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Gristmill: Hail the Road Test

Wed, 07/28/2021 - 13:09
From Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., #1, June 1968
Marvel Comics

Citizen, have you fully contemplated the D.M.V. Civil Service employee? Specifically, the dreaded Motor Vehicle License Examiner?

I just did, up close and personal, as they used to say at ABC Sports — slightly haggard (not an easy job, in fact quite repetitive), efficient (they have to be, with that line of cars and nervous would-be drivers staring them down daily), as stone-facedly all-business as the most hard-bitten night nurse (no time to suffer fools, yet they’re confronted with them all day long — not the neophytes, rather all those hanger-on parental units).

The tossed-off nurse analogy is apt, now that I think about it — it’s always women on this duty, which I was going to call thankless, but that’s not true, personally I thanked our tester twice, she just didn’t want to hear it.

Nor does she have to. Not anymore, with this new system by which you check your kid’s crushing setback or soaring ascension into adulthood, that is, the dreary driving-test score, on a website, instead of a piece of paper the tester furtively hands off before hustling away to avoid the reaction.

The testing site? You can have your Stotzky Park, Riverhead. Patchogue is the place to go. The sheer variety is a pleasure, as you make your approach down the wide boulevard that is Ocean Avenue, with its houses attractively set back and sidewalks lined with old-timely street lamps not unlike those on tonier Dayton Lane in East Hampton.

By the time you cross East Main and make that left on Cedar, however, down by the idling L.I.R.R. engine, it’s hard times. Vinyl siding and chain link is one thing — I’m no snob; I lived in a house adorned with both those things for eight years — but the two shopping carts filled with trash along the street-facing fence is something else.

As my daughter drove off, the tester and her electronic clipboard riding shotgun, I found myself curbside, gazing into the double-bay maw of MD Auto Repair, its stucco facade the color of dried mud. This is real American enterprise, I thought. I’d like to come back and use them for front-end work.

I’ll just add here, if this country’s automobile industry is as resolute as it seems in jettisoning the stick shift, once upon a time called the standard transmission, then the Department of Motor Vehicles can follow suit by getting rid of the parallel-parking testing requirement. Tit for tat; mutual obsolescence.

Also of note? She passed.

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