Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Cars: Can't live with 'em, can't set 'em on fire

I wasted most of today dealing with automobile-related issues.

Tomorrow is my birthday. My 35th, if you're curious. It's a time for celebration, of course, but until this morning it also had an insidious implication: My driver's license was expiring.

I had hoped to move to Oregon before my birthday this year. Yes, I'm eager to embark on a new phase of my life. But on a more practical level, I had very illegally never obtained a Georgia driver's license in the four years I had lived here, and I was hoping to avoid it altogether. My Tennessee license was perfectly valid, as long as no one asked any troubling questions about my residence.

It didn't go that way, though. I'm still here! So Monday when I was in town, I stopped at the tag bureau and asked (a) where to get a driver's license, and (b) exactly what documents I would need in order to obtain one. The man behind the counter gave me some convoluted directions to the Highway Patrol office on Hwy. 29 (luckily I know Athens like the back of my hand and was able to translate his ramblings), and then said I would need my existing license and my passport. Period. Nothing more.

So this morning I drove 50 minutes--into Athens, and then across it--to the Highway Patrol office. I walked up to the Information desk and was immediately disqualified from receiving a Georgia license because I couldn't produce a utility bill or mortgage contract to prove that I lived in Georgia. (If I ever see that man from the tag bureau again, I am going to spit on his shoes.)

Luckily, a brainstorming session with a lady behind the counter inspired a solution. Instead of having to drive all the way home and back, I was able to dart over to a nearby branch of my bank and have them print out a copy of my latest statement. That sufficed as proof of residence.

The photo on my new driver's license is a little odd. I look bemused, or maybe rattled. I liked my old license better, but of course I had to surrender it. That was right before they fingerprinted me. Fingerprinted! What a way to make me feel like a though the cheap wood-paneled room with the flickering fluorescent lights didn't do the job well enough.

On the way home the chattering eh-eh-eh-eh-eh noise that my car makes when I brake inspired me to stop by my auto mechanic shop. I am loyal to this shop for two reasons:

(1) It is within walking distance of an excellent coffee shop, plenty of restaurants, and some passably interesting shopping.

(2) It is run by a pair of nice young Indian guys who don't take appointments. It's first-come-first-serve, but if you are female (or at least if you are me) a little mild flirting will bump you to the front of the queue.

I produced the receipt from the front and rear brake job they'd done for me a month and a half ago. The Indian guy with the goatee took my keys and drove away in my car at an alarming rate--so that he could slam on the brakes and test it. Then he swung a yooey (U-ie? how on earth do you spell that?) and returned. He said he was very busy, but that I was so nice that he would see what he could do.

When I returned from the coffee shop, the car was already reassembled. Goatee guy told me the brakes were all fine. The noise was probably the wheel bearings. It wasn't dangerous, just annoying.

He didn't charge me anything.

I guess a free diagnosis of "annoying" is pretty good, all things considered.