I replied
Just as he was about to say something else Mr Kolinsky approached me in the line.
“I heard you pass. Congrats. When you are done I will be outside. “
I had seen him outside while I was in the lobby. He was smoking a cigarette.
The line got bigger as it seems most of the other students who came with me suddenly appeared. Two were missing.
My Cuban friend was up next. He really went all out in the picture.
He had a big “Colgate toothpaste” smile for the camera. Everyone in the line was laughing. It was like he had won a million dollars. It actually got the DMV officer who was taking the picture to smile.
“Sir you are not taking a family portrait”, the DMV officer explained with a smirk.
He did not care. He kept the big smile on.
I felt the same way inside about getting the learners but I just could now show it. I did not want to draw any unnecessary attention to myself.
I was next.
“Stand on that line and look at the dot here”, explained the DMV officer.
The flash went off and I was done.
“Please wait in the lobby until we call your name”
The lobby was still packed. It was almost 11.30 am. Time really went by fast.
I started “people watching” again. I saw 2 students that were not in the link to get their picture outside talking to Mr. Kolinsky. Based on the faces and the way they looked they did not pass. That was later confirmed on the bus.
I was again disturbed from people watching by the DMV officer, “Mr Screwface” calling my name. He also called the other students who were also in the lobby.
I handed my license. I did not even look at the picture. I just put it in my pants and walked out side. I could not wait to see it. I could not wait to tell Aunt Fern.
I would tell Sheri-Ann but not with the fan fare. She thinks I am here legally. We even talk of visiting Jamaica together in the summer. I don’t want her thinking anything different especially after the incident with her mother. Can you imagine her mother learning that I am here illegally? In a recent call she picked up the phone and was quite cordial. I could still sense the resentment. She tolerates me now because of Sherri-Ann but I don’t think any parent would want to have their child going out with someone who really does not have a sure future. I started to imagine me in a Toyota Starlet picking her up at school. There would be so much freedom.
When everyone was outside we enter the bus and left.
All the way back to school my hand was in my pocket. There were conversations on the bus but I just don’t remember any of them. I had gold in my pocket and I was no concerned about anything or anyone. I wanted to look but I was going to wait. To the other on the bus it was no big deal. There was no passing of licenses to see pictures etc. As we drove I was thinking. To them this is just another day in their lives. Some thing they are entitled as an American or green card resident. For me this was utter joy and a day I would never forget.
The bus pulled up in front off school and we were off in no time. I walked up to Mr. Kolinsky.
“Thank you for taking us”
With a puzzled look on his face he replied.“No Problem, its parts of my job”,
I guess no one else had thanked him for doing this before.
I did not want to draw any more attention to my gratitude for this so I quickly hurried off to the bus terminal. My hand was till in my pants pocket.
There was a bus already waiting. I boarded the bus and took a seat in the back.
There was no one around. I took out the license and looked at the picture.
It was one of my worse pictures ever. I had a “screwface”.
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