Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Timor mortis conturbat me

It was time to renew my driver's license. Luckily, I didn't have to retake the written test; just had to look into the black box and read line 5. So with a faded portrait of Jesse White looking on (there's something extra-imperial about the fact that it was faded), the woman behind the counter rattled through her questions, checking off my answers with looping flicks of her pen.

"Has your license been suspended or canceled in this state or any other state."


"Do you have a condition that could cause you to lose consciousness."


"Do you want to be an organ donor."

I felt a rush of fear. This question.

* * * * *

I remember the first time it caught me off guard. I was getting my license for the first time; since these things are scheduled by your birthday, it would have been almost exactly twelve years ago. I didn't know that this person, this interchangeable processor in the basement of the county courthouse, would want to know what should be done with my body after I died. "Do you want to be an organ donor." My dad was with me, and I looked over at him. He shook his head and quietly said "No." I was relieved and unsettled. But the interchangeable processor didn't judge; she had moved on to the next question. It was over except for the lingering sense that I had somehow been weak; somehow faithless.

The question has been asked at least twice since then, and I've always been caught off guard. I've always said no and felt like a jerk. A cowardly, relieved jerk.

* * * * *


I felt like an idiot. A thoughtless, careless idiot.

The woman behind the counter looked me in the eye for the first time. "By saying yes, you acknowledge your agreement to donate your organs. Your next of kin has no authority to alter this decision. Do you agree?"

"Yes." I wanted to turn around, but I was too ashamed to make the train stop. My wife isn't comfortable with me changing our phone service to a different provider. And I just gave her rights regarding the disposition of my body over to the state of Illinois.


* * * * *

I don't like my new picture as well as I liked the old one. I wasn't ready when they snapped the photo. My mouth is smiling, but my eyes haven't caught on yet. (Those weak, misshapen eyes. Who's gonna want 'em?) I guess I was ready enough. I'm just going to have to go with it.


Adam said...

with that picture, they may choose to take your smile instead.

Pirate Jimmy said...

I just recently re-applied for a new license as well. I've always been an organ donor, but that doesn't mean I'll ever die. Yar!