Hate Fuel: A Driving Story

Indulge me with this digression from pop culture and social issues.

I need to talk about:

Anxiety and self-sabotage when it comes to test taking.

it me

Don’t fret.  It’s not that heavy. 

In fact, it was prompted by my phobias around the DMV.

That’s the Department of Motor Vehicles for anyone who has been driving for a long time and forgotten that nightmare.

I’ve actually had my license since the 1970s and I’m pretty good behind the wheel.  In fact, since the widespread use of GPS I’ve become almost excellent.

I no longer get lost or in near collisions because I’m looking through my Thomas’ Guide map to find out where the hell I am and why I’m not there yet (Note:  Look it up!  Actually, here it is…).

Oooh 98, a good vintage!

So what was it about me having to retake the written test to drive all these decades later that I let own me for the last few..um…years? 

More importantly, when I finally stepped up to take it in November, why did I FAIL on my first try and then obsess for a full EIGHT more weeks about failing it again before trying a second time?

The fact that I passed on my next attempt this past week means nothing to me except I won’t get booked for driving with an expired license and cannot be sued for everything I’m worth if I happen to hit someone because I was legally a criminal driving without a license.

Me on Mulholland Drive

Which I suppose means more than something since the latter would have created a much bigger set of REAL problems, not to mention 100 times more anxiety, for me. 

And all over a 25 question multiple-choice quiz where you can get five wrong, which makes it not all THAT hard anyway. 

Actually, not true.  But we’ll get to that in a second.

Tell me more!

First, some backstory –

I moved a few years before the pandemic but unbeknownst to me my DMV renewal was never sent to my forwarded address or someone in the office didn’t bother to alert me by email or snail mail that I was due.

So one day when my ID was being checked, probably because I was being carded for buying liquor….NOT……an authority figure warned me, Ya know, buddy, your license expired.  You better get it renewed because they don’t mess around.  You can be arrested.

Harrumph,  I remember thinking.  You’re not the boss of me.

Get lost!

And besides, they would have let me know like they’ve done for the last 137 years.

Well, that’s what I remember about the conversation, anyway.  And I didn’t think anything of it until I realized I had to get on an airplane, and a well-connected friend, one of the few who knew about my situation, warned me, you better bring your passport for ID because they’re cracking down and won’t let you on the plane anymore.

Yeah, I hate to fly (Note: Another anxiety item) and it’d been a few years. 

So I remember thinking, oh, this IS a big deal.  Hmmm.  Well then, I guess I’d better do this. 

I hate everyone

And needless to say, my well-connected friend had a guy who advised me on what to do and how to get it accomplished as fast as possible.

Which, well, I sort of did.  I filled out the paperwork, took another AWFUL photo for my new license, and was ready to take a test until I was warned it was too late in the day and that anyway I’d better study before I tried it because, well, road rules have changed since I took the test on my first car, a 1972 Ford Pinto.

You know I looked good driving this

Side Note: Don’t laugh, I LOVED Peter Pinto!   He had a green racing stripe across his sides, a black hardtop and his horn fell off every time I drove over a pothole, which in NYC was at least two or three times a week, day, or even hour.

But I digress.  It was late 2019 and I now needed to….study for a test? 

Yeah, I don’t think so honey

Ugh.  I hadn’t done that since college.  And even then not until the last possible minute.

So true to form I waited as long as possible and planned the test for Feb. 2020.

At which time the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I was plagued by a series of health issues that weakened my immune system.  Haha, no DMV for me!!

And it’s a good thing too since the one or two days of looking over the DMV rule book and cheat sheet web sites were a f’n nightmare!


They had rules AND questions about not only the required age of kids to sit in a backwards AND front facing car seat (Note: That’s 2 and 8 years old) but the height and weight requirements that make them exempt from those rules (Note: Um, 36 inches high and over 42 lbs., but I’d have to check).

F-ck man, I don’t have a god d-m kid, nor do I plan to let them in my car.  Why on earth would I need to know that, in addition to the many, MANY rules for carrying livestock in the back of my truckMY truck????  

Get bent, DMV

Yes, I’m being serious.  Go to any web address with sample EXAMS and you will find many questions about all sorts of things that would NEVER happen to ME.  Or you.

Mortified and paranoid about not being an “A” student anymore, not to mention a little p.o.’d because my mind could no longer retain meaningless facts the way it used to, I decided to let the pandemic work for me.

After the DMV briefly shut down, I got a temporary doctor’s note re: my driving and felt relatively safe during those very strange times.

So I decided to stay away.  For…well…two and a half years. 

uh oh

I had been well half that time and the DMV had long opened.  Yet the thought of learning about car seats and cow requirements sent me into an emotional tailspin.

So I did everything I could do avoid driving for fear of being arrested and broke into a sweat every time my husband threatened me with all sorts of stuff I won’t go into here if I didn’t take that f’n test!

Which I refused to take. 

Or pretended I was studying for.

Or began studying for and gave up on.

Or called to make an appointment to take but hung up because the waiting time was too long.

You know this is good logic

Until late this fall when the husband kindly asked me this Christmas for the only present he really wanted – me and my license – by the end of the year.

Well kids, love makes you do all kinds of things you never thought you would.  I found an expert to help me through the red tape I feared, studied for a few weeks quite diligently, showed up to take the dreaded written exam, doing breathing exercises beforehand to ease my anxiety, and promptly:



And do you know why? 

I was doing great until there were five – count ‘em, FIVE – questions about NEVs that showed up on my particular test.

Now you might ask yourself – what the f-k are NEVs?  I know I did.  Well, guess what:

NEVs are short for NEIGHBORHOOD ELECTRIC VEHICLES, little mo fos that look like powerized golf carts that none of my practice tests covered.  You drive them in suburban neighborhoods I never frequent, they can’t go more than 20-25 mph, you need insurance to drive them, and they’re governed by most of the rules of the road but can’t be driven in a 35mph zone.

God help me if I ever see one of these on the road

Only, I didn’t know anything about that before I took the exam.  I kept thinking an NEV was a special train, or a code word for Nevada, or some all-terrain vehicle that you drove up in the rocky Sierras, which I never do because I don’t like heights.

F-k me.  And f-k them.  And while we’re at it, F-K schooling of any kind.  Even though I’m a teacher.

FIVE questions?  That’s 20% of the entire test on NEVs and it caused me to FAIL on my very LAST question.

I hate the DMV but at least I no longer hated myself.  F-k them!  Again.

It must be repeated

Oh, and after a few glasses of wine that night you know I did an informal survey of about a dozen friends, NONE of whom knew what the hell on NEV was by its initials. 

This means there are at least a dozen other drivers on the road that likely couldn’t have passed my test.   Not that anyone cared.  Except for my husband, who now offered to help me study for my test the next time.

I’d rather die.

Get out of my room!!!!

Though not before I passed this piece of sh-t test on my second attempt because I’d be god d-mned if the mo fo DMV is going to break me.  I’m a lot smarter than them and I’m going to prove it.

At which point I did.  It happened two months later and I was so angry I purposely crammed just 48 hours before test day because I refused to give them any more time than that on principle.  Because I was so focused and motivated I knew I would pass.  And I did.


In fact, I only got two wrong.  And the last one was only because it was the final question and I was so happy to be done that I accidentally checked the wrong box.

So, what is the lesson in this?

1 – Do not let the anticipation of a task you do not want to deal with do a number on your brain and your life.  In other words, don’t take something that demands a mere level #2 of your ability and make it into a level #17 task of hardship.   And…

2 – The only way to motivate a barely still middle-aged gay, Jew is to try and screw them over. They will come for you with EVERYTHING they have and more EVERY TIME.  And WIN. 

But not on an NEV.  

Never on an NEV.

Paul McCartney & George Michael – “Drive My Car”

The Chair Goes Closer

Comedian Dave Chappelle and his latest Netflix standup special, The Closer, are having what the entertainment industry calls a water cooler moment. 

This means A LOT of people are talking about it and equal amounts seem to either love it or him or are angry (Note: Or worse) about him and it. 

This is especially good for Netflix, which shelled out $24.1 million for Mr. Chappelle’s latest – now what shall we call it – act, rant, therapy session?

Perhaps all three.

Netflix sure wants the Seventh Chapter

Well, whatever we want to categorize it as one thing seems crystal clear.  Despite public protests and inside objections from its employees, the once behemoth darling of streamers has no plans to pull it from circulation or curtail its love affair with the comic.

This is especially good for Mr. Chappelle, who may or may not continue his Netflix relationship but is seething about the potential of being cancelled for, among other things, his comments about trans people and the LGBTQ community in general.

Here’s an article that sums up the controversy far better than I could, or want to:

I like to be part of the world and stay informed, so I feel obligated to investigate all water cooler moments.  I am also not easily offended by art and generally enjoy standup comedy. 

So despite being part of the LGBTQ community, white and Jewish – a trifecta target when it comes to Mr. Chappelle’s humor – I truly wanted to give his latest a fair shot.

I mean, what could he possibly say that would shock me or be something that, in some way, I haven’t heard before? 


Not impressed

It’s the same old sh-t I’ve been hearing since I was a teenager, only packaged with a 2021 spin.  Chappelle is nowhere near original as he thinks and pales in comparison to predecessors like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin.  He doesn’t have the observational acumen of Chris Rock, the engaging danger of Mo’Nique or the intelligence of Sarah Silverman.  Or even the ranting hysteria of Lewis Black.

Not to mention he can’t hold a comic candle to Wanda Sykes.

All hail the Queen!

Instead, what he is, is a one-man band of his own grievance and privilege.  And it’s singularly and most particularly unappealing.

But worse, it’s simply not funny.

AY-OH! #rip

I have no doubt Chappelle would dismiss my comments as my own resistance and  aversion to watching an unapologetic, powerful man I find personally threatening and different from myself owning his power and throwing it back  in my privileged face.

See, Chappelle is a smart and clever guy who has set up an unwinnable situation for both his detractors and, ironically, for himself.

Object to what he’s doing and you don’t get him, are taking his comments out of context or are so privileged and full of yourself and your own POV that you’re part of the problem.


On the other hand, he presents an egomaniacal persona that begs anyone who’s trying to understand where he’s coming from to loathe him.  He unabashedly refers to himself (but couches it as the view of what others say) as the GOAT (aka Great of All Time) of comics.  This as he continually reminds his audience that he’s really, really rich and really, really famous as he is.  So much so that he even gets in a remark about how he’s the guy who left $50,000,000 on the table, a veiled reference to when he notoriously left Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show in the early 2000s.

Whatever.  I mean, I don’t have to like the guy or want to hang with this version of him in real life.  Truth be known, maybe the whole thing is an act, much in the supersized macho bravura performance of Andrew Dice Clay in the eighties.  Which seems like an apt comparison because in this special Chappelle comes off about as funny and just as obnoxious.


Chappelle’s jokes about gay people include barbs and stories about glory holes (Note: Look it up) and deep-voiced mannish lesbians.  He dissects trans people in terms of their physical body parts vs. their emotional gender identities, fixating on their “vaginas” as the meat equivalent of an Impossible Burger.

Which begs the question of whether he even realizes there is an entire trans community of humans born with vaginas and categorized as female but inside are really…..ugh, just let’s table that for now.

already exhausted

There are meandering thoughts about race that feel promising.  But then Chappelle comes out with hackneyed analogies like Bruce Jenner becoming female was more easily accepted than when Muhammad Ali changed his name. 

Does he not realize that Ali changed his name more than half a century ago, a time when Jenner’s transition would never have been accepted, easily or otherwise, in the US, if even possible?

It’s not that we don’t get the innate American racism he’s talking about, it’s that the observation lacks any kind of punch at all.  And it’s nowhere near worthy of Ali.

An actual GOAT

Chappelle is on to something when at one point he notes that the early women’s liberation movement shied away from including Black women and/or lesbians for fear of conflating it with civil rights or gay liberation.  But he entirely loses the thread when he tries to tie it into a critique of #MeToo in a way that meanders into meaninglessness.

He admits he’s jealous of how well the LBTQ rights movement has done in comparison to civil rights but peppers it with retro lines about being molested by a priest that dare us to wonder whether this, indeed, really happened to him or is simply an easy target for him to poke at the predatory nature of homosexuals and one’s indoctrination into gay sex.

Of course, this is the case for many of the stories he tells.  Are they true, are they fiction or are they some combination of both?

Does he even know?

Certainly, that is the right and method for any comic.  The invention of a persona that’s them but not quite them yet distanced just enough for the audience to laugh at.

Yet in his closing 20 minutes, the most written about part of The Closer, he tells an elongated story he positions as true confessional and asks us to give him the benefit of the doubt.

What it amounts to is a sometimes amusing and seemingly heartfelt diatribe about a trans friend/comic who bombed as his opening act, then during and after his show proved she was funny, which caused him to admire her and want to help her career out further. 

But when his friend some days later defended Chappelle publicly she got dogged on social media and wound up killing herself, something he partially attributes to cancel culture and specifically blames on those who determined to cancel HIM.

It gets serious

Well, of course the origins of any suicide are unknowable.  And of course, social media critiques have gotten out of control and have become ugly, if not at times, lethal.  And certainly no decent person revels in the personal destruction of another human being.

Yet Chappelle determines to take this select moment in time and use it as some sort of proof that he’s not the transphobic, homophobic or whatever phobic person his critics portray him to be.  He uses it as his self-defense and battering ram against anyone who dare accuse him of anything. 


This is not unlike the guy who says that having one Jewish friend doesn’t make him an anti-Semite or that working with one Black person with whom he happily has lunch with weekly inoculates him from being a racist.

The truth is that for every statement we make and/or action we take there is a reaction.  And these change from moment to moment and decade to decade, especially for those who willingly choose to do public social commentary.

What seems to truly bother Chappelle and other comedian/social commentators (e.g. Bill Maher) is that they can’t make the same kind of jokes using the same kind of language that they made back in the eighties without impunity. 

Much like these hair styles, some things are better left in the 80s

They don’t like it that the ground underneath them is shifting.  And they hate that the groups they once felt free to marginalize are now, en masse, becoming more powerful than them. 

In other words, they hate the readjustment.

Well, guess what?  They can still say ANYTHING they want.  ANYTHING.  But in 2021 there are new consequences to it because audiences, like workers, are reclaiming their power.

We can fight it out in the public space and reach compromises.  But don’t keep reminding me of how great and successful you are in an act where all you do is pretty much moan and groan about how misunderstood you are by the marginalized groups that criticize you because you’re further marginalizing them.


Better yet, don’t listen to what they’re saying at all.   Instead, try to hear it and see them.

Be as obsessed with that as you are with being seen and heard and then maybe you’ll be on to something.

Sheryl Crow – “A Change Would Do You Good”