My driver's license expires November 23 (my birthday). I do not look forward to renewing it, just like I do not look forward to any test or examination where I can fail and lose something I value. In early October, I begin to wonder when I am going to get a renewal application in the mail. I phone the Department of Motor Vehicles at 8AM one weekday morning, and the person tells me that I should have received a renewal in the mail already, and that I should go to a DMV office to renew my license. The person tells me their offices open at 8:30AM. I am now more anxious but feel I need to deal with the situation, so I leave my desk at work and proceed to walk to the DMV office (fortunately there is one in walking distance from my office, since I am sufficiently anxious that I would not want to drive there...).
I arrive before 8:30 and they are already processing people. I take a number and await my turn, occupying the somewhat anxious time speculating that there is no way I can guess which of the 8 or 10 clerks will process me. After maybe 15 minutes, my number comes up and I go to the window over which my number is displayed ("B16"?). I am wearing my glasses. The clerk asks me if I want to take the vision test with my glasses, or without them, in which case, if I pass, she explains that the "must wear glasses" restriction will be removed from my license. Pretending to be nonchalant, I respond: "If it doesn't cost anything, why not?" It so happens that the eye chart is about 6 feet from my eyes -- exactly the distance at which my presbyopic eyes focus best. I can see the eye chart clearly (like I could see everything when I was 20 years old...). I feel I could read the printing imperfections in the letters on the chart. I get my license renewed with the eyeglasses restriction removed. My eyesight is not really bad, but I do see less clearly both closer, and especially, farther away than the chart.
Having passed the vision test and renewed my license without a vision restriction, I reflected on how one gets one's driver's license based on ability to see what is largely irrelevant to safe driving rather than what is relevant: About the only things that would be at 6 feet distance while driving would be things one was about to hit. It was probably over 15 years since I had seen anything crisply clearly -- except for that DMV eye chart.
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