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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Talk Thursday: If It Weren't Illegal...

It bothers me no end that I'm such a law-abiding citizen. You'd think somebody like me would be a rabble-rousing hellraiser with a rap sheet as long as my arm, full of busts for civil disobedience, sneaking into animal shelters at night and freeing all the poisonous snakes, petty theft charges for like stealing the Mayor's keys, and being a public nuisance for, I dunno, lying down on the sidewalk in front of one of those government offices where you have to approach a row of windows in a proper but unknown order to get anything at all accomplished. But I don't. I'm distressingly well-behaved. Not only have I never been arrested (except that one time in Sweden, and I don't think that counts), I've never even been threatened with arrest, except for a couple of student protesty things in college, and by the time the police were telling us we had five minutes to clear the area, I'd assume the point had been made, we'd caused quite enough trouble, and I'd get up and go home. I mean, seriously, by then the press was there, dozens of cop cars were scattered about the area, lots of well-dressed people were standing around with their arms folded and looking distressed, and one or two officials who made more money in an hour than I did in a year had actually raised their voices. And that was about as much attention as the cross on top of Danforth Chapel actually needed, First Amendment or no First Amendment.

Okay, once I got pulled over for doing an illegal lane change and got a stern talking-to. But I didn't even get a written warning. And all of this well-behavedness brought me to where I am today, or rather, where I was yesterday: Standing at the counter at the Department of Vehicular Manslaughter, staring at the renewal form for my driver's license and trying to decide which box to check. There's a whole list of questions on that form that they want you to check "Yes" or "No" to. Any time you answer "Yes" to one of those questions, you're just bound to get into all sorts of trouble. Have you been diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes? (At least it doesn't just say "diabetes" anymore; the wise sheriffs of the DMV have figured out that there's more than one kind, and that a certain type is more dangerous, as far as driving goes.) Are you addicted to drugs or alcohol? Do you have a movement disorder that makes it difficult for you to turn your head or shoulders? And I was doing fine, checking "No" to box after box, until I got to, "Have you been diagnosed with or are you under a doctor's care for a psychiatric condition?"

I froze. Holy crap. It's illegal to be crazy and drive in Texas. Which is, if you'll pardon the expression, insane. I mean, I've driven in Texas and I've driven in L.A., and given the choice, I'd take the worst day in L.A. in a second, I mean in a heartbeat, over the best day in DFW. Don't get me wrong--people are much nicer here; they wave when they cut you off--but still, that's--that's just--words fail me. Heck, lots of things failed me, including my remarkable capacity to make decisions. I stood there with my pen poised over "Yes" or "No" for quite a long time, while the speaker in the background continued to drone on about "Now serving No. 678 at Window No. 999." Why in the world do they want to know if I have a psychiatric condition? Lots of people have psychiatric conditions. Three people in my house take Prozac, and one of them is a cat, for God's sake. Is this anybody's business? I mean, besides mine and my doctor's and everybody who reads this blog and my 120-odd followers on Twitter? (Hi, y'all!) And if it's illegal to be crazy and drive in Texas, then how in hell do they explain the 635 eastbound at rush hour?

Now, for some people this would be no problem. They'd simply check "No," renew their driver's licenses and go on with their lives. But I am not most people and I did have a problem. I am not in the habit of lying, period, but especially to government officials. That is a great way to get into all kinds of trouble. What did Martha Stewart go to jail for? Not insider trading but lying to the SEC. What is John Edwards in trouble for? Not diddling another woman and getting her pregnant, but lying about it to federal investigators. Never lie to the Feds, folks. It's just not worth the prison time. And while I'm sure that lying to the Texas high sheriffs isn't nearly as dire, the prisons in Texas aren't nearly as nice, either. Plus, it's just really not an option if you're me. I don't lie because I'm such a good person; no, I don't lie because I suck at it. I turn about eighteen shades of red, I start to sweat even if it's cold and my voice jumps an octave without my half-trying. I look really guilty. Remind me never to have an affair.

And so, after standing there for about fifteen minutes and listening to the annoying lady on the speaker getting closer and closer to my number, I finally checked "Yes" and sat down. Then, today at work, I did a little research on the Internet. What I've done is evidently called "self-reporting." The nice man behind the counter who took my little questionnaire will send it to something called the Medical Advisory Board, which will then send me a bunch of forms to fill out. I'll fill out the forms, probably have my doctor sign something, send them back, and the Medical Advisory Board will make some recommendation or other. If I don't like it, I can ask for a hearing with judges and lawyers and stuff. And if I don't like the outcome of the hearing, I can make like Dr. House and crash my car into the local Department of Vehicular Manslaughter as my final statement before they take my driver's license away.

That is, if it weren't illegal.

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