I have decided to die.
Not right away. Maybe in another 40 years, which would make me 110.
But when I do die, it will be right here in Bluffton, SC.
It’s easier than having to move again.
In fact, I’m not even going to leave our condo. Whoever finds my body, can just cremate me on the spot, scatter my ashes on the carpet and let the next owners whoosh me up in the vacuum.
In the course of my life, I have moved 3,228 times and this one, by far, was/is/will be the worst.
We thought the move to Bluffton would be hard given our ages and my decrepitude, the boxing and unboxing, the never ending attempt to find a place for things in the new home that always knew their place in the old home, but we had no idea of what disgust and dismay, what absolute terror lay before us.
The South Carolina DMV.
All DMVs are vampiric, sucking your life’s blood straight from your aorta. But South Carolina has enough bureaucracy to choke a herd of elephants and enough red tape to encircle the globe. Twice.
To get a SC driver’s license and plates for a vehicle you need to fill out 1,923 forms, pay $10,643.19 in fees, make 327 trips to various state agencies and petition for a change to the U.S. Constitution.
The first stop on my long and winding road to be able to legally drive in South Carolina was, of course, the DMV office. This particular one was about the size of the third bedroom in your daughter’s dollhouse. The queue as I arrived wended through the tiny room, out the door, into and out of the restrooms, out the door, down the sidewalk, onto the street, over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house, and back again.
Estimated wait time, 16 days.
This is South Carolina, remember, where the sun feels as if it’s about two inches from your forehead. Waiting outside in that kind of heat will melt your brain cells and drive you mad. When I finally made my way inside the room, there were maybe 6 chairs and about 400 people brawling for a place to sit. It was so bad I had to hip check a 6-year-old boy into a counter to grab a seat. He was crying, but then, by this time, so was I.
Periodically, a disembodied voice would announce which number was being served next.
“Now serving B-1976 at station number 7.” “Now serving A-1430 at station 11. “Now serving V-516 at station 1.”
I was in the T group and within seconds of my sitting down, the voice said, “Now serving T-13 at station 3.”
Yeeesssss, I thought. I might make it out of here today.
Then I examined more closely then number I’d been given as elbowed my way into the room.
I think I fell asleep. I’m not sure for how long. Months maybe.
Finally, though, I heard “Now serving T-19,232 at station 3,” and I staggered up to station 3 where a clerk rasped wearily, “Got all your paperwork?”
I hefted the 10-pound documentation binder onto her desk where it landed with a thud that shook the room.
“Yes,” I said. “Everything but a Social Security card.”
With an eyebrow raised, she gave me the once over and said, “I didn’t know they were handing out Social Security cards back in 1901.”
“Hey, I’m only 70,” I protested.
“Really? Huh. Well, you need a Social Security card to get a license. That or 21 other means of ID.”
“I haven’t had that card since I was 16,” I said. “I think it was in the back pocket of the jeans my mom washed. But look, look, look. My Social Security number is right here … right on my spiffy red, white and blue Medicare card.”
“No can do,” she said. She pressed a button and the announcement came, “Now serving T-19,233 at desk 3.”
Sobbing, I left and went back home where I spent 2 days scrounging the 21 other “means of ID.” I returned to the DMV, waited in line, played musical chairs again and finally made my way back to desk 3.
“Got it all this time,” I said triumphantly.
“We’ll see about that,” said the clerk.
It took her three hours to check all the documents. I paid my fee and was told “Your number will be called in the next hour to six days to get your photo taken.”
I waited. And waited. And waited. My beard grew three inches. I started to smell. By the time I got my picture taken, several people thought they recognized me from the WANTED posters at the police station.
I wasn’t through, however. Now I needed plates.
In South Carolina, vehicles are considered property, so I had to go to a separate office to pay the tax on my car. T the door, I was issued another ticket to see the auditor. Entered another room the size of a postage stamp. Played another game of chair, chair, who’s got the chair. Waited, waited, waited. Had my number called and got up to the auditor’s desk. Handed over my paperwork. The clerk did some typing and then told me I’d have to wait for the treasurer to call my number. More chair games. More waiting, waiting, waiting. My foot went to sleep. My hair fell out. My butt went numb. Finally, the treasurer called my number. I lurched up to the desk and paid my fee.
“Can I get my plates now?” I pleaded, blood running from my eyes.
“Not here,” the treasurer said brightly.
“Where?” I croaked.
They had to call an ambulance to take me away.