Facial hair and other problems
Again, it was time to get my driver’s license renewed. I couldn’t wait to see what novel requirements they had dreamed up since the last time I partook of this adventure. Even though (because of my age, I suppose) I am now required to renew my license every two years, there are always new innovations to the process.
Last time, the room was crowded with people seeking renewals or new licenses, and there were several stations for the vision check, and one for having your picture taken. When I first entered, I was relieved of the old license and instructed to stand against a blue background cloth, remove my glasses, and brush my bangs away from my forehead. Well, that was a new one– as was the admonition to not smile. Then I proceeded to the vision check, and then was told to wait for my temporary license. Always before, the actual license was produced within a few minutes, still hot from the laminating machine. The temporary license, a black and white copy of the real thing was a big disappointment. As in EEK! I looked awful; without my bangs and glasses, my grandchildren would not recognize me. My dog would probably bite me. Maybe the real license, when it arrived in the mail, would be less frightening. At least it would be in color and I wouldn’t look like I had died.
A couple weeks later the new license came in the mail and it was just as awful as the temporary one had been. I hoped no one would ever ask to see it when I wrote a check or bought a bottle of wine. I tucked it away in my purse and tried to avoid looking at it. Couldn’t be helped, that unflattering photo had some eerie power that compelled me to take it out and look at it often, hoping that it wouldn’t seem quite so awful once I grew accustomed to it. It seemed to get worse. I consoled myself by thinking that, if I were killed in an auto accident and they looked at my driver’s license in order to identify my corpse, I would look just like the photo on my license. There’d be no doubt about who I was.
As the next two years went by, I began to wonder about men with mustaches or beards. Were they required to shave before having their picture taken? Hardly, there would have been a great hue and cry arising from the male population if that were the case. I suspected that facial hair was allowed because it was a committee of men who decided that we women couldn’t have any hair hiding even the tiniest part of our faces, but that men could bury half their faces under hair and it was okay. I began to wonder about makeup. A woman can change her appearance with eyeliner, blusher, eyebrow pencil, even false eyelashes, almost as readily as men can by shaving off a beard or growing a mustache. Will the next step be that our faces must be freshly scrubbed?
This year, the licensing station was relatively empty when I arrived. I was prepared to relinquish my old license and was surprised when it was handed back to me with a numbered slip of paper, and I was told to take a seat. As I looked around the room, I saw cameras and blue background cloths at every station where there had formerly been only the vision testing machines. While I waited, a poster with examples of proper photos and unsatisfactory photos caught my eye. It said there should be no portion of the face hidden by hair. There should be no glasses hiding the eyes. Shoulders should be held straight. The person should have a neutral expression. The mouth should be closed and unsmiling. The head should not be tilted or even slightly turned, but facing straight into the camera.
My wait was short, my number was called and I was assigned to a pleasant and courteous operator who asked me if I had any physical or mental problems that would prevent me from driving safely. I wondered if anyone ever answered that question in the affirmative. (If you were there to get a drivers license, would you tell them you were unfit to drive?) I told her that, so far, I have a lifetime record of flawless driving– unless you count a couple parking dinks– because I thought that was proof enough that I am able to drive safely, but she insisted I answer either yes or no, which seemed rather silly.
I asked her about men with beards; were they sent home to shave before they had their pictures taken? She laughed and said that, of course not, a beard doesn’t cover any of the top part of the face. I don’t think that poster mentioned only the top part of the face, but I wasn’t about to argue the point. I wonder, though– what about men who wear hairpieces? Personally, I think they should be required to remove them for the photo. Heh! Heh!