Horray for cheap grace

After I flew back to Phoenix and claimed the keys to my new apartment, one of my first acts of settling in was to pay a visit to the Motor Vehicle Department.

My passport was my only remaining valid form of identification.

Rather than afflict it with new creases and sweat stains, I thought I’d obtain a state-approved photo ID, which would be good for six months.

It turned out that the agent had bigger plans for me. “Are you aware that your driver’s license is suspended?” She asked.

I nodded. Standing before her in crotch-cradling lycra cycling shorts, a plastic helmet under my arm, I was very grimly aware of it.

My first act of settling in had been to buy a Trek road bike, the fastest vehicle I knew of whose licit operation required no official approval.

“To get it reinstated you’ll have to pay a $500 abandoned vehicle fee.”

How my beloved Geo Prizm came to be abandoned in the eyes of the law is a long story.

Let’s just say it involved a light collision in the turning lane, a smashed-in driver’s-side door, a high deductible, and a lot of poverty.

I was no longer quite so poor as I had been; paying the fine wasn’t going to be fun, but it was possible.

The thought of scattering the black clouds from the record and getting my license back appealed to me.

With a gulp and a sigh, I lay my Visa on the counter and said, “Okay.”

Without removing her eyes from her computer screen, the agent took it. Then she said, “Oh…wait.’

“What?”

“To get your license back, you’ll have to go to traffic school.”

Traffic school consisted of a one-day, eight-hour course held in the conference room of a Scottsdale motel. Mainly, the pupils watched videos – “Mr. Walker and Mr. Wheeler,” starring Walt Disney’s Goofy, being one.

As an alternative to paying a fine, it was far from a bad deal. I knew because I’d been through it twice before.

I agreed. The agent printed out some forms, which she instructed me to fill out and sign.

I did as she said, and she handed me back some other forms to keep.

Then she ran my card and had me sign the receipt.

I left the place with a temporary state-approved ID card and a sense of being one fairly small step from legitimacy.

But I had another record to clear up

During my year in Turkey, I had to work Saturdays and Sundays, and my work days lasted long into the evenings.

Traveling to the nearest church would have involved a seven-hour round trip and transportation costs in the neighborhood of $100.

With no confessor available, my sins, great and small, piled up.

On my first Saturday back in the Valley, I decided to get them absolved and receive Communion for the first time in 13 months.

The church had an open confessional, and the priest turned out to be one of the most benevolent-looking men I’d ever laid eyes on.

Actually, “benevolent” doesn’t do him justice.

He was adorable. Well-padded around the middle, with dark brows arching over gently inquisitive eyes, he looked as though at any moment he might cry out, “Oh, bother” and thrust his paws into a jar of honey.

After breezing through what I considered the small stuff, I recounted the tongue-lashings I’d dealt out while in the grip of my awful temper.

Whenever I recalled these moments privately, or for the benefit of friends, I wilted with shame.

They seemed to me not only sinful but contemptible, evidence of a low and ill-formed character.

The priest gave no sign of holding such an opinion.

With no change in his cuddly affect, he offered a few general pieces of advice and absolved me.

“For your penance,” he said. Continue reading

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