Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I saw a group of kids coming from the high school the other day and going into McDonald's. One of them had this box on his head. I followed him and asked if I could take his photo. I think he said yes. He didn't run away.
I have been wondering ever since about why he did this. Was it a project (and did I help or hurt it)? Or was it just that he wanted to hide out for a while? I know the feeling. I had recently been considering wearing a bag on my head. . . if I could get away with it.

A month ago I had to renew my Driver's License. I went in one morning, right when they opened up and before work. Early. I wanted to avoid long lines, and I did. I didn't know that I was going to be someone's joke for the day. When I went to the first station, the man told me to take off my glasses and look at the sign. Okay.
My picture would be available at another station. Move on. He smiled. I know why now.

As I walked away, I had a question: why take off my glasses? The person next to me had hers on. I anticipated a not-so-good picture. First, I can't see without my glasses. The sign had a word on it, and (without my glasses) I had squinted to see what it said--thinking that it might be significant. It wasn't. I later noticed that the other sign was a smiley face. In addition, I was just getting started on medication for conjunctivitis (thank you, darling grandchildren!), finishing a very heavy semester, and preparing to leave for a conference where I had two presentations. I was tired. I want to say that all as an excuse for why the photo turned out the way it did. I want to think that I don't really look like what that photo shows.

The picture was the worst I have ever seen of myself. And I've had some doozies before. Ones where one eye is drooping or my mouth is twisted. One was my DL picture in Washington where my hair had been blown crazy by the wind. I thought I had fixed it, but a chunk was still sticking up. Did the guy taking the picture mention it? No. Instead of what I thought was a welcoming smile, I know now that his smile was for himself, thinking about how funny it was to take a picture of someone with a big hunk of hair sticking up. I understand that the work in the DL office can be boring and repetitive, but I wonder about how these employees find humor in others' misfortune. After all, we live with that photo for a long time.

So, back to my photo. I didn't see it just then. I was moved to another station, eye test!, and then on to someone else where I had my old DL punched out and paid the money for the privilege. That worker told me that I would receive my new license in 4-6 weeks. I asked about air travel and was told to use both the old one and this new temporary one, which is when she pushed a bunch of papers toward me: my receipt, some info, and the temporary license, with my new photo on it. I took the papers and was heading out of the building when I looked down for the first time at the photo that would live with me for the next four years.

Now, I have never liked my picture being taken. I have never claimed to be a beauty. But I thought I wasn't someone who would scare little children or small animals. The picture that looked back at me looked like I was sister to the Nick Nolte mug shot that went viral a few years ago. I started hyperventilating.

I have calmed down a bit since then, but I still cringe to think of the photo. I hate to have to take it out for any purpose at all. It doesn't help that the TSA agent at the airport flinched when he saw it. And, being sensitized, I have noticed that if I ever come up missing or (heaven forbid) commit a crime, guess what photo will show up on the evening news? Yep. My DL photo.

So I understand wanting to walk around in a box. Maybe some days, not just for my face's sake, but for other reasons. To be left alone (look how well that worked for this guy). To have a little extra barrier between the world and my sensitive feelings for a day or so, just enough to get tough again. I get why a box. I really do.


  1. It doesn't sound good, no matter what I would say if I saw the pic. I think I would go back & get a new one taken. You might have to pay the fee again, but if it makes you feel better, go for it! As for the boy in the box, I imagine it was a school related assignment, but maybe not. I am curious, like you.

  2. Oh, I am so sorry for you, but this did give me a giggle as I read it. It's just not right, there should be a retake available. :)

  3. You have to show me this picture!

  4. This is hilarious! My mom can empathize. When she was 16, she got out of the pool, but her hair into wet pigtails, had smeary eye make up from the chlorine and was wearing a baggy shirt over her swimsuit. Then she decided it would be a good time to go get her license photo taken. If we didn't know that teenagers had clouded judgement, that would be proof enough.