April 8, 2014 – Believe it or not, I slept very well last night despite the nervous energy coursing through my body. In the morning, I checked and double checked the date. It was indeed April the 8th, Tuesday. I pulled on my mud boots and repeated the same preparatory exercise and breakfast routine of yesterday, right down to the buttered toast. All that was left to do was wake up Sawyer and get her out the door without her having a panic attack. I accomplished this by telling her we needed to stop at the printers to pick up the ad posters for our new craft beer campaign, which is true. We’re just going to stop at the Department of Motor Vehicles first.
Mom left early today – something to do with a project she’s working on. She took the van. This left us with the older, but highly delightful convertible to use for our road exam. I was pumped and ready! Sawyer…? She added goggles to her colander helmet.
For this outing, I took control of the steering wheel and Sawyer worked the gas and brake pedals. It didn’t take long before I was pulling into a prime parking space in front of the New Hampshire DMV. I put the car in park and turned off the key.
“Are we at the printers already,” Sawyer asked, “or the donut shop? I could really use a raspberry stick and a cup of tea.”
The donut shop would be our next stop I promised, but first we had something monumental to do. I opened the driver’s side door and hopped out, then reached my wing to Sawyer and pulled her from the floorboards. It didn’t take two seconds for her to figure out what was going on.
“Today, Happy? Really?!” We were ready – I knew we were. With a little convincing, Sawyer took a big gulp and followed me into the single level brick building that sat respectfully behind the giant flag pole.
We walked side by side down a long, polished hallway that echoed against the clacking of our toenails. I hope shoes aren’t a prerequisite, I worried. It emptied into a bright gallery of waiting areas and pedestrian filled lines managed by red velvet ropes. A tall counter with glass partitions occupied an entire length of wall, behind which sat pleasant-looking humans who called out numbers and greeted customers in cheerful, repetitive dialogue. I scanned the room for signs indicating where the written exams were taking place. This, I explained to Sawyer, was our first hurdle before being allowed to take the road test.
Green arrows directed us to a small room off the lobby filled with 10 wooden desks. Sawyer and I climbed into two seats in the front row. A highly bored and distracted young man spoke from a small table in the front of the room without ever lifting his head to view his participants. He told us to pick up the pencil, open the exam booklet in front of us, and answer the questions by filling in the correct response. He then instructed us to drop the completed test into the basket next to him when we were done, before heading back to the waiting room where we would sit and wait for someone to call out our name.
The test questions were easy but I took my time to correctly shade the oval answer boxes. I wasn’t going to risk having my test disqualified for coloring outside of the lines. Sawyer finished a minute before me and waited outside the door until I joined her. We found two chairs in the area marked ROAD TEST and tried to steady our nerves. A television set mounted on the wall became a wonderful distraction. I was lost in an episode of The Price is Right when Sawyer nudged me in the stomach.
“That’s us!” she stated as a woman standing in the corner of the room repeated our names.
“Sawyer Evangeline Grover-Miller… Happy Feet Grover-Miller…”
“We’re right here,” Sawyer announced dutifully, hopping off her chair. We hurried to catch up to the woman who had returned behind her glass partition at the far end of the counter.
“Sawyer Evangeline Grover-Miller?”
“Yes, Ma’am… I’m right here,” Sawyer replied. The counter was so high, that I dragged a stool under the window, hopped on, and had Sawyer scramble up and sit on my shoulders.
“Congratulations. You passed the written test with zero errors. Take this paper and go back to the waiting area to listen for your name. Someone will be calling you for the road exam.”
I was thrilled for Sawyer! She’s brilliant and I knew she would pass the written portion with flying colors.
“Happy Feet Grover-Miller…”
“Right here, Ma’am,” I responded, quickly changing places with Sawyer. I don’t know what is up with these people, but she didn’t look at me, either.
“Interesting name you have,” she stated flatly as she stamped a piece of paper . “Congratulations. You passed the written exam. Take this and go wait with your friend.”
I didn’t waste any time by asking her for my score. I was so excited to have one obstacle over, that I literally flew back to my chair by the TV.
Time dragged at an excruciating pace. Poor Sawyer’s stomach was growling so loudly that it woke up the man dozing in the seat next to her. He thought it was his phone and quickly checked for messages. We were still chuckling over that when a short man with a balding head and glasses stepped into our area and called out our names. This was it! The moment I had dreamt of over and over in my head for months. Suddenly, I was filled with anxiety. Sawyer must have noticed my hesitation, because she tossed a half-filled bottle of water over my head.
“Don’t bale on my now!” she whispered and dragged me to my feet.
The instructor said that his name was Mr. Boxleitner. He paused for a moment when he realized that we were chickens, pulling his glasses farther down on his nose as if this would help him concentrate better on the question at hand. I thought it might disqualify us, but I was ready to quote from the DMV’s Rules of Eligibility, and nowhere is it stated that a driver must be human. Thankfully, he didn’t say anything except, “Follow me.”
We were led through a side door into the parking lot. He asked us which car was ours and instructed us to get in and prepare to drive as we normally would. He got into the passenger seat and buckled up. He was a little man, but his knees pressed against the glove compartment. That was my fault. I didn’t push the seat back the other day after we got into that tangle with the roof button. I hope I don’t hit it by mistake today! Mr. Boxleitner found the release handle and quickly slid back into a more comfortable position for his legs.
“Alright, who’s first? Why don’t we start with Happy.”
Gulp. Sawyer quickly tumbled under the dash to work the controls and I assumed my position at the wheel.
Mr. Boxleitner was thrown at first by our operational arrangement. “I’m not sure that this is either legal or safe… Is this how you two always handle this vehicle?”
“Yes sir,” I replied respectfully, “and the family van, too! You’ll see that we are very good, very cautious drivers.”
I think he allowed the exam to continue out of curiosity more than anything else. I’m so glad he didn’t ask us who drove us there. Sawyer and I executed the controls flawlessly. I navigated every turn, obeyed every traffic signal, and completed a backup and parallel parking maneuver like a professional. After fifteen minutes, we pulled over to change places. I was thankful to be in the shadows under the dash to steady my nerves with a deep breath before starting the second leg of our test. So far, so good, but Mr. Boxleitner would deny us if we couldn’t prove that the two of us together are better than one human operator.
Sawyer drove brilliantly! Maybe it was the shock of having two chickens taking a driver’s exam at once, but Sawyer only had to navigate through an empty parking lot of orange cones before he instructed her to pull over and turn off the engine. I hopped up in the seat next to Sawyer. We turned and watched Mr. Boxleitner scribble something down on his clipboard. He seemed to be writing an essay which made me doubt that we would be driving away from this adventure successful. Finally, he stopped writing and lifted his head to address us.
“Well… I have to say that this was a first. I was all set to dismiss your crazy request, but then something changed my mind. You are both excellent drivers. Hens yes, but excellent drivers. I don’t believe we’ve ever licensed anyone other than a human, though I did see a YouTube video of a bloodhound behind the wheel of a pickup truck. That dog was incredible. Do you know him?”
“No sir,” we replied. Why do humans think that all animals know each another?
“Well that’s too bad,” he chuckled. “Anyway, you both passed with one restriction. Obviously, you’re not able to drive a car by yourself, so until you purchase a modified vehicle designed for a chicken and approved by the DMV, I’m going to issue a joint operator’s license. Take this paper into the building and hand it to the woman at the first window. She’ll give you an eye test and take your photo. You’ll have your license within the hour.”
He handed me the paper and left the car. Sawyer and I sat there, stunned that we had actually pulled off what had been our goal for so long.
“This is incredible,” I said softly.
“We’re going to be able to drive a delivery truck,” Sawyer gushed. “We can deliver our own beer in style! We can go to the beach for lobster! We can go wherever the road takes us! WHOOOO HOOOO!!!”
We did it. We actually pulled it off. An hour later we were driving home fully licensed. I am blown away.
We stopped to pick up the posters at the printers, and then went for lunch at a sandwich shop not far from the house. We celebrated with a veggie pizza and root beer floats. We couldn’t stop looking at our accomplishment. Once license with both of our pictures on it. I have my arm around Sawyer and she is beaming. It’s a great shot of us. The photographer really captured our personalities. Now it was time to go home and share the good news with the rest of the gang… and Mom. I should have made the root beer float a double.