I got my first car on March 17, 2007. Eight years later, to the day, I gave up my Alberta licence for an Ontario one. It made me a little sad.
It was about 4:00 pm when I finally decided to go get my new licence. I’ve been putting it off for longer than necessary. I arrived at the registry about 30 minutes before they were set to close for the day. Waiting in the first line, at around 4:43 pm I started worrying that I was going to get turned away. That’s when the first clerk, a lady with a hairy mole chin-left, started to announce that they wouldn’t be conducting any more tests for the day. I knew I needed a vision test.
There was a man in front of me, about two people ahead, who kept letting people pass him. He was three people from the front, and was pacing between the woven polyester barriers that were containing us, like when you rock between the chair and seatbelt when the auto-lock feature of a seatbelt gets stuck in the locked position. When I was standing behind him, I noticed that he was a bit on edge; he kept on pacing and started peering into the registry’s waiting area yonder. Anyway, he signalled me passed him with a twist of his neck and a gesture from the elbow of his pocketed arm.
When I reached the lady at the first counter, she had me move to the side of the counter and check off four boxes on some form. I then waited for her to help the couple after me, who the agitated gatekeeper had let through, before she handed me a ticket with the number “C19” written on it.
While crossing over into the waiting area, I let the gatekeeper interrupt me as he bowed out from under the woven polyester constraint and left the building.
I can’t explain the strange idiosyncrasies of people.
My number, “C19”, came up just after 5:00 pm. The second lady at the licensing office asked for the form with four checkboxes filled in and my Alberta driving licence. She showed little sympathy for the small, internal turmoil that I was experiencing when handing her the card that has represented my freedom since I was 16 years old, and while standing behind the high counter straining to hear her. Her accent and soft-spoken tone simply couldn’t reach over the noise of a registry office 15 minutes after closing, or the confused loud-mouth to my right, whose licence had apparently expired and who isn’t technically licenced to drive, talking to a managing clerk next to me. Besides, I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to hear that my status as an Albertan was slowly being taken away from me.
They didn’t take my Alberta health care card away from me when I registered for coverage in Ontario.
After my vision test (which I passed), I asked to take a picture of my licence using my phone. The clerk said that she was going to give me a copy, but changed her mind and let me take a few photos. The lighting was poor in that office, where people go to become licensed drivers.
Another guy, at the counter to my left, was failing his vision test. He wasn’t sure what the numbers being displayed in the boardwalk telescope-like machine were. His attending agent kept asking him to stop guessing at the numbers, encouraging him to be resolute with his answers. He kept looking up and over at his wife for reassurance, returning each time to the telescope contraption, pressing his face harder against the rubber pads and gripping even tighter around the machine, which was evidenced by the growing gap between his ring and the appropriate finger. Eventually, he passed.
I signed all of the papers that I was asked to and paid the $80 fee. My attending clerk had to go get approval for something, but because I couldn’t hear her very well, she just ran off with all of my paperwork after I paid. She came trotting back, obviously anxious to start getting ready to go home. She handed me my temporary Ontario licence and told me that the real one would be coming in the mail.
I had to ask about four times before I could hear her say that the real licence would take about six weeks to arrive in the mail; she kept trying to explain the expiry date on the temporary licence, which only confused me.
Now I’ve got a piece of paper that lets me drive in Ontario as a driver licenced in Ontario.
As I was leaving, the clerk told me that I now need to follow Ontario’s driving rules, as if I had been free from doing so up until then.