I have little patience these days for bureaucrats who incessantly insist on compulsory rules that the next level bureaucrat denies exist. After several visits this month to the Department of Motor Vehicles, I am DMV’d out. But one trip this week did make the journey worthwhile, allowing all to be OK again.
I have infinite patience for an innocent smile, a warm flick of the eyes in my direction, a child unafraid to look me in the eye…even while I am bored to distraction at the abominable DMV.
Upon receiving my number at the DMV entry desk, I find a comfortable seat under a speaker, to be very sure to hear my number announced: F124. The building is quite long, the interior arrangment allows for the clientele to easily and quickly reach their assigned window. The seating, not in deep rows, stretches from one end of the one story brick building to the other. Waiting customers can easily see the numbered clerk’s booths while listening for the ceiling loudspeaker to announce their turn. The security guard stands behind the seating watching for people who develop DMV frustration rage.
Expecting a long siege (my DMV motto,) opening my book, I haphazardly glance to my left and see a skinny, curly-headed, young boy seated 4 or 5 seats away jittering about: seat to floor; then seat to seat, entertaining himself while his father labors over endless DMV paper work. Very athletically, the boy begins a kind of upright roll, feet on the floor—hands chair to chair—on three or four chairs, doing his hand to hand spin round and round on the chair seats. He surprises himself, ending up his roll two empty chairs away from me. He stares up at me for just a brief moment giving me time to say:
“Hey, good morning.”
He responds with a very faint, shy “Hey” in return.
Looking back again—after taking me all in—he glances back at his Dad, just checking. Then, he smiles openly with curiosity about this man who talks to children as if they are grown, and I notice his little shirt emblazoned with the characters from “Toy Story.”
“Did you see Woody at the movies?” I ask.
“Nope, I don’t go to the movies until Sunday.”
His lanky body bends and stretches over the chair as he speaks, under his Dad’s watchful eye. It is clear the father knows we are conversing, his boy and I. Flopping his bottom off, then on the chair; he stretches out on the chairs slightly closer to me.
“How old are you?” I ask, trying not to sound like an adult.
“Three… uh ….four, ” he stumbles, then pausing just a moment adds, “My favorite number is Z.” As he gazes above my head.
“Hmmmm,” I say, “I guess mine is K. It’s the first letter in the name of some people I love—Why do you like Z?”
“ ‘Cause it’s my favorite—it’s up there,” he says pointing at the big “Z” on my baseball cap.
“Oh,” I reply, now understanding, “it says Z for Zion Canyon National Park, a place out west in Utah I once visited. A most beautiful desert canyon with strange rock formations.”
“How old are you?” he asks precociously.
“Seventy, but we aren’t so different, you and I. It’s just that you are small and I am big.”
“You are old,” he says.
“Yes, I guess, but I feel young.”
“Seventy is pretty old,” he reiterates. “I don’t even go to school yet.”
He steps down and does a hop scotch sort of thing on the floor tiles.
“Have you ever been out west?” I ask.
“Yes, I went to Gramma’s house in Suffolk.”
Then the lady in the sky announces:
“Now serving B14 at window 10.”
He looks up for a moment, perhaps mystified by the disembodied voice above, but then accepts its message and goes to the chair next to Dad where their numbered ticket lies waiting, studies it, sets it back down with a pat, then returns toward me smiling, “B15.”
“Nice number,” I reply.
“We’re next!” he says, shocking me with this calculated information, “What’s your number?”
The lady in the sky speaks again:
“B15 at window 9.”
“F124 now at window 11.”
He turns, giving me a smile, a hand wave, and is gone from sight as I respond to the call with just a little more joy in my heart.