February 19, 2016

the process

In November I received a letter informing me that my license would be suspended for three months starting Jan 4th.  If I took an 8 hour class, I could earn a probationary license and therefore still drive while my license was suspended.   Three of my four tickets appeared in boldface on the letter.  One of the Wisconsin tickets hadn't shown up on my record yet.  Another letter followed a few weeks later listing my missing Wisconsin ticket.  This brief correspondence officially amended my suspension dates from three months to six months now that all of my infractions were accounted for.  This incredibly short letter failed to communicate that I was no longer eligible for the probationary license.

I took the class.  Wrote the 'Breakfast Club' posts.  Mailed my drivers license in at the beginning of my suspension.  I misunderstood the instructions about my license.  While I could have mailed it in as early as November, I ended up sending it in at the beginning of my suspension.  I believed that I was following protocol.  Fortunately, the day I mailed the license in I happened to call the 1-800 number listed on one of my letters.  I was inquiring about whether or not I needed to mail additional paperwork in with my license.  The man informed me that I  could send my license with no other papers.  Then he asked me when my suspension started.  January 4th.  He explained that I couldn't drive until I received my probationary license in the  mail.

My stomach lurched.  They would need to verify that I took my eight hour class.  My license would need to be processed.  It would take about two weeks before my probationary license would arrive in the mail.  Unreal.  How had I misunderstood the timeline?  The mailing in procedures?  How was I going to survive two weeks without driving?

Coach stepped it up.  He chauffeured the kids to their activities on the evenings he was available. Laddie took on the shuttling of siblings on the nights when Coach was at work.  Friends pitched in to get us around when more than one driver was necessary.  Since I hadn't shared my new reality with the kids, the girls found the transport to dancing in my friend's car exciting. 

Before the two weeks ended, Coach opened a letter from the State of Illinois.  'I think this is good,' he reported.  I read the letter and texted a copy of it to my friends.  All of my friends responded by claiming Coach's level of confusion.  What did this mean?  I deciphered the hidden message.  No this wasn't good.  I was not eligible for a probationary license because my suspension was no longer 3 months.

After a painfully long three day weekend, I called the number on my latest letter to map out what the next step would be for me.  I listened to a repetitive recording for 30 minutes before I spoke to someone.  Attend an informal hearing.  Apply for a restricted permit.  The recording on the phone had informed me that restricted permits would take 60-90 days.  I broke out in a cold sweat.  I asked the woman on the phone what paperwork was necessary for an informal hearing.  She told me that I wouldn't get an informal hearing the next day, as I had hoped.  I would first meet with the officer for a consultation and he would describe what I would need to bring to my future hearing.  Blasted!  Two visits to the DMV instead of one.  This process was unreal.

After a sleepless night, Coach escorted me to the DMV.  We waited over an hour for our turn to consult with the informal hearing guy.  A lawyer sat waiting for a client.  I whispered to Coach that I wanted to ask the lawyer a few questions.  Coach just shrugged.  I wasn't confident in my impulses due to my overtired status.  Just before they called us into the inner office, I decided to tap the lawyer on the shoulder.  His client had arrived, but he gave me a few minutes of his time.  Restricted permits were taking over 90 days because budget cuts meant recently retired staff members weren't being replaced.  My knees felt weak.  He glanced over my paperwork.  'You should just vacate these tickets, because you weren't going very fast.  If you knock out a few tickets, you can drive again.  It would be faster than waiting 90 days.  You need a lawyer.  My brother does this.  I'll text him a picture of your papers.'

I had reached out to a lawyer friend a week prior when we received the 'ineligible for a probationary license' letter.  He agreed to look into my case, but hadn't gotten back to me.  It seemed to make more sense to work with a lawyer devoted to traffic issues.  I suppose because that is what we came for, Coach and I still entered the inner office at the DMV while we were in mid-conversation with the lawyer.  I discovered that the woman on the phone was wrong.  Shock.  Perhaps she should take an 8 hour class on how to do her job.  Not only could the state not write a clear letter, they also couldn't get their facts straight.  I wasn't at the DMV for a consultation.  This was my informal hearing.  The older man behind the desk agreed with the lawyer's suggestion.  It would be faster to vacate my two Illinois tickets.

We bolted from the building and I dialed the lawyer's brother.  He agreed to meet with us later that afternoon.  For a fee my Illinois tickets could be vacated even though I had already paid them.  The next day he filed a motion to vacate the tickets.  One of the courts only met once a month and we had just missed it.  It would be another month before we rid my record of that ticket.  Still a month beat 90 days.

Although I once thought two weeks was an impossibly lengthy sentence, I was now forced to readjust and prepare not to drive for a total of approximately 6.5 weeks.  My friend agreed to take on a few more Irish dancing class shuttle responsibilities.  Three different Thursdays this tax accountant picked us up, and we enjoyed catching up over dinner while the girls danced.  Once tax season hours interfered with her free time, I delegated the dancing driving to other willing parties.

Grocery shopping on the crowded weekends became a regular couple's activity.   One Friday night early on in my suspension, our food supply ran dangerously low.  I feared for my safety if I didn't restock the pantry with some chow.  Coach dropped me off at the grocery store on his way to a work function at a nearby high school.  The grocery store resembled a ghost town since most of the population was out relaxing on a Friday evening.  My food gathering mission benefited from empty isles, but I wouldn't repeat that experience again unless it became necessary.  When we tandem shopped, I was amazed at how fast two carts working off of a divided list could plow thru the store.  It was also an eye opening experience for Coach.  Last week we met in the checkout line.  I quickly discovered that he had bagged about 6 apples during his produce portion of the shopping.  Thankful that his underestimation of how many apples our family devours in a week became clear before we arrived home, I held up the line and darted back to the apple bin.  The warmth of the laser like looks people shot at me produced a few beads of sweat on my brow as I delivered another 20 plus apples to the conveyor belt.  On his way home from work one day I requested that Coach stop and pick up a few missed items from our weekly store run.  He learned the hard way that when we are in need of shampoo two bottles won't suffice.  Curly was tiptoeing from the tub to retrieve the bottle from the adjacent shower.  When we are low on shampoo, ten bottles fills the void for a few weeks.  I buy the really cheap stuff, because we go thru it so fast.  My research on whether or not they drink it while they are getting clean has proven inconclusive so far. 

I still longed to workout during my virtual house arrest.  My workout schedule shifted to an early morning regiment as I attended the club when my neighbors were able to give me a lift.  As a result, I stumbled upon a new workout class at 5:45 am that I plan to continue to attend even when my driving privileges are reinstated and I can avoid these early morning sessions.  In January, the instructor invited all of the participants to add their goals to a poster board that she wold post in the class.  In passing I noticed that someone had jotted down a short phrase with the words 'drivers license'.  I thought for a second that someone else in the class was jumping thru hoops trying to regain driving rights.  A closer look revealed that my fellow classmate simply hoped her weight would soon match the weight listed on her license.   

Another aspect of life impacted by Mommy's inability to drive was transporting kids to school.  I became very focused on preparing kids to leave for school on time.  No one would miss the bus on my watch.  On the way home from a court date that a friend had taken me to, the school called to tell me that Mini was throwing up in the school office.  My friend stopped at the school so that we could pick her up.  Once we got home, Mini confessed that she really didn't believe that she was sick.  A video shown in Health class had caused her to shake all over before becoming sick to her stomach.  After eating a half sandwich and drinking a Gatorade with no problem, we determined that she could return to school.  There was a painter at the house for a few weeks updating some of our rooms with a fresh coat of paint.  When he ran to get another gallon of paint, I asked him to drop Mini back off at school.  He thought she was crazy to return to school after escaping those four walls, but he agreed to bring her back. 

I've eaten my fair share of humble pie.  Begged rides off of people for myself and my kids more than I ever thought possible.  Although I've explained my 'situation' to countless friends, I've still managed to avoid telling my family.  Initially I aimed to hide my driving privileges loss from the kids, but once the two week sentence was extended I was compelled to tell Laddie and Eddie.  As we navigate teenage crap with Laddie, he has threatened to share my driving record with the younger, clueless set.  Lawyer fees, court fees, ticket expenses, piles of cookies baked and distributed to my faithful chauffeurs.  It all adds up.  The end is in sight.  I last drove on January 5th (before realizing that I wasn't supposed to) and with any luck I will regain my status as a driver on Feb. 19th.  Not driving has almost driven me batty.  I look forward to not having to take the time to arrange every aspect of our life by borrowing other people's driving skills.  With all of that extra time, I intend to stop racing around and SLOW DOWN!

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