The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 16, 2013

Mike Pound: DMV photos often bump in road of life

By Mike Pound

— The good news is that our 15-year-old daughter Emma passed her learner’s permit driving test; the bad news is I think she is crazy.

It’s a tradeoff.

Emma first took her driving test about a month ago, but she didn’t do too well, which, at the time, I didn’t think was a big deal. Emma had already told me that most of her friends flunked the test the first time they took it. Emma told me that nobody actually studied for the test the first time. It was better, she said, to take the test and then find out what you need to study.

After Emma flunked the test, the women at the testing area told Emma she could study for a few minutes and take the test again if she wanted to.

Emma wanted to. So she sat in a chair, spent about 15 minutes studying the book and went back in and retook the test. She flunked again.

“That’s OK,” I said, figuring Emma wouldn’t be upset.

“No, it’s not,” Emma said with a devastated looked on her face.

“I thought you were OK with flunking the test,” I said.

“Yeah, but I didn’t want to flunk it twice,” Emma said. “This is humiliating.”

The trauma of flunking the test twice was so great that Emma kept putting off retaking the exam. I told Emma that if she waited any longer to take her test she would forget everything she had learned.

“I know, Dad,” Emma said. “GOSH.”

Emma has a way of saying “gosh” that manages to convey at least 14 levels of teenage frustration. It’s a “Gosh” that says “I wish everyone would leave me alone. Nobody understands what I’m going through. My life is horrible, and my parents drive me crazy.”

It’s quite a word, that “gosh.”

Finally, this past Tuesday, Emma announced she was ready to retake the test. While Emma took the test, my wife and I sat in the waiting area and worried.

“If she flunks it again, it will devastate her,” my wife said.

“I know,” I said. “And we will have to drive her around for the rest of our lives.”

A few minutes later Emma got up from the computer, turned around with a huge grin on her face and gave us thumbs up.

“Good for her,” my wife said.

“Good for us,” I said.

When we entered the testing room, Emma was finishing up her eye test, which I hoped she didn’t flunk.

She didn’t.

After that, the nice women filled out a form, took Emma’s picture and sent us next door so Emma could get her permit.

“I thought I already got my permit,” Emma said.

I explained that Emma still needed to go and get her official driver permit.

There were only a few people ahead of us in line waiting for their turn to get their license. After a few minutes it was our turn. We presented the roughly 4,596 pieces of documentation required to get Emma’s permit. It occurred to me while fumbling through our paperwork that it seems like it takes more documentation to get a driver’s license than it does to purchase a gun.

I thought that was strange.

Finally, the forms were filled out, the documents were copied, and it was time for Emma to have her picture taken.

“I blinked,” Emma said after her picture was taken.

“That’s OK,” I said.

A few minutes later, Emma got her official learner permit. I expected Emma to smile. I expected her to be happy and to savor this milestone in her young life. I didn’t get what I expected. Instead what I got was an anguished look.

“My picture is horrible,” Emma said. “I need them to take another one.”

I pointed to the line of people waiting behind us.

“This is the DMV, Emma. They don’t retake pictures.”

“But I can’t have a picture like this,” Emma said. “I need a new one.”

I told Emma to relax.

“It’s just a picture,” I said.

Emma looked at me for a second. Then she said what I knew was coming: