If you're the usual driver on vacation roads, you should have a current driver's license. Here's the Bag Lady's story of a recent experience on the Big Island in Hawaii. A name has been changed for the sake of marital harmony.
Bag Lady and her husband Henry got together when they were in their 40s and each had been driving for more than 20 years. Each was terrified by the driving of the other. Henry thought Bag Lady stopped too quickly at intersections and didn't allow enough space between herself and the car in front of her when stopped at an intersection. Plus she had had seven accidents in the last 45 years where she backed into something - either a mailbox, a garage support post, or another vehicle. Bag Lady cringed every time Henry drove over a curb when making a right turn, or accelerated from an intersection as though he was in a race, or refused to yield on the freeway when a car was merging into the right lane. Plus, he never met another driver who wasn't an idiot or a "blonde on a cellphone". Henry felt honor bound to coach Bag Lady on her driving, but resented any attempt on her part to encourage him to drive more safely. At home they often went to events in separate cars, especially in the last year when Bag Lady decided she had to finally set a boundary to feel safe on the road. At night, Henry drove and Bag Lady hunched in the front passenger seat. Her night vision was very poor, and Henry swore that his was as good as it had ever been even though he was now over 70 years old.
When they went on vacation Bag Lady always drove; whether it was a road trip or a fly-in-and-rent-a-car, she was more comfortable with unfamiliar places and had a much better sense of direction. She didn't mind driving four hours at a stretch because she didn't worry about her own driving and she wasn't constantly glancing over at Henry to make sure he wasn't falling asleep at the wheel - which he had done, twice, in their years together.
Bag Lady and Henry loved to spend a week or two in Hawaii in the fall, when the seasonal rains started in the Pacific Northwest. On their last trip they'd had especially good fortune with their scheduling. Airport traffic was light, security even more so. The TSA guy was friendly and he and Bag Lady even had a chat. He said, "Sundays are usually light days for traveling. Oh, and by the way, your driver's license has expired. You don't need to worry because it's still valid for a year as a photo ID."
Bag Lady didn't remember getting a notice of her license expiring. But she thanked the TSA man and continued on her way to the boarding gate.
It was over 80 degrees and humid when they stepped off the plane in Kona. Their luck continued; as they walked across the street in front of the airport their car rental shuttle drove up and they were the first ones on. And also the first ones off. Bag Lady trotted into the rental car office while Henry retrieved their luggage.
The rental car guy was smiling and friendly. "Aloha. Welcome to the Big Island. Is this your first visit?"
"Nope. We've been here half a dozen times in the last ten years. It's our favorite island."
The man smiled and asked for her driver's license, as usual. Then, "Did you know your driver's license is expired?"
"Oh, yes, they told me that at security in Seattle."
"Well, you'll have to give me your husband's driver's license."
Bag Lady went outside and retrieved Henry's license.
"Okay, now a credit card." Bag Lady handed him her MasterCard.
"The name on the card has to be the same as the name on the driver's license."
Bag Lady went outside and got Henry's MasterCard.
The man smiled again. "Your husband is going to have to sign the contract."
Bag Lady said, "I always drive when we rent a car."
"Well, you could go to the police station and see if they'll give you a waiver for the time you're here. I hear that sometimes happens."
Bag Lady went outside and traded places with Henry. She sat down on a bench with the luggage while Henry went in to sign the rental contract and pick up the keys.
Henry was cautious as they started off. He'd always been a passenger on these roads and he didn't have a good sense of direction. Bag Lady became the navigator and they made it to the police station.
Bag Lady went inside and told her story to two friendly police officers. They said no, they were sorry, but no waiver could be provided for her to drive on this vacation. Bag Lady said, "What would happen if I drove anyway?" They said driving without a license was a crime in Hawaii, she'd have to go to court and pay a fine as high as $500.
Bag Lady walked back out to the car, considering whether she should drive the rental car with an expired driver's license. She was a good driver. Then she remember just last year, on this island, she she'd backed into another car in a parking lot in Kona. Maybe not, she thought.
After a week, Henry had driven over three curbs and gotten into an altercation with another driver at an intersection which morphed into an altercation between Bag Lady and Henry. But the rest of the time he kept them safe on the road.
The day after their arrival home, Bag Lady got her driver's license renewed. The lady at the Department of Licensing said "the system" had neglected to send renewal notices to 18,000 people in recent months. Bag Lady was glad to know she hadn't just forgotten.
A year later
7 hours ago