My Greatest Fear #53: Driving Without a License

A few days ago I accepted a short-notice dinner invitation (Vietnamese food–how could I say no?) with a former coworker at 5:30 in the evening. The only conflict was that I had a teleconference at 5:00, so the call would likely begin while I was home and continue while I drove to the restaurant.

That’s exactly what happened. Unfortunately, because of my preoccupation when I was leaving the house, I forgot to put my wallet in my pocket, which occurred to me when I was already halfway to the restaurant.

I panicked. It felt like a part of my body was missing. I was exposed to the world.

Though I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket, on the rare occasions when I’ve forgotten my license, I become intensely paranoid that everything that can go wrong on the road will go wrong:

  • The police will pull me over due to something minor that will quickly escalate and result in me getting deported.
  • I’ll get in an accident (another first for me), and–unable to present an ID–will be forced to desert my car and make a living on the streets.
  • I’ll be approached by federal agents to testify about a drug deal that happened while I was driving past, but without my license, they’ll confuse me with the drug dealer and make me wear a wire into a meeting with the local mafia. Eventually I’ll work my way up the ranks of the organization and have to choose between the bright lights and the cold, hard truth.

All of these scenarios ran through my head as I drove to and from the restaurant. It was a beautiful day with low-key traffic, but it was one of the scariest drives of my life.

Have you ever done this? I have a similar reaction when I accidentally leave my cell phone at home.


6 Responses to “My Greatest Fear #53: Driving Without a License”

  1. Allen Chang says:

    In Australia, it’s okay if you drive without having your license with you as long as you have an “open” license (not learners or provisional).

  2. jewelyaz says:

    Jamey, I hate to say it, but you’re young, clean-cut, and white. You have absolutely nothing to fear. You confess, “I’m so sorry officer, I left home without my wallet because I was on my phone,” he lectures you about driving while using a cell phone (legit), and then he writes you a warning for no license. The end. Of course, if you can’t provide proof of insurance and car registration, then there are a few more minutes of hassle.

    My biggest fear in this scenario? Oh crap! How am I going to pay for dinner??

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Julia: That’s the sad truth, isn’t it? I was a little worried about dinner, but I knew my friend would take care of it and I would pay them back.

  3. Dionne says:

    This has happened to me! When I was 17 (essentially a minor!) I got into a car accident and didn’t have a license or a form of ID on me (not having any form of ID is one of my fears). So guess what happened to me? Yep, I was arrested (even though my mom got to the scene before the cops and vouched for who I was). According to the police officer who arrested me, he said that not having the photo ID was why he had to “take me in” because I could be anybody and could have a warrant. I was put into a holding cell for over 5 hours until I could see the Magistrate. My punishment- take driver’s ed. After that, I learned to never leave home without a photo ID.

  4. This belated comment did not post when submitted earlier today, so I’m submitting it again.

    Advisory to Older Seniors (Over 85?) re Prevention of Driving Without a License
    My local DMV in WA state scrutinizes older seniors trying to renew their licenses to spot those suspected of having mobility problems and require them to take a driving skills test, even if they have flawless driving records and a doctor’s certification that they are fit to drive.
    So if you fit into this category:
    1. Don’t use a walker to enter the DMV building if you can walk without one. (I had recently recovered from a broken ankle, so used a walker only to insure safety when I opened the heavy non-automatic DMV door with the wind blowing against it.)
    2. Renew your license early, so that if you do get “selected” for a required driving skills test scheduled for as long as a month ahead, you will still have a valid license to drive until then. (Also, if you feel you need instruction to master a driving test skill that you never exercise in real life—e.g., backing around a corner—be warned that a driving school cannot instruct you in your own car because it lacks the required dual controls. So you won’t have the official cover of a licensed instructor while practicing that skill—all the more reason to renew early!)

    Having said all that about avoiding the dreaded test, I must confess that I am a better driver due to all the practice I put in—yes, all with an expired license—to insure that I passed it. So I now self-righteously dispense mental tickets to all those many OTHER drivers, who commit frequent infractions like driving with the flow of traffic, which is rarely at or below the speed limit where I live.

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