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How I learned to love the DMV & parallel parking
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The California DMV, in its infinite wisdom, has issued me a five-year extension to my driver's license.

It includes a slightly darker version of a DMV portrait snapped of me in March of 2009. As DMV photos go, it's not bad. It kind of looks like me, I actually have my eyes open, only have a semi-stupid look on my face, and appear as If I have no gray hair.

The license also continues a string of uninterrupted lies about my weight.

Up until 2009, whenever I had a new license issued I'd lie about my weight. When I weighed 240, I had them put down 230. The time I had a photo taken and I was at 280, I told the DMV clerk I was a svelte 250. You get the picture.

In 2009 I weighed 168 - just three pounds more than I do today. I gave the clerk my real weight for the first time in my life. When the card came in the mail, she hadn't changed it so my weight was still listed at 198 pounds. It was the same exact weight that I had on my card issued in 1999. If I remember right, I actually weighed 212 pounds back then.

I asked a friend who worked at the DMV one time if it was unusual for men to lie about their weight. She said the DMV assumes everyone lies about their weight. And from what she saw in dealing with the motoring public men are probably bigger lies when it comes to weight than women. She added that those who know they are overweight such as me do so out of embarrassment. Then she added that most other men lie about their weight because they live in a "fantasy world."

Getting my first license was a nerve wracking experience. It took me two tries. The first time I managed to draw the test examiner out of the Roseville DMV that everyone at high school referred to as the "red headed bastard." Even our behind-the-wheel instructors at school warned us of the guy. He took pride in never passing any teen he had for their first behind-the-wheel test.

I drew him for my first test. Everything was going fine until he had me turn into a neighborhood near Dry Creek where the only downhill stretch of payment existed in Roseville. He had me stop. He then told me to back up hill and parallel park. After I made my maneuver he ordered me to turn off the ignition and then he got out of the car. He went to the rear, got down on his knees and pulled out a tape measure.

"Eighteen and a half inches!" he bellowed.

On the way back he told me I had a score of 90 going until I "pulled the stunt" with my parallel parking. He actually told me that because I couldn't park within 18 inches of the curb as the law required that I could get people killed so he was going to have to flunk me.

You can imagine how I felt on the re-test parked in line a couple of months later when I realized I was going to draw the guy again. There were four DMV workers giving behind-the-wheel exams. I was in my mom's 1980 Impala - a car that was twice as large, three times heavier, got two gas stations to the mile, and was a fifth the price of its modern-day relative.

I was petrified.

My mom told me to relax and that everything was going to be fine.

The first car was a convertible. The second car was a Ford Galaxy. The third vehicle was a Datsun pickup. The fourth vehicle was a Buick station wagon and then there was my mother and me in her Green Machine.

When the red-headed gentleman strode out of the DMV office with his clipboard and his signature look that was a cross between someone suffering extreme constipation and that of a disgusted drill sergeant, I kept my eyes glued to the convertible that was being driven by a girl.

About a minute later there was the expensive sound of steel slamming into steel. The girl had put her car in reverse instead of drive and then stepped on the gas. That sent her into the Ford Galaxy that then went back into the Datsun pickup that in turn was pushed into the Buick station wagon. We didn't get hit.

The force buckled both doors on the Datsun pickup requiring the Roseville Fire Department to get the driver out. As for the red headed guy, the DMV office manager apologized that things would be going a bit slow for the rest of the day as policy required him to sideline the driving examiner involved in the mishap. That meant I'd get a human instead of Robo Examiner.

Upon hearing that, my mom turned to me and said, "See, I told you everything was going to be fine."

In the 42 years since then I have gotten two tickets - both for speeding - and have been involved in five moving collisions, none of which earned me any penalty points from the DMV. Two of the collisions were courtesy of drunken drivers. One ran a stop sign and the other a red light. Both were traveling in excess of 45 mph. I've even been rear-ended by an illegal that did not have insurance who tried to drive away from the scene until witnesses stopped him.

I like to think I'm a fairly safe driver. That said, to this day there is one maneuver that is still my Achilles Heel and that I will avoid doing at all costs when possible - parallel parking.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.