The Final Word
By Bruce Bellingham
It’s Furlough Friday! This is a new adventure, and boy, am I excited. Last month Governor Schwartzenegger closed down government offices in California. Case in point, the DMV – yes, the Department of Motor Vehicles – where one gets driver’s licenses, cars registered, and where one obtains a California ID card. The offices will be closed on the first and third Fridays of the month. If you’ve ever been to the DMV, you’ll know this probably will not make any difference. But now, people will suddenly grouse about the DMV being closed. They used to bitch about its hopeless lack of service. Californians will get sentimental about the DMV office now that it’s unavailable to us. Gosh, look, it’s no longer there to abuse us. Not to worry: other negligent, ineffective agencies will abandon us in short order. One by one, they will quietly skulk away. We will miss them terribly. We’ll complain about their callousness and their negligence – as if it were something new – but protest passionately about how functionaries don’t bother to treat their customers badly anymore. It’s a terrible thing to be mistreated but, as the therapists say, at least it’s familiar. It seems to me that we hunger for Stockholm Syndrome. I know I do: it’s the closest I can get to actually visiting Sweden.
Or at least getting my hands on Swedish meatballs. They used to serve those brown, nasty, glutinous, sublimely salty specimens in various Financial District bars at Happy Hour. “Knock it off, Bruce, some of my closest friends are Swedish meatballs.”
Just a moment. Everyone knows that Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological term for becoming emotionally attached to one’s kidnappers. I’m taking it to a broader meaning, of course.
Sweden, now that I think about it, is likely more accessible to me. I suspect Stockholm would be friendlier than my adopted hometown of San Francisco. I wonder. Do people in Stockholm actually suffer from Stockholm Syndrome? Perhaps they call it something else. Or maybe they describe this pathology as San Francisco Syndrome. The other day I noticed that it had been 35 years since the Patty Hearst kidnapping. A better story, a reporter cannot dream of. Patty was literally the poster girl for all sorts of syndromes. When the gunfire finally subsided, Patty was in a federal courtroom in San Francisco, fighting for her freedom all over again. Her lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, tried to convince the jury that Patty was a victim of her terrorist kidnappers, and had been overcome by Stockholm Syndrome.
The jury did not buy it.
That’s because they had forgotten their experiences at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Today, on this Furlough Friday, I’m sure the jury would have a change of heart. The truth of the matter is that we are all held hostage by one thing or another – we’re just afraid to admit it.
All of this gives me pause.
Let me think. I might even be able to drive a car in Sweden. Just don’t tell the already angst-ridden Swedes about it. I haven’t had a driver’s license here in California for more than 25 years. It’s been so long, I can’t remember if denying me a driver’s license was my idea or an idea suggested by the authorities. It doesn’t matter anymore. I think it was my choice. Walking trumps parking in San Francisco. All the same, I have to confess I have an irrational fondness for the DMV. Imagine that. The DMV has always been cold and dismissive to me – yet I crave the attentions of this faceless bureaucracy.
This is what I’m going to do: before the next Furlough Friday flies this way, I’m going back to the DMV, stand in line, the longer the better, absorb the rebukes, and the chilly nonchalance from the mirthless, beaten-down employees – if there are any left – and wait for them to approve my new California ID card.
Not to worry: I have no intention of driving. We already have enough hazards hovering around us.
When I get the official proof of my identity, I can assert this: I am somebody! Attention must be paid! Ich bin ein Berliner! I have proof right here in my hands! But will it get me backstage to the Rufus Wainwright show?
Now, can anyone give me a ride to a joint that serves Swedish meatballs at Happy Hour? You bet I’m buying. Baby, you can drive my car. Let’s go.
Bruce Bellingham, who also writes for the Marina Times and Media People, is the author of Bellingham by the Bay, published by Council Oak Books. He can be observed perambulating hither and yon over sidewalks in search of the next medical miracle that’s been bubbling up from the steam table in some unspeakably uneasy speakeasy. “Pardon me, this is the Barbary Coast, right?”