Maybe it’s because the picture is always snapped in a hurry. The harried employees behind the camera at the Department of Safety and Homeland Security don’t have time for the nonsense most photographers have to put up with. Forget freshening your lipstick or straightening your shirt collar or trying to sit up tall. Heck, some of the DOS employees even ask you not to smile.
But somehow, maybe because I don’t have time to plant a silly self-conscious expression on my face, my picture usually turns out okay.
That’s one reason I was dreading the birthday I celebrated last Monday. It was one of those big ending-in-zero milestones. I was under the impression I’d have to go into the driver testing center in person to get a new license, since I’m still using the one I got last time I celebrated a birthday that ended in zero. But just for grins, I went to the website to see if I could renew online. Wonder of wonders, it let me.
Meaning that–when it came to my legal photo, at least—sixty really was going to be the new fifty.
I’ve never minded having to pull out my issued-in-2004 driver’s license when asked to show an ID. No saggy chin, no drooping eyelids, no flecks of silver in my red hair. Sometimes the folks looking at the picture, particularly TSA employees who are supposed to at least act like they’re studying it, do a slight double take. I always imagine they’re thinking “Whoa…too bad you don’t look like that anymore,” but—so far, at least—they’ve never failed to let me through security.
I started the renewal process a little late this year, so I worried that my new license might not come in time for my birthday. Though it’s legal to print off the online renewal confirmation to use until the license arrives, that would have involved spending a whole lot of time trying to get my almost-new but very temperamental printer to work. Which is enough to fill up a long, depressing column all its own.
For the purposes of this column, I called the Putnam County driver testing center to ask how many times a person was allowed to renew a license without having a new photo taken. The woman who answered the phone was not warm and friendly. “You can keep the same photo for one cycle,” she said.
“A license has to be renewed in person at the end of a cycle,” she repeated. I could tell she was rolling her eyes. Not wanting to push my luck or have her inquire who I was and perhaps put a stop on my online renewal, I didn’t ask again. I just thanked her and hung up. But it sounded like, if I played my cards right, I’d be able to use my just-turned-fifty picture until my seventieth birthday. Score!!!
Happily, an envelope from the Department of Safety was lying in my mailbox the day after Christmas. But when I tore it open and saw my new license, I gasped in horror. Gazing up at me was not my picture from ten years ago. Instead, it was the picture from the handgun carry permit I was issued in June of 2013. Chin starting to sag, eyelids beginning to droop, flecks of silver—lots of them–in my red hair.
Rats! Sixty isn’t the new fifty after all. It’s only the new fifty-eight-and-a-half. But at least I get to keep this latest photo for an entire cycle. Whatever that means.
(January 4, 2015)