The Inferno: Another Holiday Adventure

Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself at the DMV…

December 28th. 7:50 AM. Frigid temps. My son needs to take the test to get his learner’s permit. We have tried to beat the rush by arriving before the DMV even opens, but a line has already formed from the entrance all the way to the end of the building. My son and I take our place at the back of the line.


Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

The doors open promptly at 8 and oh, rapturous joy: we finally make it inside. As our limbs begin to thaw, we wonder…Is this Paradise?

We slowly advance through the snaking line until at last it is our turn to approach the info desk.

There dreadful Minos stands, gnashing his teeth:
examining the sins of those who enter,
he judges and assigns as his tail twines.

I mean that when the spirit born to evil
appears before him, it confesses all;
and he, the connoisseur of sin, can tell

the depth in Hell appropriate to it;
as many times as Minos wraps his tail 
around himself, that marks the sinner’s level.

Always there is a crowd that stands before him:
each soul in turn advances toward that judgment;
they speak and hear, then they are cast below.

Minos takes a cursory glance at the documents clutched in my hand and informs us that the original Social Security card (not just the number) is needed for identification.

But the stars that marked our starting fall away.
We must go deeper into greater pain,
for it is not permitted that we stay.

Suddenly, I understand why this plaque is so prominently displayed on the DMV building…


We drive back home in quiet despair. I have no idea where my son’s Social Security card might be. I remember only that it was mailed to our house (two houses ago)! shortly after his birth. After multiple moves, it could be anywhere or nowhere at all. I frantically root around in various locations where I may have stashed it away more than 15 years ago.

Miracle of miracles! I find the card and we drive back for Round 2 at the DMV.

“No pressure or anything, kid, but I really, really hope you pass your test after all this, or somebody‘s not going to be feeling so jolly…”


He gives me an anxious glance as he trudges to his cubicle to take the test.

Are you feeling anxious, dear reader?

Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.

The boy has passed! The next day I take my newly minted learner to the parking lot of the elementary school down the road. I taught my oldest son to drive there just last year…

We buck and lurch around the parking lot until he comes to a stop and wails, “I can’t handle all this power!”

They yearn for what they fear for…

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The way is long, and difficult the road…

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Perseverando. Perseverando. Perseverando…

I could make you happy…

This weekend was all about making other people’s dreams come true…

On Saturday bright and early, I went to the worst place in the world:

…the DMV.

And even though I was quivering with fear and anxiety, later that night I took that boy and his hot-off-the-printer learner’s permit to the elementary school parking lot just down the street from where we live to practice driving:

After our trip to Hell the DMV, we went to the Verizon store to replace my second son’s phone. A couple of years ago when I bought him his first phone, I had to interrupt the enthusiastic salesman’s pitch about the amazing features of the latest, greatest phone.

“Actually, I’d like your most basic phone,” I said, “It doesn’t have to do anything other than receive and make phone calls. What I’m looking for is the kind of phone that my kid might get made fun of at school for having.”

The salesman escorted me over to a dingy corner in the back of the store and placed one in my hand.

“Here you go. They don’t even make these any more. Your kid will definitely get made fun of for using this one.”

I’m not really sure what possessed me to replace this phone, which my son lost towards the end of the school year, with a much nicer phone, but I have to admit – the reaction was pretty gratifying:

And then there was this:

But the really nice, self-sacrificing thing I did for my daughter was to accede to her heartfelt plea to take her and her brothers to the Albemarle County Fair.

It started out so well, with this picturesque drive up to  Ashlawn Highland, James Monroe’s estate, in our air-conditioned car:

But the moment we stepped out of the car, a heatwave hit us like a wool blanket heavy with sweat.

We tried to distract ourselves by looking at the cute animals on display…

But even they looked miserable:

This smart cow had the right idea:

We had a greasy lunch of deep fried macaroni and cheese that looked like little triangle chicken nuggets, fries dripping with some Velveeta-esque product, deep fried pickles:

and some red velvet funnel cake:

To commemorate the occasion, I recorded a little song: