When I was a kid, my great Aunt Annie came to visit us periodically in Greeley from the east coast. She was a single school teacher who made everything a teachable moment. Stern but kind, she earned my siblings’ and my respect and admiration. I remember quite vividly her taking us on a walk around the neighborhood one autumn. It wasn’t just an ordinary walk. It was an educational excursion. She directed us to find leaves from different types of trees as we went along and we identified what we could, and she taught us about what we couldn’t. I didn’t even know there were different kind of trees, let alone that they each made their own kind of leaves.
On one of her visits she brought us wallets—gifts she’d gotten for us on her recent trip to Alaska. One sister got white, one got blue. Mine was pink with a picture of something iconic from Alaska that was lost on me, and “Alaska” stamped on it. The edges were finished with lacing, like you’d find with leather crafting. Though it was only plastic, I loved it. After filling out the identification card inside and adding a few pictures, I put it into my little purse and felt like a real grown up.
On a trip to see our cousins in a Chicago suburb, I took my purse and wallet. No little girl can travel cross country without her prized pink wallet. My family did the touristy thing with my cousins' family and we went around Chicago, even taking the El and attending a White Socks game at Comiskey Park. My cousin Tim took his mitt so he could catch foul balls. I took my purse so I could be stylish. He didn’t get any balls. And sadly, somewhere in there, I lost my pink wallet.
Once we were home, back in Greeley for a few weeks, a package came in the mail. Someone had found my wallet and mailed it back to me. Thank goodness for that wonderful thorough ID card! Some really nice person somewhere had taken the time and trouble to send back a little girl’s trinket to her. They must have been a wonderful person.
Or were they?
Many years later, I moved to Chicago myself. I needed to get my driver’s license changed over to an Illinois license. With all the enthusiasm and excitement one musters to go to any DMV, I got myself down to the Chicago DMV. After waiting forever to finally have my number called, I approached the counter. We started the drill. “Mumble mumble something question?” says the DMV guy. “Yes,” then “No,” I answer his rote questions. Then he asks, “Have you ever had an Illinois license before?” Rote, rote. “No.”
“Yes you have.”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Yes. You have.”
“No sir. I have not.”
“Yes. You have! You are lying.”
“I've never had an Illinois license. Never lived here. Just moved here. I have never had a license here.”
“The computer here says you have. So you have.”
“No I've not!”
He looked at me with angry, glaring eyes. He didn’t like people to lie to him. And if the computer said I was lying, then by gum, I was lying.
Except I wasn’t.
“It says right here: Cheri Ann Robinson, born August 5, 1962. That’s you.”
“Yes, that's me but I've never lived here or had a license.”
Instead of calling Security to have me ejected (or worse, arrested) for lying to a DMV Venerated Employee of the Great State of the Infallible Illinois, he finally started responding to my claims. (Probably just wanted to prove me wrong.) He looked at his computer screen a while more, clicking and typing, then he finally snapped at me. “Your social security number is—” and he rattled off nine numbers.
“No, that’s not mine.”
He let out an exasperated breath. He wasn’t accustomed to people telling him he and his computer were the ones lying.
“What’s your social?” he asked with more than a little sarcasm.
I gave him mine. He was quite skeptical about it. He glared and argued some more, but then he finally said, “Okay, wait a minute.” He called over a supervisor (who knew they had supervisors in a place like that?) and after more accusations and suspicion, the Venerated DMV Employee of the Great State of the Infallible Illinois finally concluded maybe there were two Cheri Ann Robinsons born on August 5 in 1962. Maybe.
“Move to the next station to get your eyes checked," he said.
I've always wondered if there really is another one of me out there. That's a pretty big coincidence. And besides, everyone knows you can't spell Cheri the same way twice. So it leaves me wondering just where did my pink little wallet go before it took its journey home to the little girl with the stylish purse in Greeley, Colorado.
That rascally ID card that I shouldn't have filled out so thoroughly.
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