Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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On August 13 2004 I left my house and took a bus to the Harlem DMV. I was but a boy then, oh 22 years of age and six feet tall no doubt, but a boy nonetheless. I returned an hour and a half later, as a man. No, I did not get my learner's permit, was not granted the privilege and the honor of commanding 2 tons of steel and plastic on the streets of New York State. Instead, I was royally screwed by my government, my bureaucratic cherry popped in a burst of red tape, and is that not what manhood is all about?

The trip on the bus was nice enough. I was squeezed into a tiny little sliver of a seat built for someone with legs approximately three inches long. As part of its anti-discrimination practices New York State hired amputees to serve as seat models for their bus seats. It's a conspiracy against the normally legged. Other than the imperfect seats there wasn't much to complain about on the ride over, other than the fact that the bus moved at a speed so slowly that the amputees would have been better off hobbling to their destination on their amputee-stubs than taking the vehicle that was seemingly designed with them specifically in mind. Life is full of cruel ironies.

I arrived at the DMV after a 35 minute bus ride (which might seem to belie my claims of riding on a bus so slow it couldn't even qualify for the Nascar vehicular special-Olympics if you do not know that the DMV is only 2 blocks from my house. I only took the bus because I wanted time to read up for the test.) It was housed on the fourth floor of a normal looking building, with nary an eviscerated corpse hanging from the doorway or sitting ominously in a window. It would have been nice, you know, as fair warning.

I took the escalator up and immediately entered what appeared to be a fourth or fifth world country. Not only were there people camped out like refugees in the license renewal line but some had brought goats and other livestock so they would have something to slaughter and eat during the wait. I'm pretty sure one group was roasting an emu. There was a woman in labor waving off the paramedics because she didn't want to lose her place in line. I was told that the child had been conceived during a particularly passionate night when her husband had visited her in the photo line. She hoped to actually have her license before he was weaned. There was only one empty line, marked of for REALLY illegal aliens. It was manned by a tentacled creature with a hundred toothed maw. Its name tag said "Glyvordbgd Destroyer of Worlds." Only it was last name first so it wasn't clear whether that was his last name or his title. One enterprising fellow went up to him and asked him why he was working there. He said that he had been an intergalactic warlord who had exterminated races and left planets nothing more than smoldering lifeless husks on their way to obliteration in the core of the nearest star. He claimed that he had resigned that post to work at the DMV because he wanted to see some true suffering.

The second least populated line was the information line, the one I was supposed to go to first. The DMV is operated something like a large delicatessen, only the customers double as the meat (There was also roast emu available if you had something to barter with the people roasting it.) Everyone gets a number and a giant board displaying how many thousands get to go before you. After a few minutes I got to step up to the large African American woman who was manning the desk (previous to my arrival there had been a Hispanic man there too, but according to bureaucratic tradition he closed his desk and went to what must have been his eighteenth lunch of the day when I got to the front of the queue, leaving me awkwardly lurching forward beyond the designated yellow line. Eventually the customer in front of me (who, keeping with tradition had seven requests, asked in three different languages, each requiring its own translator) finished and I got to go to in front of the large black woman.

You never want to get the large black woman. Ever. They're all disgruntled, they know all the rules and will stick to them like a Jesuit sticking to the word of Christ unless one of them would actually be of benefit to you, and they're all named Gladys. I used to think that they were cloned somewhere deep within the bowels of the state government, some sort of super soldier experiment gone horribly awry producing clones with all of the innate cruelty and hatred of people but none of the necessary physical or gun skills, who were subsequently dumped off behind bureaucratic desks to deal with the public in order to justify the budget. "They can't fight. They're obese and nearsighted. They keep stopping during shooting practice to eat a Popeye's value meal."

"Have you thought about sticking them in customer service?"

"No. I'll get right on that sir."

Later I thought it was some sort of alien parasite like in invasion of the Body Snatchers who just happened to prefer its hosts to have melanin, ovaries, and enough fat to keep the core temperature up around 100 degrees fahrenheit, however Glyvordbgd proved that the DMV would have no reason to disguise its alien workers. Now I think they're recruited off the street and taken to a sort of bureaucratic boot camp, like a Paris Island for dealing with citizens. They're put into platoons and given a drill sergeant with all the charm of a yeast infection and the laid back attitude of R. Lee Ermy in Full Metal Jacket. They are awakened every day at 5 AM, fed lots of fatty foods with drugs that induce crankiness ground up inside them, and given a full day of drills on how to treat customers like they are not only morons but are imposing on you in an enormous and very personal way when they ask you for some information that it is your job to tell them. They are given rolls of red tape and "denied" stamps and taught how to use them with devastating precision. They chant "This is my red tape this is my stamp, this I'll spread liberally this I'll use until I cramp." They are given obstacle courses where sympathetic and pitiful customers ask them for a bit of leniency, pleading that they need to get a license so that they can drive their children to rehabilitation because their husbands were killed in car accidents where the kids were injured and now they need therapy to recover. If they so much as help one of these customers their drill sargeant screams "Private Gladys ARE YOU IN CHARGE HERE? DO YOU HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO CHANGE THE RULES PRIVATE GLADYS? DO YOU THINK YOU'RE TOO GOOD TO GO BY THE BOOK? DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GOD, PRIVATE GLADYS? LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING, YOU ARE NOT GOD. YOU ARE SCUM. YOU ARE A WORM IN THE APPLE OF MY BELOVED DMV. YOU ARE A FUNGUS ON THE FOOT OF PROGRESS. IF YOU EVER TRY TO HELP SOMEONE AGAIN I WILL ERADICATE YOU LIKE THE FUNGUS YOU ARE, PRIVATE GLADYS. I WILL DISSOLVE YOU LIKE A FUNGICIDE AND WASH AWAY YOUR REMAINS. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? ARE WE CLEAR, PRIVATE GLADYS?"

I went to the Gladys and asked her for a learner's permit form. She looked at me with the evil eye and said "Do you have a New York State ID?" I said no and she took out her highlighter pen and started highlighting a form with a strong sense of malice. I've never seen someone highlight maliciously before. It's very threatening. She then asked if I had my social security card. I said no. I started to explain that I did have six points of ID but she was already using the highlighter again, on a different form. "You can't get a permit without a social security card." She said. Her voice held a poignant mix of pity and disdain. I held up my little booklet and said

"In the book it says I just need 6 points of ID"

She gave me a look that said that if I kept holding that stupid book up in her face she'd make it spontaneously combust in my hand. I lowered it. "You need a social security card."

"Why doesn't the book say so, then?" I'm young and stupid. I have a college degree. I don't like it when people tell me the book is wrong.

"THIS says you need the card." She handed me the second form she had been highlighting. There, with a vicious gash of yellow making it all the clearer, lay the words. 4 points of ID and a social security card required. I thought about arguing again, but came to my senses. Instead I wandered off in a daze, past the woman holding her new baby in swaddling clothes, past the still smoking bones of the devoured emu, past the tents and the goats and the graves of men who died waiting to renew their car registrations, each resting place marked only by a large form bulging through the tile and a simple cross of wood. On the way towards the escalators out of the building I passed a young boy, innocent as I had been, peering at the carnage before him and muttering,

"Oh my god. This must be what hell is like." It was an understatement.

I went to the bus a defeated man. Anyone who says that a woman can't rape a man has never seen a boy try and deal with a Gladys. I hope to never know what forceful penile penetration feels like, but I imagine it's a cakewalk compared to that. Being punched in the nuts certainly is.

On the bus on the way back home (I might have walked this time, but I didn't trust my punch-drunk legs to carry me the hundred yards or so to my home) I almost talked to a woman on the bus, hoping to cleanse my mind of the horror through contact with a young female. She seemed to sense my intentions and moved over to join her traveling companion, a cool young man with fancy sunglasses who had the unkempt yet stylish facial hair of a minor celebrity, and a young man with two pierced ears who, from the way she was touching him, was either her gay brother or her effeminate boyfriend. They were talking to a very stupid young man who was making the claim that Mexicans are the poorest people on earth and inveterate drunks (nobody thought to ask him how they afforded all the alcohol.) I pretended to read my book and watched the girl from the corner of my eye. She was rather flat chested, wearing a tank top and an a-cup at best. Her facial features were somewhat pointed from the weak chin to the sharp nose so she resembled a half-rat half woman. Despite all that there was a softness about her and she was rather attractive for a flat-chested rat face. I spent the rest of the trip watching rat-face and trying not to think of my defeat. By the time the bus reached my house it was only her and her companions and me left, all clustered into one area of the bus while everyone else had departed. Perhaps the stench of failure, wafting from me thick enough to color the air, had driven the others out. I thought about asking rat-face for her number but didn't want to anger her effeminate boyfriend if that's what he was. Plus, it's not like I would be able to pick her up and take her anyway. It's hard to be suave when you're counting out change for the bus.

As I walked home I contemplated my day. Even though I had blown any chance of having sex with the beautiful rat-faced girl I still believe I was thoroughly fucked, enough to no longer be considered a virgin. This makes me a man. I will return to the scene of the crime, to the DMV at the edge of the world, only this time with the SS card. Maybe I'll bring someone else's too, just in case. I just hope that Gladys isn't at the desk when I get there. If she is I'm not sure what I'll do. Maybe I'll give Glyvordbgd's line a try. There's no wait and at least he'll give you the dignity of being shredded by his razor-sharp teeth and devoured in a few seconds. After facing Gladys that sounds almost as attractive as a night of passion with the most beautiful rat in the city (assuming her effeminate boyfriend wouldn't mind.)
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