I learned several things while I was at the DMV last week: I know all of the words to Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds,” men have cankles too, the cute-from-the-back, tousled hair guy standing in line ahead of me was NOT Nate Berkus, just because you spot someone you know across the crowded waiting room does not mean you need to say hello especially since she snubbed you at a recent bar mitzvah, I know all of the words to George Benson’s “Give Me the Night” and I should never leave the house without a snack.
What in the world possessed me to go to the Herald Square branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles on a humid, 90 degree day? My Learner’s Permit expired. I should say that it was my sixth permit to expire over the course of the years since I got my first one with the intention of one day learning how to drive. As I’ve said before, I think people do what they want to do and I guess I just don’t want to learn because I’ve had 30 years in which to do so but have somehow never gotten around to it.
During a recent assessment of various documents I noticed my passport had expired and my permit would turn invalid on the day I turned…, well, on my birthday. Although I had no plans to travel outside the US anytime soon, I panicked when I realized that I’d be turned away at the border should I need to flee the States on a moment’s notice. Maybe it’s a Jewish thing, the fear that approaching Kossacks or Nazis will drive you from your home in the dark of night. Another example of why being prepared is so important.
Renewing my passport without having to deal with another human being was a pleasure and I am now ready should an approaching gang of fascists force me to seek passage on a cargo ship bound for lands unknown. Renewing my Learner’s Permit? A pleasure-free experience.
And here’s another one of my crazy “what if’s.” I actually could just opt for a New York State Non-driver Photo ID Card, for which there is no test. But “what if” I’m in a car (as a passenger of course) when the driver is felled by a seizure or a stroke or a heart attack? I’d have to grab the wheel and how could I do that without a permit? So between the Kossacks and the collapsing drivers, I need my documents to be in full force and effect. I had no choice but to go to the DMV.
11:30AM: arrive to find a line of about 25 people. With no signage or employees indicating I should go elsewhere, I stand in the line for 15 minutes waiting for the one woman assigned to address the line standers individually to tell me I am in the wrong line.
11:49AM: a baby starts to scream and I get in the “right” line, behind 21 people, to take the written test. Notice I am humming “Against All Odds” being blasted from the speakers above my head and shut up as soon as Not Nate Berkus shoots me a look.
12:07PM: realize it was really stupid to drink a huge mug of green tea right before I left the house. A man in shorts and Tevas won’t stop bothering another line stander with questions line stander can’t answer. Shorts man should be wearing pants to cover his unsightly cankles.
12:28PM: A (different) lone woman assigned to address the line standers individually reviews my paperwork, takes my picture, and directs me to sit on a bench until it is time to take the test.
12:33PM: sit on the bench and all of a sudden have that all too familiar feeling that I’m about to take a test for which I haven’t prepared. I grab a well-worn handbook (gratefully remembering the Purell wipes I have in my bag) and begin cramming.
12:50PM: my group is called to the counter and told to “take a pencil AND a pen and pick your answers carefully! If you get only two of the road sign identification questions wrong, you fail the test.”
12:51PM: remember that my grandfather’s failure of the written test was a source of shame for him and behind-his-back mockery from us. Please God, let me pass. And while you are at it, please make my stomach stop growling.
1:05PM: turn in test and hope for the best.
1:12PM: called to front, handed my paper with a red check on it (yay!) and a ticket and told to wait with the huddled masses until the letter and number on the ticket appear with a window number on the digital screen. Look around for a rest room, find none and cross my legs.
1:21PM: while sitting with the 100’s of other people, realize I am humming “Give Me the Night” and shut up when I notice Woman Who Snubbed Me at the Bar Mitzvah has joined the crowd with her older son. Figure he must be getting his Permit too and decide not to say “hello” because that shared reason for being at the DMV is too humiliating.
1:41PM: wonder why there are 26 windows that could potentially be manned to serve this crowd yet only nine people seem to be working behind them. Try not to think about food. I’m starving.
1:58PM: finally called to window 24, pay my $77 and am handed a temporary Permit.
2:06PM: jump back on the subway hoping to get home ASAP due to the too-much-tea and crashing blood sugar conditions
There are so many issues with this tale. Of course you have the municipal budget cuts that lead to spending 2 ½ hours on something that should take 30 minutes. Then there’s the fact that an otherwise very competent woman of a certain age has managed to surround herself with enough enablers so as not to have to acquire what most consider to be a survival skill. And most importantly, that same woman, who always has something to munch on in her purse, forgets that her other five trips to the DMV have taken at least as long and arrives completely snack-free. Don’t let this happen to you.
These granola bars are so easy and taste so much better than any you will ever buy at your convenience store. They are sweet and chewy, nutty, toasty, crunchy and completely filling. The subtle hint of vanilla gives them a really nice depth of flavor and they won’t fall apart as long as you really press the mixture into the pan thoroughly. My DMV experience would have been so much more pleasant if I’d thought to throw one in my tote bag. Of course the matter of too much green tea might have reduced the pleasure of ingesting anything (don’t let that happen to you either) but that was entirely my fault. In the meantime, I could say that in five years, when I have to take that written test again, I will also take my road test. But I don’t want to make promises I can’t (don't want to?) keep. And as long as I have my Metro Card and that handful of enablers, I think I’ll stay a passenger. And I promise never to forget the snacks.
How I Learned Not to Drive Granola Bars
Recipe adapted from The Food Network, Alton Brown, 2005
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8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats, approximately 2 cups
1 1/2 ounces raw pumpkin (pepitas) seeds, approximately 1/2 cup
3 ounces sliced almonds, approximately 1 cup
1 1/2 ounces wheat germ, approximately 1/2 cup
6 ounces honey, approximately 1/2 cup
1 3/4 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup packed
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 1/2 ounces of your favorite chopped, dried fruit. I used apricots and cranberries. (I'd stay away from figs or dates.--too moist)
Butter a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread the oats, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a medium cookie sheet. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, extract and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved, stirring occasionally so sugar doesn't burn and stick to pan.
Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine.
Turn mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down very, very hard, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish (a piece of wax paper allows for pressing without getting everything all over your hands) and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool COMPLETELY. I was able to turn my dish upside down and the whole thing came out in one piece. I then cut into 12 bars. You can choose any size you like.
Yield: 12 Bars or 16, 2" squares.