My New Driver’s License
By: Ellouise Schoettler

In July, I went to the Motor Vehicle Express Office to renew my Maryland driver’s license. Express is just part of the name of this place, not a description of the service, so while I waited in line for an hour, I had time to think about my history in the whole process of being licensed to drive a car.

I got my first driver’s license in 1953 by taking driver’s education during my junior year at Central High School in Charlotte, NC. A breeze —

Four years later, when it was time to renew my driver’s license, I was a married woman, and Jim and I were living in Baltimore. Two weeks before my 20th birthday, I was pregnant with our first child.

Jim drove me to the MVA on a hot, hot July afternoon. When I got to the counter and produced my NC driver’s license – ready to renew – the man behind the counter informed me that since I was not yet 21 – I was underage by Maryland law – “Your husband will have to sign for you,” he said. I was livid.

“Look at me”, I argued – pointing to a very large belly. “I am married, and I am having a baby why should I have someone sign for me to drive?” He was unsympathetic to the insult. “It’s the law, Ma’am.” Jim encouraged me to calm down, go ahead and get the license, and be done with it. I had never heard the word feminist, but I knew I was not too fond of this. “ No.” I was adamant. I refused to have Jim sign as my guardian. So I left without a MD license.

I called the North Carolina Motor Vehicle office and renewed my NC license by mail – using my full name Ellouise Diggle Schoettler –

And thus, it was for the next twelve years. Since Jim was in the military, I could drive under my home state license. By the time Jim resigned from the Air Force, we were once again living in Maryland, and I had to take the MD driver’s exam – which I passed with flying colors – and since then, I go in and renew every four years – sign my full name Ellouise Diggle Schoettler, have my new picture taken, and walk out with a license to drive.

This week when the woman handed me the card and said, please sign at the x – without thinking, I signed it Ellouise Schoettler. When I saw what I had done, I was flustered and a little unnerved, and I started to ask her to redo the card so that I could sign my FULL name – But then I didn’t. I shrugged. After 46 years, that IS who I am.

I was laughing to myself while I stood in the next line, waiting for my turn to have my picture taken.

So I took out my cell phone, pulled off my earring, and called Jim to tell him about it –

He didn’t get it at first – but then he chuckled and thanked me for calling.

At about that time, the woman called out, “next,” and I sat down in front of the camera. I straightened my scarf, took off my glasses – even managed a smile. And then sat on the bench to wait to pick up my new license –

I put my hand in my slacks pocket – just checking for the car key. Yes, the key was there and so was my earring.

Now, for the next five years, on the best picture I have ever had taken by one of those one-shot cameras -one of my parts is missing – my left earring.

But I know who the whole is — – -Ellouise Schoettler.

Written by Ellouise Schoettler. This story first appeared at in 2002. Photo by Chunlea Ju on Unsplash

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