Once Upon a Time at the Department of Public Safety

Driver's License

This is a true story. (Cue the “Law and Order” music: DUN DUN!!!!)

This is my rendition of our trip to the Department of Public Safety.

Or as I commonly call it: Hades.

My daughter finished Driver’s Ed and had been driving with her permit for about a year. We were ready to take the final road test and get her license.

All my friends had given me advice. Somehow, Friend A just “walked on in” to this office and was out in 20 minutes. Friend B arrived very early to the Supercenter and was one of the first ten “walk-ins” so they were in and out quickly.

Apparently, I am Friend C, because I didn’t have this skip-into-the-office-with-a-basket-of-goodies-and-come-out-with-a-shiny-new-driver’s-license-for-my-child experience.

It began on the phone—not talking to anyone, mind you—just listening to ringing, busy signals and a system that tells you to press this and press that and then transfers you to an office in Botswana that is only open on Thursday mornings when the moon is full in a leap year.

So I decided to follow the lead of one friend who took her daughter to the small town of Gainesville, TX and do a walk-in test.

We drive the hour north and find the DPS office. Every chair is full; people are stacked on each other like fish in a barrel. We take a number from the number machine and lean against the wall, trying to look casual with everyone facing you.

Finally, a lady comes out with a clipboard.

Now, I am a huge follower of clipboards. I believe that someone with a clipboard = someone with authority. I go up to Clipboard Lady and ask if we’re in the right place for the road test. “Oh, we don’t take walk-ins anymore,” she says with a cackle in her voice and an evil gleam in her eye. I think I even heard snakes hissing behind the counter in agreement and pleasure at my chagrined face.

She tells me perhaps a “third party tester” would be better for us; i.e., pay $100 and let someone else do the job the government trained her to do.

I smile the fakest I’ve ever mustered and turn away. I feel tears of frustration coming and my daughter is telling me it’s all good, I don’t care, etc. After a few choice complaints about “The Man” holding us down, we leave to drive back home. On the way, we call the Garland Supercenter.

The recording asks if I want to get in line over the phone so I didn’t have to wait at their office. Here was the happy-happy-joy-joy! I could wait at my house (or in this case, driving back through the top of Texas) and they would let me know when I should come up. HOORAH!

The recording then says, “Thank you. There are 82 people in line ahead of you. Your wait time is approximately 140 minutes. We will notify you as your time gets closer.” Yep. 82. But 140 minutes wasn’t bad!

We could drive home, pick up my mom and still make it to Grand Prairie to the Supercenter in time for our arrival at the supreme DPS Royal Court Area of Licenses.

We drive to Grand Prairie and I realize I never pressed “one” to get the address. We pull off the highway (because of course, I’m demonstrating GREAT driving to my almost-independently-driving-daughter) and I called back.

It’s hard to describe the utter feeling of gloom that swept over my entire being as I heard the recording not say Supercenter in Grand Prairie, TX, but instead, Garland, TX.

OH SWEET MERCY! I have mixed up the “G-A-R”s in the name of the city and in my frustration, didn’t listen closely to the location. We are close to Six Flags and the Texas Rangers’ own ballpark. The SUPERCENTER is not. It is far. Far away in another land.

Once again, my daughter tries to soothe me and tell me we can do it another day. I know she’s nervous and just trying to get out of it. Now I’m more determined than ever to get her to the DPS office. The recording tells us we still have 45 minutes and my GPS tells me we are only 34 minutes away. Off we go!

Now I’m more determined than ever to get her to the DPS office. The recording tells us we still have 45 minutes and my GPS tells me we are only 34 minutes away. Off we go!

It’s somewhere around DFW airport that the laughter begins to take over my body. I sound like a cross between Jack Nicholson in The Shining and Snoopy. Tears fall down my face and my mom says to my daughter, “I think you’re mom’s slipped over the edge.”

My daughter looks at me like only a teenager can: as if someone just asked her the square root of 5,467 and she doesn’t want to do it.

We go the 34 minutes—a little longer because of course we were running out of gas and had to stop—and we finally arrive at the Garland Supercenter DPS. I see rays of sunshine shooting out of the roof and hear John Williams-esque music playing in my head. We’re HERE! And we are IN LINE!

We walk in with the confident air of your average peacock and walk up to a man with a clipboard.

Recognizing the power of the clipboard, I smile up at him. He looks at me and says in a low, menacing, “James Earle Jones gone bad” voice, “Are you in line by phone?” I look at him with pride and say, “Yes!”

“For what?” he asks.

“Please sir… if it pleases the court…. my daughter wishes to obtain a license to drive.” He looks at me with more pity than I deserve (because remember, the extra trip to Grand Prairie was totally my fault) and says, “We don’t take walk-ins.”

“WHAT?!” I shriek, turning a few heads. “But I pressed THREE! It said it was for first-time driver’s licenses!”

The man looks at me as one would look at a victim of a shark attack and says, “That’s for permits, not licenses.”

I didn’t hear much of what he said after that because, as my mom had foretold, I was over the edge. The Supercenter did not live up to its name. It was not super. I’m not sure it was even an actual center of anything.

He was saying something about doing “third party testing” just like the lady in Gainesville. It must be a phrase that’s part of the Clipboard Training Program.

Later, we got a call from one of the many numbers we had tried , saying that they had a cancellation for the road test and would we like to take the spot? I said “Yes!” not even caring when it was, so we went the next day and paid $75… to a third-party tester.

Even taking the test in the rain, my daughter passed with somewhat flying colors (parallel parking is a challenge for most humans). The next day, we would have to go back to the DPS to obtain the actual printed license. I shuddered at the thought.

This time, wise to the schemes of the DPS underworld, I told her we’d be getting up at 6 AM to get in line. She looked at me with that same look but didn’t argue. We took our lawn chairs and were at the door of the local DPS by 6:20. We had some nice chat time and watched the sun rise over the government building that held the final quest for the driver’s license holy grail.

At precisely 8 AM, the hope to which I had clung for two days began to peek out as the security guard came to unlock the gates of Hades.

I am proud to say that I did not run over anyone, push any children or yell anything as I briskly walked up the stairs and remained the FIRST ONE in this line.

After a little paperwork, a fingerprint scan and paying more money, she handed my daughter her license. I looked at the clerk with the look of a parched man seeing a mirage. “Really?” I ask. “That’s all?”

I wanted to climb across the desk and hug her, but I remembered the hissing snakes and figured they probably had their own security team somewhere, so I simply said, “Thank you.”

I walked out into the morning light, only 18 minutes after we’d walked in. It was glorious. We had succeeded. I was DONE! FINISHED! NO MORE!

Then it hit me: I have another daughter. To quote the great theologian, Yoda, “There is another.”

So I called and scheduled her road test appointment… for March, 2021.


Amy Parsons is the proud parent (99% of the time) of two amazing daughters. She is also the owner of the dance studio, Footlights, in Flower Mound, TX.  Read more funny stuff on her blog.

Photo: Kristy

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