Dante-Joe’s 10th Circle of Hell: the Department of Motor Vehicles with Mama

If there is such a thing as reincarnation and Dante has found himself back among us as Joe Blow, US citizen, he is undoubtedly kicking himself.  

Sure, back in 1300, Dante-Joe no doubt figured he had cataloged every last gruesome, eternal punishment possible. His Hell assaults sinners with violent windstorms (Circle 2); icy rains and mud (Circle 3); perpetual weight lifting (Circle 4); swamps that swallow you to your nostrils (Circle 5); flaming tombs (Circle 6); rivers of fire and blood, ravenous Harpies, deserts of burning sand (Circle 7); whippings by demons, burial in excrement (Circle 8); and imprisonment within huge blocks of ice (Circle 9).

But, today, Dante-Joe can’t help but see that there is more to the whole sad, harrowing tale than he had any idea when he first put quill to parchment 814 years ago. There aren’t nine Circles of Hell. There are ten.

And the Tenth Circle of Hell is the Department of Motor Vehicles. Pick your state.


* * *

Mine was Missouri. I had waited not too long at one of its versions of the DMV, located in a suburb of St. Louis called Clayton, when my number was called.

“Good morning,” I chirruped at a pretty young woman with dreadlocks and gorgeous skin. “I’m here to pick up one of those placards for handicapped parking, please.”

The pretty young woman – let’s call her Brunhilde – scanned the form I had set before her but, then, almost instantly pushed it back at me. “The doctor needs to complete this.”

“Oh!” I oops-ed, rummaging in my purse for a pen. “I forgot about that. Dr. Schlafly mentioned that we would need to fill in my mother’s name and driver’s license number. Sorry about that. Here, let me do it now.”

Brunhilde shook her head, the beginnings of a mulish cast forming about her frosted chartreuse lips lined in an equally neon purple. “No, the doctor has to complete it.”

“The doctor,” I echoed.

“It’s in-com-plete,” she said.

My inner bitch began whining and chasing its tail. “I know it’s in-com-plete,” I enunciated back. “I’m attempting to rec-ti-fy that.”

A long, silver-sparkled French manicured fingernail tapped the offending section of the page. “The doctor should have filled this part out along with the rest.”

I peered over the counter at the sheet, wondering briefly how her mani would look on me, or if I was too darn old even to consider such a thing. “Which section are you talking about?” Perhaps the doc had indeed messed up and there was something he had missed.


No, Dr. Schlafly was in the clear. Her nail circled solely the top third. “But it’s just standard stuff,” I protested. “Name, address and driver’s license number.”

Brunhilde shrugged, indifference dripping off her like yesterday’s snowfall from the office’s gutters. “The doctor should have filled it out.”

I closed my eyes briefly to keep my inner bitch from springing free through them and clawing out hers. “You’re telling me that I have to drive all the way back to the doctor’s office in Chesterfield, just to have him write in my mother’s name, rank and serial number?”

“As I’ve told you, ma’am, the doctor has to complete the entire form for us to process the request.”

My temples began to throb. I took what meditative types call a cleansing breath.

“Yes, I understand you have rules,” I conceded. “But think about it. We’re not breaking any vehicular code, governmental edict or religious commandment or something. The doctor’s signed the thing. See? He’s filled out all the medical stuff. We’re totally legit. All we’re missing is my mother’s information.”

Silence, except for an arpeggio of sparkle fingers – all five of them – across the countertop.

“Look,” I said mid-arpeggio. “My mother is waiting for me in the car; I’ll bring her inside. You can verify who she is and watch her write in her name and address.”

“The form must be completed in full by the doctor.”

“Yes,” I said. “You’ve said that.  You’ve made your position abundantly clear. But has it occurred to you that you might possibly be becoming a tad bit annoying and way too anal retentive?”

Brunhilde’s brow furrowed. “What’s that mean? Anal preventive? Are you insulting me?”

“No,” I replied steadily. “I’m simply asking you to work with me here.”

 “It’s-the-rule, ma’am. The doctor – “

“I know, I know,” I sighed. “The doctor needs to fill out the form…Look, you’re trying to do your job. I understand that. Well, I’m trying to do my job, too – which is to take care of my 89-year old mother. (I added a few years for effect.) Do you realize that what you’re asking will be incredibly difficult for her? Sure, I can drive to kingdom come and back a dozen times and be just fine. But my mother is fresh out of surgery; she tires in like five minutes.”


In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.