DRC_Manuel Taboada

Manuel Taboada

A lot of print has been dedicated this past week, on the pages of this newspaper and others, to the subject of getting a driver’s license from a Texas Department of Public Safety office — mostly on how difficult it is to navigate the website and, worse, not being able to accomplish the simplest tasks online, with many Texans having no choice but to physically go there.

“That’s actually a form of punishment,” I was told by a friend who tried Denton first, gave up, went to Carrollton next and spent two hours outside, under the friendly midday sun. There, she stood in line, twiddling her thumbs, sweating, then three hours inside, without food or drink (not allowed). She also reported a lady having passed out a few days earlier while standing in line outside.

“After all that, it seems like adding insult to injury when you have to pay for the service,” she added. The good thing was that the lady trooper who helped her was nice, had been there for 25 years, so she knew what she was doing, and before they parted, told my friend, who was also looking for a job, to apply. “We are desperately looking for help,” was the way she phrased it.

After spending an hour filling out the application online, my friend reported that her rejection came back in less than 3 minutes.

All the time she was describing her recent DPS experience, I was remembering an event from two months ago. It turns out that one of my helpers who lives with an immigrant family here in Denton called me to ask a favor: I was needed to translate and help solve a problem. I might mention that they all have either a U.S. passport or a green card, but none of them speak English to save their lives — the reason I was needed.

That day, their 14-year-old son had taken his dad’s car for a spin and had an accident. The English-speaking driver of the damaged car was there at their home, loud, drunk and wanting reparations. When I got there, I learned that the kid had no driver’s license, and neither did any of his three brothers or mom, although they all have cars. Instead, I was told they each had a fake driver’s license that cost $20 at the Dallas Farmers Market — something I did not check.

The dad was the only one with a genuine license, and all of the cars are in his name — so he could get insurance.

The problem was quickly resolved by the dad saying that he would take the blame so that the insurance would cover the damage, while his son would pay the deductible — and all was well. I made no judgments.

Still, I could not resist stopping a police officer the next day and asking him about driving without a license. “Without insurance, we tow the car,” was his ready answer. “Without a license, we give them a ticket but not always. If we towed for no license, we wouldn’t know where to put all the cars. Every day, I see people I know are driving without a license, but unless they provide cause, I can’t stop them.”

It’s a good thing he doesn’t, I thought. If all our unlicensed drivers were forced to get a real license, the lines at DPS would be a mile long.

MANUEL TABOADA lives, works and writes in Denton. He welcomes feedback and can be reached at manueltaboada.com.

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