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June 24, 2024

A Quick Trip

By Dan Mulhollen

Edith Hopkins was born in 1940. During her younger days she loved to travel, having visited the capitals of over twenty-five countries. All this despite never having learned to drive a car. Now in 2019 she was a widow with a grown daughter and two grandchildren. Her grandson was driving her to the BMV to get a state ID card.

Edith was one of those folks whose constitution was often compared to that of a horse. But after toughing out several recent illnesses, she decided she needed to be more careful about her well-being and get health insurance -- which required the ID.

She expected this to be a quick trip, sure she brought everything she needed. A certified copy of her birth certificate, her passport, social security card, and a couple utility bills showing her name and address.

She waited in line, her grandson sitting down on a green vinyl-upholstered side chair to the rear of the room. When her turn came, she presented the clerk with her paperwork and made her request.

"I'm sorry," the clerk, a forty-something blob of a woman replied. "You don't have the necessary paperwork, compliant with the revised rules of 2017."

"What do I need?" Edith asked in a humble voice.

"Utility bills no longer serve as proof of residence. You need a notarized statement from your landlord or the institution holding the mortgage."

"There is no mortgage," Edith said, shaking her head. "Justin, my late husband, paid it all off in 1977. We had a little ceremony with a few friends over. After burning the document, we moved on to drinks and pastries."

The clerk drew a deep breath. "Do you have his death certificate?" she asked. "And any proof he once owned the house? You'll need to bring those."

"Yes, I suppose I have those."

"And your Social Security card. We're discouraged from accepting those anymore. A receipt from a Medicare voucher would be preferable."

"I have not ..." Edith began.

"This will have to suffice," the clerk grumbled, accepting the card. Then she looked at the birth certificate. "This will not do," she said. "Do you have a driver's license?"

"Would I be applying for a state ID card if I had a driver's license?" Edith asked, a little confused and a little more angry.

"You're not here due to a DUI?" The clerk appeared dumbfounded.

"What is wrong with my birth certificate?" Edith asked, growing worried. "It has the embossed seal and watermarks."

"Some congressman discovered anyone can order a birth certificate online and felt that represented a security problem."

Yes, Edith had seen that speech on the evening news, but thought the legislation would fail. She remembered the congressman ending his speech with, "And as the great Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin stated, "He who would sacrifice national security for a little personal freedom deserves neither." Edith remembered reading that quote a little differently as a child. But then, that was a long time before 9/11.

"I never learned to drive," Edith admitted.

"Let me talk to my supervisor," the clerk said, walking toward the office.

The clerk returned to the counter, moments later, accompanied by a tall black man.

"I'm sorry, but we cannot issue an ID at this time," he said, sounding more officious than apologetic.

"What can I do?" Edith asked. "I need to apply for health insurance, which requires a State ID."

"Your one option is to get a driver's license."

Edith shook her head slowly. She did not want to get a driver's license. She did not want to learn to drive. Her husband tried teaching her before their marriage. It was all too nerve-wracking; the street, the other cars, pedestrians, the signals and signs. She became anxious thinking about all that.

"We can give you the test for your temporary permit and supply a list of very good driving schools -- including one that specializes in teaching senior citizens."

"Must I?" she asked, sounding like a child.

She was led to a little carrel where she was given the test. It was much simpler than the test she'd taken at her husband's insistence. It took less than five minutes for her to answer the questions and return the test to the clerk.

Next came the vision test. Here was more bad news. "I'm afraid your vision will require glasses or corrective surgery, the blobby clerk stated.

"Oh dear!" Edith exclaimed, upset by the prospect.

"Oh, it's simple," the blob stated. "All done with lasers."

"But how will I pay?"

"I'm sure your health insurance plan will cover it."

Without health insurance, Edith could not get her state ID. Without a state ID, she could not get health insurance. Edith lived a few years longer, most of that time regretting neither the lack of an ID or health insurance.

She eventually died of a malady more likely to be fatal in seventeenth century than in the twenty-first.

Her grandson tried to interest a local TV news reporter in her story.

"Woman killed by national security laws," the reporter mused. "Catchy story, but our advertisers would ax it and I'd probably lose my job. It was their lobbyists who pushed for those laws to go through, and they don't take kindly to criticism."

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-07-04
4 Reader Comments
clearly, r. voza
08:48:24 AM
nice job.
05:58:23 PM
Clever and well written, and I am afraid not as much a fiction as we would all wish it to be. I would have loved to see a bit deeper into Edith's mind, a little more of her judgements about the situation. The piece moves well enough that a few excursions into Edith's social commentary could be fun.
06:03:42 PM
Jerry Guarino
11:00:59 AM
We don't see much POV from the elderly; the frustrations they see and their lack of power is sad. I like the length although it could easily be expanded. Good job Dan.
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