To fight off the melancholy over my girl’s return to California on Sunday, I took my kids and my scrawny bad-haircut-having dog for a long walk along the raging Potomac. Afterward, intending to get some good frozen yogurt, I pulled into a local parking structure. I fished in my backpack for my wallet and realized it was gone. I had to beg my way out of the garage, all I had was the change in the car. I was seriously mourning the loss of my driver’s license, the replacement of which would revisit a trauma.
Let me tell you a little story, Readers. When I lived in the rural Midwest, if you lost your license, you would go to the D.O.T. office in the basement of the county courthouse. Marilyn would be there and probably no one else. She would chide you for not keeping track of your things. She would ask after your kids and you would ask after her mother. She would glance at your social security card (regulations) and then take your picture and probably tease you about the goofy expression you were making. She would hand you the new card and not let go until she had finished speaking, “Now you keep track of this one, you hear? I don’t want to see you back in here for at least a year.” You would know she was looking forward to the next time you mislaid your license and you would know that she and her husband would laugh about your absentmindedness over their supper that evening. If the day’s news had been good, you would leave with a smile that might last the rest of the day.
When I fled to Northern Virginia, I was advised to immediately transfer everything, license, car registration, the whole shebang. A field trip to the Virginia DOT, kids! Take a number and wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, our number was called, but only after my then seven-year-old son had dissected and exploded a pen, spreading ink all over the plastic seats in an attempt to clean it up while I was filling out forms. (Marilyn would have scolded, but these big city DOT employees didn’t especially seem to care. They handed me a box of tissues.) After the hour’s wait, it turned out that my documents were not in order. I could have a license, but not a registration for my van. That would require some legwork.
Two weeks later, I was back at the DOT, taking a number, and waiting. This time, it was nearly an hour and a half and my then two-year-old had a balloon which he managed to pop, causing everyone in the large room, including me, to simultaneously startle. The boys were having a difficult time waiting and were poking at one another. I hadn’t been able to arrange to come alone. Finally it was my turn. I walked up to the window and explained my business. The clerk looked over my documents and then looked over her glasses at me and told me I needed one more document, one I would have to get from Ex. I can specifically point to the handful of real meltdowns of my contentious divorce and this was one. I started to cry and began to blubber. I told her about the messy divorce, my angry ex-husband, the custody fight, and the necessity to have everything registered in Virginia as soon as possible. Tee-Em-Eye. I told her that I had waited twice and my son made that ink mark on that chair over there the last time we were here because it is hard for two little boys to wait. “Isn’t there anything you can do?” I begged desperately.
She shook her head sadly. However, I was no longer a number waiting in line but a pitiable wretch who needed help. “Let me get my supervisor.”
A short man in a neat sweater vest approached and began, “I’m sorry….” I had stopped weeping, but launched into the same story, talking quickly while the boys tugged at me. He also shook his head, but spoke soothingly. “I think I can help you,” he said. He gave me my license plate on the promise to produce the missing document once all was settled. I thanked him repeatedly as he shooed me from the window, anxious for me to leave before I started talking or crying again.
I was dreading walking through those glass doors and taking a number in order to replace my lost license. Fortunately, an email from a stranger arrived on Sunday evening, subject line: Found your wallet. As I suspected, I had dropped it in the parking lot at the park. Yesterday, I met the charming young man who contacted me to return it. Turns out my failure to clean the thing out on any regular basis worked to my benefit. There were cards in there with the blog URL and my email address. The good fellow who bolstered my faith in humanity reports his girlfriend took a peek at the blog, too. (Hello to both, and again—thank you! …and Girl, that Erik, he’s a keeper!)
Faith in humanity has come to me through the kindnesses of strangers like Erik (and those nice people at the Virginia DOT). Kindness saved my behind again as it has so often before.