My service coordinator for the county was late in picking me up and I started thinking maybe I had thought it was the wrong day or something. But I ran upstairs into my room and checked my calendar, and sure enough, the 20th was the day.
I wasn't sure how I was supposed to dress. I knew that I had to go to work right afterwards, but if I looked too professional, they might second guess trying to help me. Sure enough, I decide on an outfit on black pants, one of my favorite tops from Benetton that I got six years ago, and a nice pair of black heels.
As my S.C. pulls up to my house and I get into her car, I feel my stomach drop. She is dressed in a turquoise colored t-shirt with seahorses and seashells all over it, and a matching bottom with the same busy, queasy-looking print and then matching bright turquoise flip flops to complete the ensemble. I suddenly feel way over dressed.
I convince myself that it doesn't matter. I should just present myself the way that I am, regardless of how that is - whether it would be in jeans and a tank top or in the outfit that I had on.
We parked into the lot of the business park and the S.C. leaned over to pull up her emergency brake and then stopped.
"We aren't parked too far away for you to walk, are we?"
The steps to the top floor (where we were headed) were only about a couple feet away from where we had parked.
There was a part of me that sort of cringed when she asked that. I know that it was out of good form - she wanted to make sure I didn't have to walk far...because of my limp. But I am used to people parking wherever we can park. I am used to J parking four blocks away from the club and us making the trek there to and from. I am used to making the mile journey from the Ft. Armstead parking lot to Starscape every year. I am just used to people not noticing or caring about whether I limp or not.
"No, this is perfectly fine. Thanks," I said, smiling as best as I could.
We got out of the car and headed towards the building.
"You know the elevator is right there...it might be easier for you to use," she said, watching out of the corner of her eye as I headed towards the steps.
"Oh, I'm fine. Really. It's only about fifteen steps anyway," I said, that tense feeling creeping up into the back of my neck. The feeling I used to get when people used to patronize me when I was a little kid growing up. But I just quickly shook the feeling away and assumed the S.C. was probably only suggesting the elevator because she didn't want to walk the steps herself.
When we finally met with Mr. Noppinger for our appointment, I was just anxious. The ponytailed man who came to greet us seemed the nervous type, his hands clammy, and shaking, and his voice a bit shaky.
"Hello E, name is Ray...please follow me to my office."
We walked into a 2x2 room with two chairs stuffed in a corner, a desk, laptop and two filing cabinets that had more paper on top of them than in them I supposed.
He sat down at his desk while I and the S.C. attempted to awkwardly adjust the chairs so that they fit comfortably next to each other, and yet at the same time, faced Mr. Noppinger.
I ended up having to sit sideways in my chair which I was totally okay with.
"So...let's start at the beginning with this, shall we?" he announced after pulling a legal pad from a drawer underneath his desk and grasping a hold of the nearest functioning pen.
So I recited. I told him the whole story from the beginning, and allowed my exasperation to seep through my words - I couldn't help it. I wondered if Mr. Noppinger knew how much I was trying to resist viewing him as my only salvation.
Once I had finished, and Mr. Noppinger was tipping the pen down after his last few bouts of notetaking, he leaned back into his chair and gave a long sigh.
"I am sorry that you have been given such a run around. But hopefully we can help you here. That is, after all, our purpose here at DORS, to provide for those who can't fully provide for themselves."
There were loads of paperwork to fill out and we got through it rather quickly. When we got to the employment section, he looked over at me.
"And you work?"
"Yes, full time."
"Where do you work?" he said, turning back to his laptop to get ready to type.
"The local bank, in commercial lending," I replied.
He stopped with his hands held mid air above the keyboard and turned to me.
"Really?" he said with the same incredulous tone as the $150 Connect-The-Dots lady.
"Yes..." I said, trying to keep myself calm.
"You wouldn't have a paystub on you, would you? I forgot to mention that if you have a job, we would need to see a paystub."
Fortunately, I am disorganized, and hadn't taken out my paystub from three weeks ago out of my bag.
"Oh wow, so you have a job," he said with the same tone again. I guess he meant that a plain old job (one without the emphasis on the word with that tone) was just a cashier's job at the local McDonald's. But seeing as I worked at a bank (proving that despite his assumptions of me having cerebral palsy and possibly being slightly mentally retarded were wrong) that constituted as a job.
It went on, the next 30 minutes, his shaky hands tapping with elementary speed on the keyboard as he asked me the basic Q & A. 'What's your mother's name? What's your father's name? What is their occupations?'
Finally, we were done, and Mr. Noppinger sat there for a minute at his desk, turning away from his laptop and folding his hands in front of him. He seemed to have found something very interesting to stare at on his desk for a good two minutes before speaking.
He unfolded his hands suddenly and pressed his fingers nervously into the nose piece of his glasses, pushing them closer to his face.
"You make a lot of money at your job," he said quietly, picking up my paystub that he had unfolded.
My S.C. spoke up before I could, beginning with a heavy sigh. I think I was too busy listening to my heart pounding and my heavy breathing, anticipating some sort of bad news.
"You don't mean to tell me that her eligibility is somehow deferred due to the amount of money her salary is, do you?" she asked out of exasperation. I think she could just feel how tense and upset I was ready to be.
"Well, yes...but not everything. She is actually eligible for free driving instruction with the left foot accelerator through the state, however..." he paused, and I knew it would have a catch. It always has a catch, "there is a 6-8 week waiting list for the free training. And it's a draw straws kind of thing. I am just guessing as to how long it could take. Could take months for all I know. But I know some of the people who work at that facility and I will give them a call right after you leave to put her on the waiting list if you're interested."
"Of course I am," I spoke up, "I'd rather wait for free lessons than have to deal with this ridiculously demeaning woman who is charging me $75 an hour to sit and criticize driving skills and NOT do what I am paying her to do which is write the letter and train me using the equipment."
"Yes, yes, of course. I totally agree," said Mr. Noppinger as he pulled out the number of this facility and placed it in front of him on top of all my other paperwork, "Well let me just go print all of these forms off of the computer and bring them out to you."
As he walked out of the office for a moment, it came to me that I remembered grabbing my mail from the dining room table that morning (I hadn't been home in about two days) and stuffed in my purse, glancing and recognizing an envelope from the MVA.
I quickly pulled this from my purse and opened it up as my S.C. looked on.
"Did you just get that letter this morning?" she asked, noticing the MVA label on the envelope.
"Yes, well probably two days ago but I just got home this morning so this is my first time looking at it," I said.
I skimmed over the letter, expecting to hear more about how there was yet another bump in the road. The first thing I read were the bullets in the middle of the letter, skipping over the main paragraphs.
They read like this:
- C, Left Foot Accelerator
- J, Must Be Accompanied by Rehab/Driving Instructor
I knew about both but I guess I should have read the rest of the letter first.
It said that they had "received my Good Samaritan Physician's Report and evaluation packet (You know, the $150 Connect-The-Dots game?) and that the information indicated that I will need to drive a vehicle with a left foot accelerator." (yes, I knew this. We all know this.)
"It is necessary for you to submit documentation indicating that you have successfully conpleted behind-the-wheel training in using the adaptive equipment." (Also, another thing that I knew. Thus, the $75 an hour demeaning training lady.)
But here came the best part:
"Please take this letter along with the appropriate identification and the required fee to any full-service MVA office of your choice and apply for your learner's permit reflecting the following restrictions:
- C, Left Foot Accelerator
- J, Must Be Accompanied by Rehab/Driving Instructor
(So that's where those bullets came in!)
"Once you complete the behind-the-wheel training and submit the required documentation (that stupid letter that is being so difficult to obtain) to your Case Manager, the "J, Must be Accompanied by Rehab/Driving Instructor" restriction may be removed. At that time, you will be scheduled for a driving re-examination and you will be further advised."
YESSSS!!! I have permission to get my learner's permit!! I know it sounds lame, because technically what the letter says is that I can only get the card but cannot use it until I get the letter which won't be for another 6-8 weeks but I actually will get the physical, tangible CARD!! To hold, stick in my wallet, and have my smiling, goober face on it!
The only thing I was concerned about was the whole point of a driving re-examination. I wasn't sure whether my Case Manager was referring to the driving re-examination that happens when a learner's permit person goes to get their provisional license (like everyone else does after they get in their 40 hours of driving practice) or whether that was something totally different for me since I have to have adaptive equipment in my car. But as time will go on - I will figure that out. I have to take the letter to the MVA anyway to get my license, so I am sure I can ask them what I should interpret from that last sentence and figure it out.
What is even more spectacular is that now I can buy my car!!! Now that I have my learner's permit, I qualify to get car insurance quotes and then will be able to take the quotes to the dealership and buy my very first car. YESSSSSSSSS
I was so proud of myself because up until this point with the driving instructor lady, I had had no problems doing everything by myself without help from the state. I tried to wait it out as long as I could and use every avenue and string I could pull by myself before asking help from them because I knew I had a chance of not qualifying since everyone kept telling me that I wasn't "involved enough" or because I made too much money.
Even my S.C. admitted, after I handed her and she read the letter herself, that I had done a wonderful job by facilitating this much from myself. Most people get letters from the MVA and freak out and don't know what to do and where to turn, she said.
So sum up:
1. I get free lessons from the state, and a guaranteed letter. They will even have someone come with me to the MVA to get the restriction taken off so that the MVA can have solid proof that I did complete the training.
2. I got the GREEN light to get my learner's permit. To see my face on my card, and say that I am able to drive...FINALLY!!!! God, I can't believe it's all actually happening. It's really, really happening.