Every five years I have to renew my driver's license. So, on the 1462nd day, yes a day late, I trot down to the local RTA office to do the deed.
I take a ticket, fill in the form, for the second time... I've lost the one that came in the mail, sit and wait. There's a few security cameras about because I can see myself on a screen hanging from the ceiling.
The form asks you if you need spectacles to drive. I've been wearing glasses for about 10 years but I've always passed the eye-sight test. So far.
However, as with most people, my eyesight is getting worse. Albeit, slowly. I am not too sure if I need glasses to drive and not too sure how to go about finding out. Do I tick the "No I don't wear glasses" box? If I do and I fail the test what do I do? Will I have to re-fill-in the form? Get back in the queue? Get in trouble for lying on the form? Will the RTA teller call someone if I fail the eye-sight test? This paranoia is much more entertaining than simply sitting there watching my seated-self reappear on the security screen in it's endless rotation.
I decide to wear my glasses and hang the pride and inconvenience. It's unlikely I'll get pulled over when I am not wearing them anyway, but the risk is there because my sunglasses aren't prescription. I can see fine without glasses but bare eyes are a little uncomfortable.
"Ticket number A184 please go to window 7" calls the automated voice-lady. I'm up.
And wearing my glasses.
I hand over the form and my "current" driver's license.
The teller taps away, then frowns, then taps away some more.
I didn't have glasses for my last license, and now I do, so is she confused?
"Mr Wayfarer* have you changed your name?"
I wasn't expecting that. The RTA has had me on file for 30 years. They're supposed to be worried about my eyesight not my name.
"It says here your name is Mr Clayton-Wayfarer"
"Um.. "Clayton** is my second middle name. My Surname is Wayfarer"
"Well, in here the computer says your name is Clayton-Wayfarer; with a hyphen"
I show her a credit card; "See, no hyphen. Just Wayfarer"
"Well, you're going to have trouble if you leave it like that. Your identification won't match. You'll have to fill out a change-of-name form and bring in your birth certificate."
I'm thinking to myself I'm already without a current license, I'm really busy at work and can't afford the time for a second visit, God knows where my birth certificate is, and this is so wrong.
"It's not my fault your computer is confused! I've never changed my name; there's a glitch."
"I can't ignore the name change now that I've seen it, I'll get into trouble." she says.
She hands me the form and I look down at it despondently coloured with resignation... can't fight bureaucracy . Oh bother.
"Oh, hang on" she says. "It just fixed itself"
I raise an eyebrow at her. Who ever heard of a database record fixing itself?
She wanders off to see the supervisor. There is the obligatory whispered discussion, the dual synchronised look-at-the-customer stare, then some nodding and shaking of heads before she returns.
"It's all fixed" she reports and returns to her typing and clicking and frowning.
"Right" she says "Please read the bottom line". She holds a remote over her shoulder without turning. The screen with the eye test has been blank since I arrived. Each teller has one and they're all lined up in a row above and behind the tellers' heads.
"I can't" I reply.
She looks at me.
It's my turn to be difficult "It's blank."
She says, with a puzzled look on her face "The bottom line, please."
"It's not there."
"You can't read it?" she asks?
She still hasn't turned around.
"No. The screen isn't turned on. There is no test."
She turns round, looks up and waves the remote at it. Nothing happens. She leans over to the next teller's window, grabs his remote, no luck. Then she tries his remote on his screen and it comes on.
Proudly she instructs "Please read the bottom line."
What a dirty trick... it's further away but I read it without a problem.
She says I passed the test, goes back to her typing, then stops. "You didn't have glasses for your last license?"
I explain I wasn't sure that I needed to wear them for the test. She asks if I wear them when I drive, I answer that I do, but I can see pretty well without them. She suggests that I try the test without the glasses.
She picks up the wrong remote. Tries to work her neighbour's screen. Swaps remotes and tries again. I read it out without a problem, thinking how even un-fairer it was; no glasses and further away.
I'm puzzled, of course; after having said I normally wear the glasses for driving that she suggests I try it without them.
I pay, I thank, I sit, I wait, I get called to collect my new drivers license.
Thank goodness it's another 5 years before I have to do that again!
*Not my real name
**No. This is my real second middle name.