The Old Person in My Wallet

Posted on 2017 December 10


license photo 1981.jpg  Jim's driver license photos 2017 (5 of 5)

Several years ago, an old guy got into my mirror. He looks just like me except much older. It’s always a surprise: I walk into the bathroom, expecting to see my 30-year-old self in the glass, and instead I stare into the eyes of an elderly man. He looks, I dunno, like a retired engineer — one of those guys who’s always yelling at the neighbor kids, “Get off my lawn!!” It simply can’t be me. But it is.

Recently I had to renew my driver license. They told me I needed to update the photo — they’d used the same picture of me for the past three licenses — plus I had to take an eye test and pay a small fee.

I’ve kept my old licenses, and if I flip through them in order, it looks a bit like one of those animations where somebody ages really fast in two seconds. I’ve noticed a similar problem with my passports. Besides, official portraits generally make us look like criminals being booked for armed robbery. So I got to thinking: What if, during the photo shoot, I use a few showbiz tricks, pose my face just right, and make myself look younger? Maybe this time, at last, the new license photo wouldn’t look older than the previous ones.

First I practiced. I pushed my chin forward, which smoothed out the wattle that’s begun to droop from my neck. Then I smiled, which lifts some of the sagging skin on the cheeks and around the eyes. (I didn’t smile too much — I didn’t want my license for the next five years to show a grinning idiot.) Also, my eyelids tend to droop a bit, but when I blink rapidly a few times they pull back neatly for a few moments. Then, since thin lips can look old, I licked and pursed mine to add volume. All these little tricks did seem to help.

Satisfied, I drove down to the DMV office, waited in line for an hour, finally got to a clerk, answered some questions, took an eye test, received a temporary license printout, and was directed toward the photo station. I got in line there, and, while waiting, prepared myself by licking and pursing my lips, blinking my eyes, smiling, and jutting my chin. Fortunately no one was paying any attention to me, or I’d have looked like a nut case being photographed prior to transfer to the Funny Farm.

The photographer had me stand on the floor marks, look into the lens, and wait. I smiled a bit, aimed my chin at the camera, and held my breath. *CLICK* “Okay, you’re done.” I took my paperwork and went home.

Eight days later I received by postal mail the new driver license. I tore open the envelope, hoping for a good ID picture. I stared. Easily it was the worst license photo I’ve ever had — and that includes the nerdy ones from my youth. My neck wattle had caught the shadows and now stood out worse than ever. Light flares bloomed on my glasses, making my eyes appear clouded with cataracts. The lips looked thin. The glasses frames were silver, not the cool-hip black ones I usually wear. Silver, it turns out, makes my face look even older.

Sometimes when you try to do better, you make things worse. I slipped the license into my wallet and hoped I’d never get pulled over. Maybe, with luck, all my aging will stay there on the old man in the photo, enclosed in the billfold. 

Next time they want a picture of me, I’ll just keep it simple.

Except for the black-frame glasses. I’ll remember to wear those. That should finally do it.