Originally Posted Online: March 17, 2013, 10:50 am
Last Updated: March 17, 2013, 11:59 pm

I'm b-b-b-b-b-bad to the bone -- and my driver's license proves it

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By Shane Brown, sbrown@qconline.com

They say that girls like the bad boys. If that's the case, folks, it's time to lock up your daughters -- 'cause THIS cat is one bad dude (shut yo mouth!).

Sometimes it's tough being a rebel loner without a cause, but that's the cross you have to bear when you're b-b-b-b-bad to the bone like me. Most of you go through life playing by the rules, but some of us just have to throw caution to the wind and tear that rule book up, man. I make no apologies for who I am. Like Michael Jackson once said, "I'm bad; I'm bad" -- and then something that sounds like "sha-mow-a!," so you know he was serious. Just like me. I'm bad; I'm bad; I'm really really bad.

I knew it was only a matter of time before Johnny Law would bring the hammer down on my reckless ways. I just had no idea it'd be last Friday.

Like most hard-living bad boys, I spend most of my Friday nights mired in the white-knuckle, cutthroat, seedy underground world of trivia fundraisers. In fact, the team I play with usually wins. Our captain, Kim Crandall, is the Lex Luthor of the trivia set. When he walks into an event, people cringe and scowl (I've actually seen it happen).

Kim takes his trivia seriously, and hence hand-picks a team made up equally of super-smart people (like Kim) and super-lame people who watch waaaay too much TV and know far more than they should about Lindsay Lohan and stupid pop-culture garbage (cough.) Getting picked for Kim's team is both honor and duty. It doesn't matter the charity, cause, or purpose of the trivia night -- when he calls, you show up.

He called me last week, and that's where my story begins: in my car, on my way to another certain trivia night victory. I had no idea what organization was sponsoring the event; I just knew where it was: on a certain locally based federal military installation that shall remain nameless. As always, I pulled up to the guard gate with driver's license in hand to check in. NOT as always, the guard looked at my license and politely asked me to pull over to the side of the road.

Greeeeat, I thought. I must have been randomly selected for some kind of detailed screening or random car search. I didn't panic, though, because I had nothing to hide, other than an embarrassing amount of fast-food detritus slowly decaying on the passenger-side floor. But when a pair of police cars showed up and purposely parked on either end of my car to block me in, that's when I started raising an eyebrow or two.

Was I on some kind of watchlist? Was there an Evil Shane Brown out there somewhere sullying my good name? No. As it turns out, I sullied my OWN name when I turned 42 back in January and failed to notice that my driver's license had expired. I've been cruising around town on an expired license for just over two months. Smooth move, Brown.

Now, I'm not going to give you a play-by-play of my brush with the law. After all, I was in the wrong, and they had a job to do. Suffice it to say that it must have been one SLOW night on that certain locally based federal military installation, and I sincerely hope those guys spend as much time securing the homeland as they do harassing helpless idiots in Volkswagen Beetles.

But in the end, they treated me like a person AND let me scoot with a warning instead of taking me to the federal pokey, so I'm actually pretty lucky and in their debt. Still, NOT the ideal way to spend a Friday night.

But it was heaven compared to Saturday morning.

I woke up determined to never repeat the previous evening's scenario, so I headed out to renew my license first thing. Here in the Illinois Quad-Cities, our local Secretary of State's office is conveniently located on the precise edge of nowhere in a strip mall with no logical or discernible entrance. I believe that this is the driving-test portion of the license renewal process: If you can figure out how to get to the place, you've proven you know how to drive.

Personally, I've always thought that the Department of Motor Vehicles gets a bad rap. The popular stereotype is that it's a timeless void of bitter and grouchy bureaucratic nightmares. But whenever I've had to visit in the past, I've been met with courteous and knowledgeable staffers who provide exceptional service in a timely and friendly manner.

Clearly this is because I had never been down there on a Saturday. Saturdays are every bad DMV stereotype presented en masse for your viewing pleasure. Saturdays at the DMV is where hope goes to die.

I showed up relatively early and still ended up at the tail end of the waiting line to the information desk.

"Hi," I said, after waiting my way to the front. "I just discovered that my driver's license expi--"

"Take a number wait for it to be called step aside," came the atonal interruption. I grabbed my number and saw with disdain that it said "44." That was when I heard someone call "3." Uh, oh.

I noticed that every one of the laminated numbers also came with a random safe-driving slogan. Mine said, "Keep your cool! Chill the road rage!" Little did I know that would be my mantra for surviving the next two and a half hours.

With nothing better to do, I surveyed my fellow waitees. Everyone looked completely unhappy. Exasperated sighs emitted from around the room in 30-second intervals. Old men sat alongside bored teenagers of every race, color and creed -- an equal-opportunity suckfest if ever there was one. To top it off, one careless mom seemed willfully ignorant of the fact that her two sugar-infused offspring were bouncing around the entire office like caffeinated jumping beans. Seriously, it wouldn't surprise me if someone walked out that day with a driver's license photo featuring a blurry 4-year-old in the background.

Speaking of license photos, I did learn one important thing that day. It turns out that after the embarrassment of nearly being arrested followed by a two-and-a-half-hour extreme test of patience, a photo of me ends up looking like I'm posing for the cover of my new gangsta rap album, complete with scowl and a facial expression that clearly says, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good."

If I ever get stopped by the police again, they're going to take one look at that license and assume that I really AM a bad boy. Jan. 5, 2017, cannot arrive fast enough, and THIS time I won't forget about it. I'm serious. Sha-mow-a!

Shane Brown is a columnist for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. Email him at sbrown@qconline.com or visit his blog at http://shanebrown.blogspot.com.