“Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here,” is a sign for those on their way to the “Inferno,” a poem by Dante written in 1303. We’v had troubles, especially in the last four months. We, however, are not the only ones.

As a teacher of history and literature, I remember reading Dante of his trip through hell, purgatory, and heaven. It seemed a useless task to read about a guy who had it rough 700 years ago. How could it apply to us in the 21st century? And then I went to renew my driver’s license last week. The opening quote from Dante could indeed apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV. I had a large folder of important information, my original birth certificate, those cute little footprints were mine. I had my marriage license, 1972. I had a 1099 from the I.R.S., tax guys, my current driver’s license, a letter from my doctor saying I still could drive. I had a letter from Lovelace Clinic explaining that my social security number was stolen from them six years ago and that was why the first five numbers on the 1099 were blocked. The letter from Lovelace was to explain what my real number was. Guess what? It did not matter to DMV that I had not been paid tax returns for a year and that is why it was blocked. The supervisor, the Duchess of Darkness, began our trip thru Inferno by opening the door late. She had been in the hall gossiping with others who worked there. We stood outside waiting. When my husband tried to help her by holding the door, she yelled, “STAND BACK.” Unfortunately, our masks were still in my purse and we fumbled to get them on. “Only the one needing the license can come in,” Lady Dark bellowed.

“No one expects the Spanish inquisition,” is a line from Monty Python. It applied here. Nervously I handed the papers as called for to the young lady behind the plastic window.

“You don’t have your social security card.”

“Yes, but I have my 1099.”

“It is blocked. I will call my supervisor.”

“No, we don’t take it.”

“I have many documents to prove who I am. I have two letters from Lovelace and a doctor.”

“No!” And the Lady of Darkness left.

This was taking too long. I dumped my purse and folder. I was clumsy with gloves on. The man next to me said, “She,” meaning me, “is talking too loud, I can’t hear you.” My mask was trouble. Behind the counter the decently polite young lady said, “You can get a local license, but not one that is nationally compliant.”

“Sure, just let me get out of here.” Hope for purgatory, but not heaven!

After trying to get in on my birthday in April, with the next month closing in, we had finally gotten an appointment in June. In the mail three days before, I learned I was totally illegal to drive on May 15. I got a provisional license. I was desperate. I read the line to her satisfaction. Yea, I could read. I got my photo taken. I look like my dog just died. Actually, it was my cat, Phantom, who was 23. There was no room for redemption here. You obeyed or you were exiled forever. They have all the cards. You are nothing and in this little Queendom, there is only one judge. You are guilty when you walk through the door.

Over 2000 years ago, the smartest man was held up by a group of judges. Their evil purpose was to trick the good man who was subject to very strict laws. The law was you could not work on the Sabbath. “If your beast of burden falls into a hole on the Sabbath, do you pull him out or let him die?” This was the trick question. The wisest man replied, “There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Always go with the spirit of the law.” The judges were silent but plotted more evil later.

Common sense and common courtesy are gone in small Kingdoms. Years ago, I went to MVD and knew all those working and greeted them with a smile and neighborly friendship. No so today. We should not allow that which shall not be named to corrupt us as fellow human beings. No one asked why I was in the hospital and my social security number was stolen or if I ever got my tax money returned. I refuse the title, “Abandon Hope,” we are better than that. I have a piece of paper that says I should get a plastic wallet-sized license in August. Wave, if you see my old car—I am still driving. Roaring Mouse, zoom, zoom, out.