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Published:April 22nd, 2011 15:00 EST
The Driver's License Photo Nightmare

The Driver's License Photo Nightmare

By Donna Cavanagh

Last week, I was cashing a check at the bank for my husband, and I had to show my driver`s license to prove I was who I said I was.  The funny thing about that is that the bank sees me all the time. They wouldn`t know my husband if they ran over him in the drive-thru lane. However, since his signature (so they think) was on the back of the check, they had to make sure I was not a thief trying to steal our identities or our vast fortune.

When the teller asked for proof of identification, I handed her my old license because I really like that picture. However, she insisted on seeing my valid license, and when I finally produced it, she laughed at the photo and asked if I knew that this license was about to expire as well. Then she said, and I quote:

"I would be thrilled to get rid of this photo. In fact, I would do it today."

I didn`t like her remark, but I have to admit she was right. I should be thrilled because I now get another shot to shine at the DMV`s photography studio. My expired license photo was the best picture I have ever taken.  It beat out any of my wedding pictures, graduation pictures, prom pictures--you name it, this photo was better. Everything just seemed to come together perfectly for that photo.  I wore this pretty coral shirt, my hair was tamed, I had a little sun on my face--it was a good photo.  Even a police officer who stopped me for speeding one time commented on how good that photo was, and because he made my day and I told him so, he let me off with a warning. See, that is a successful photo.

The photo that is expiring now just didn`t make it. I tried to straighten my hair, which didn`t work. I had on a yellow tee shirt with a brown tank underneath which made me look like a ripe banana with a head. Even the process of taking that picture was painful.

Allow me to re-live it for you. I was about fourth in line behind these well-dressed women on their way to work.  Behind me was a teenage kid, who will prove later on in this tale, that he was never taught the art of diplomacy. 

The photographer was already out of patience by the time it was my turn. Apparently, two of the before work crowd had insisted on their three state-allowed re-takes. When the women were done, the photographer gestured to me to come forward. I had my expiring license out and I was ready to plead my case to let me keep that photo.

"Is it possible that we can just put this picture on the new license?  Look how nice it is. I never take good pictures. It would be a sin to let this one go"

"I am sorry, but you have to take a new picture. Don`t worry; we`ll get a good one."

I knew that was a lie. There was no way she was going to top the photo I had now.  After the click of the camera, I started to walk over to her desk to see my photo.

"Stay where you are,"  the state photographer instructed. "The picture is on the screen behind me."

Oh my God! She was right! There on the wall visible to the entire line which was now 50 people deep, was this horrible 60x80 picture of my banana head face! It was so ridiculous that the teenage kid behind me said,

"Wow, that is a really bad picture. I would definitely take that over."

In fairness to the kid, he was right, but who says that out loud to the person whose really bad picture it is? Then the woman with the camera says,

"You know, Hon, this picture is bad. Let`s try again."

By this point, the whole line was laughing at the photo. I knew the second shot would be no better. I was beet red and perspiring from embarrassment. I sat for the second photo, but I made sure that no one would see it on the wall. I ran up to that desk as soon as she clicked that camera and took that picture without looking at it for my license photo before she had a chance to display it. I ran to my car where I finally got a glimpse of the photo. I knew it was going to be a long four years.

This photo would never get me out of a ticket. If anything, it would probably get me arrested and into a cavity search.  So, that is when I made the decision never to show that license.  I just stayed with the old one. Yes, it is technically illegal, but I do carry the valid one in my wallet hidden behind my medical insurance card and the auto club membership card.

Next week, I am going to get my new photo done. I am going to re-create the exact conditions and wardrobe of the old, good photo. I don`t know if it will work, but I believe that the state of Pennsylvania and myself deserve this extra effort.