by Robert P. Barsanti
The youngest and I went off-island to take a driver’s test. Nature might be healing from Covid but it takes the Registry of Motor Vehicles a little longer to get back to up to speed than the rest of us do. The brewers were up faster than the restaurants, the restaurants before the health clubs, and the Registry comes dawdling at the end of the line. So, the office in the town building remains shortstaffed, and Registry business either comes zapping over the wires or steaming across the water. So we steamed.
It has been a journey. On Nantucket, he needed to sign up for driver’s lessons. Then, he needed to thread them through swim practices, meets, rehearsals, and work. Then Covid. He was locked in his house, then, as schools opened up, driving emerged on slowly and hesitantly. Now, five years after the journey began, he was ready to take a final step.
Driving on Nantucket, as we all know, requires a different set of skills than driving on Route 28. You need to wave people through a five-way stop; you need to avoid potholes; you need to negotiate the rotary with confidence and discretion. On Route 28, they have turning lanes, they have stop lights with flashing yellow arrows, and they have Suburbans from Iowa who thought they could get a Lobster Roll right there.
We negotiated that. We traveled up and down Route 28, past the drive-up Salt Water Taffy four times, watched Old Cape Cod stand firmly at Dunkin’ Donuts, mini-golf, and motels, and marked time in gasoline while waiting for the Registry to turn itself over.
When the time came, the youngest of my name had an up-to-date registration, his application, the money, and a mask. What he didn’t have was the right car. It not only had to be street legal, it had to have an emergency brake where the examiner could get at it. The trooper smiled and handed all of the paper back.
At times like these, you may curse the Gods. They aren’t listening anyway, so you might as well let loose. Away from the troopers, please. A day of work, four tickets on the boat, two hours of gas, twenty-two parallel parking attempts and a half-inch of stomach lining all disappeared in a bureaucratic flip of the wrist. Someone deserves a talking to.
So, in the air-conditioned sealed car, you can blame the gods. If you feel you have to blame somebody, you might as well let the elephant on the flaming altar have it. Of all of the stupid inventions we have made as a species, “blame” is right up there with the plastic straws, Tang, and lawyers. When you blame someone or something, you are only trying to keep your party dress lily white. Maybe you can get some good guilt presents out of it, but assigning blame only pushes reality away for a moment. Sure, the Registry should have written this rule in some obvious place. Sure, they should let you take the test on Nantucket where you would’t have to spend all of this money to travel back and forth. (And sure, Dad should have checked the website as well. That’s in the job descriptions for Dad: you can always blame him.)
After a minute or two in guttural Anglo Saxon, blame becomes useless. It doesn’t change the facts on the ground. No penance can be expected. No repayment. No redress. The world has dealt you a Loss that you deserved. You can’t fall on the floor with the gnashing of teeth and the rending of garments. It would be unseemly, you would scare the farm animals, and the Troopers would escort you out the door. Plan A has died. As it always does.
Plan A always dies early; it goes egg-shaped before it rolls off and coughs one last time. Plan A assumes that Ganesh is smiling on you, the wind and tide is at your rear, and you remain an impeccable judge of character and tactics. When Plan A gives up the ghost, the rest of your assumptions rise and disburse in the Route 28 traffic. Ganesh was watching football, the wind swung round, and you made the same mistakes you always make. If you stay in that parking space, waiting for the great karmic gods to smite your enemies and put you to right, you will be stationary and screaming until the lights go out.
You have to go to Plan B. Plan B is a retreat, reformation, and a return. Plan B is a compromise and an accommodation. Plan B is wisdom, colored like a bruise. You acknowledge the punch in the face, take a step back, and make a new plan. In this case, it meant going to Nantucket for the driving test where they actually do have a Driver’s Exam. (Hint: it’s on Fridays)
Plan B requires two key acknowledgements. First, that the failure of Plan A was not the end of the world. The sun will rise, donuts will be made, and Old South Road will be choked with cars again tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day. Second, you have to acknowledge that you weren’t all that. You learned that you aren’t as good as you appear in the mirror, and stupidity follows you like a shadow. I have learned, through sad wisdom, to plan for stupid. I will lose my keys, or my phone, or my wallet, so I need to plan for that to happen. I haven’t gotten smarter,just more used to getting punched in the nose.
Hopefully, Plan B will come to fruition with a warm smile and a handshake shortly. The journey has been long, painful, and, perhaps, enriching.
If it doesn’t, there is always Plan C.