Introduction: Losing Sucks

I am discouraged by last night’s loss against the Spurs. It’s going to be difficult for the Suns to get out of the first round of the playoffs when we’re down two games to none.

But I will say this, in the past few years, there’ve been two teams that have climbed out of a hole this deep. The Miami Heat was down 2-0 in the 2006 NBA Championship series against the Dallas Mavericks, and the Heat went on to win the next four. The Phoenix Suns were down 3-1 against the LA Lakers a few years ago in the 1st round of the play offs. The Suns went on to win the next three and move onto the next round.

Why does this matter? Both of those come-from-behind teams were lead by two future Hall of Famers: Shaq (Heat) and Nash (Suns.) Now here we are in 2008, and the MVPs are both Phoenix Suns. If anyone can do it, it’s the Suns.

Having said that, lets talk about…

My Trouble with the Police

Last fall, Candyce and I were on our way to see The Darjeeling Limited in the theaters when I decided to swing by her brother’s house to pick up her jacket. (Lesson from first year of marriage: females get cold more quickly than males, especially in air conditioned movie theaters.) While she was inside digging for her jacket, I noticed two cop cars pulled in front of a house down the street. Candyce hopped back in the car and I opted to exit out of the neighborhood through the far gate just to see what the commotion was all about. I know this is messed up, to snoop in on neighbors like that, but curiosity is a powerful thing.

I rolled by the cop cars slow enough to see what was going on, but not so slow that I looked suspicious. Both cop cars gunned onto the street and followed me through the neighborhood. Great. As I sat at the exit to the neighborhood waiting for the gates to swing open, I told Candyce that I was going to get pulled over. “But first they’re going to follow me down the street and into the intersection so they can put on a big show with their flashing lights.” She started to panic, and I told her not to worry because we hadn’t broken any laws.

Twenty seconds later, they lit me up with the swinging blue lights. The whole intersection froze. The only cars that moved was my own, followed by two cops.

A young police officer walked up to the car and put his flashlight in my face. “Do you know why we pulled you over?” I was friendly but honest. “No officer, I don’t.” With the light still in my face, he told me that my license plates expired six months ago.

I did not know this.

He asked for some paperwork and we couldn’t find any of it in the glove compartment. As I handed him my driver’s license and an expired insurance card, I offered an explanation, “We got married earlier this year, and it’s been really hectic. I lost track of time.”

He came back to my car a few minutes later. He leaned into my door and held my driver’s license two feet in front of his face, skipping his eyes from my face to the photo on my license. As I am prepared to defend the authenticity of my ID, he tells me this: “You look really familiar.”

I have heard those four words assembled in that order more time than I can remember…those words have become a part of my life. Without hesitation, I casually told the officer that I was involved in local churches…that I live in the area…that I write for the Phoenix Suns…and that I was on The Real World… (This is my verbal resume for PHX Citizen of the Year, punctuated by a claim to fame.) His stern look of disapproval melted into a smile. “No way! I thought that was you!”

He turned away from the window and looked back to the second police officer sitting in his car. He waved his hand forward with enthusiasm. The second officer was too lazy to get out of his car, or maybe he thought I was a tool and didn’t want to waste his time. No problem.

The cop, Candyce, and I spent the next 20 minutes talking about reality television and the Phoenix Suns. He finished the conversation with a gentle reprimand for having an expired tag, but then told me what I needed to do to fix the problem. I told him I would send his wife an autographed photo. We shook hands and went on with our lives.

(Officer, if you are reading this, I apologize for not sending that photo. I lost your address and I feel really bad about it. If you email me, I’ll make things right.)

Welcome to the Department of Motor Vehicles

I’ve driven around town for the past four months understanding that I could get pulled over at anytime because of my expired plates. As illogical as it sounds, dodging cops all winter seemed like a better option going to the DMV.

You see, standing in line at the DMV is a humbling rite of passage into adulthood. It’s a memorable encounter with lifeless world of tax-funded bureaucracy. At risk of sounding melodramatic, it’s a two-hour experience that makes you feel like you’ve lost all momentum in life. Smart people will experience the DMV once, and then vow to avoid that place again.

Last week my friends made fun of me for my expired plates, and I defended myself be explaining the DMV is a leper colony. Jason told me to renew my plates online and avoid the DMV. It was a dream come true. I walked back inside and renewed my tags on the Internet in less than ten minutes. Just for fun, I played Chamillionaire’s anthem “Ridin’ Dirty” while I clicked through the site.

But what do you do when the stickers don’t come in the mail? You call them and ask what’s up. And what did the person on the phone tell me to do? Go to the DMV.

Sucker Free DMV

Since my last trip to the building, they’ve added a Time-Square like news ticker. In theory, this is a clever addition. The news lights up the screen brightens our spirits by connecting us to the hyper reality outside the walls of the DMV. But since all the news was bad that day, I just got more sad. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to get some spiritual perspective when I was jolted back to reality when they called my number.

I sat in a chair and spoke to the 20-something girl across the counter from me. I explained that I needed to renew my license plate… She nodded her head, and then spent two minutes in silence clicking around her computer. There wasn’t much for me to do in those awkward moments except to size up the gravity of the moment.

I pity the young people who work at the DMV. If you are in your 30s or 40s and you work at the DMV, somehow it doesn’t seem that bad. But if you’re in your 20s and therefore young enough to still want to be a rock star, then working at the DMV is a public admission of defeat. I know this because our entire generation was raised on The Simpsons. Marge Simpson’s repulsive twin sisters, Patty and Selma, work at the DMV by day, and chainsmoke and the lust over McGyver by night. They are the epitome of uncool.

The Springfield DMV Employees of the Year

She got angry at her computer, sighed, and then I got two more minutes of silence. I was searching for something to make the moment more exciting for both of us. So I just blurted it out: “Have you ever seen The Real World?” She nodded her head slowly, only mildly interested in my question. I bounced back, “Well, I was on that show a long time ago.” She instantly came to life.

She explained that she watched the entire season of RW New Orleans, and that she liked me then. She stopped with that statement–I liked you then. She looked at me, I suppose to figure out whether she liked me now.

I still don’t know if she likes me now, because she switched lanes. “You know, famous people come in here all the time…Mike Tyson is in here every other day. I saw Ice-T when I first started.”

Left: Mike Tyson, the boxing ear-biting psychopath.
Right: Ice-T, the aging gangster rapper/ misogynist and now tenured Law & Order star.

Here I was prepared to fill her up with stories from my own life, and she cut me off with stuff far more interesting. Why was Mike Tyson in the DMV all the time? She said it in the same way a waitress would claim to serve up drinks to Eddie Van Halen and his buddies every Tuesday night–trying to play it cool, but barely disguising the fact that she’s excited to host a celebrity.

She continued typing and I sat in silence trying to imagine these two pop culture characters from my teen years sitting in that same chair waiting for a renewed license plate. I was in scene of the Surreal Life at the DMV in Mesa, Arizona.

She slid my precious stickers across the counter with a smile. “It looks like you’re all done here. It’s been fun. You should come back and see us!”

I walked to my car utterly confused. Was she suggesting I renew my license plate more than often than required? Or was that an open invitation to swing by on my lunch break with a Subway sandwich so I could pull up next to her on the employee side of the counter? We could gossip about Mike Tyson’s dumb tattoo and his propensity for traffic violations.

Then I drove to Home Depot and returned a door threshold I purchased 18 months ago, a random object that has resided in the back of my car for just as many months. (Think about how uncool that is.) But married life has made my life hectic and things like this just don’t seem important. I’ve driven my Home Depot many times in the past 18 months, but never with enough time to wait in line. But today was that day. Who knows, I might run into Ice-T.