Driver’s License Identification, Please!

When I was 19, I decided it was time to get my driver’s license. Finally, I would have tangible proof of my driving abilities and a literal badge of honor, the ID in my back pocket. Bring it on, Vin Diesel. I’ll snag that pink slip in my borrowed station wagon.

I nearly failed my driver’s license exam that day. But I was determined to walk out of that building with a new identity as a new driver, much to my examiner’s contempt. I carried my confidence on my sleeve as I swaggered over to the ticket number machine with my sheet stamped “PASSED.” They eventually called 43 — my lucky number.

I handed my sheet to the beaming desk clerk with a wholesomely ironic robotic small town demeanor. “Great job,” she announced as she lit up with positive energy, “step over here and let’s take your photo!”

I walked over to the photo booth with growing determination. I knew they were going to capture me in my best light, putting on my best smile before hearing the shutter burst. I certainly wasn’t going to be identified as that guy with the mugshot.

Then the clerk handed me a slip to fill out with typical profile questions: eye color, gender, birthday, race…

Eye color? Brown, check. Gender? Male, check. Birthday? I’m 19, hell yeah! Check. Race? White and black. Check and check.

I answered each question with as much buzz as a caramel macchiato. The clerk mimicked my energy as she frantically typed my information into the system. Without warning, she paused and hit me with a grave question.

“Umm, sir? I see you checked both black and white as your race. Is that correct?”

“Yes ma’am,” I replied with a giddy grin.

“Ah, well. That’s great! Unfortunately, our system only allows you to select one race…”

“Really…”

Really? This was 2009! C’mon, I’m trying to identify as mixed. Every question about my identity culminated around such an essential part of daily life. Years upon years of checked boxes and questions swirled in my head. On this day, however, my excitement self-awareness came flying out in a quick response.

“White.”

In that moment, I swear I could hear the sound of a shorting circuit. An overhead fluorescent light may have flickered in response to my answer. The clerk froze. Her face contorted awkwardly with panic and stupor — like a countryside deer in the headlights. She looked as if she was going to protest but stopped herself.

Then, promptly shifting her mood, she replied, “Ah, ah, yes… I’ll type it in!”

I walked out with a shiny new card I could use to officially identify myself.

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