Search for identity in a time of Real IDs
It’s only natural in this time of “fake” everything — science, news, facts, polls — that our divisible nation is approaching the deadline to assimilate into a program where our identities shall be verified under a federal collective.
The deadline for Oregon, our independent bent be damned, to relent its futile resistance and start issuing the “Real ID” driver’s licenses that will — for once and for all — answer the question that has plagued our species from the beginning of time:
Who am I?
But, honestly ... will it really do that?
I suppose that, technically, the identification that will allow us to board commercial airliners and enter nuclear power plants (and yes, the Department of Homeland Security says in the FAQ section of its website that such IDs will qualify you to do both), will finally give us our formal introduction to the non-existent government database.
But “Who am I?” isn’t just a question of facts. It’s also a philosophical, pedantic and personal puzzle — the pieces of which don’t always form a complete picture.
For starters, the person we are isn’t the person others see. Heck, when I get a gander in the mirror first thing in the morning, it sometimes takes a foggy moment to realize who is in the glass.
And that doesn’t even begin to take into account those lifelike photos you get on a driver’s license — which (I don’t know about you, but they do for me) depict someone else’s life.
Tony Pilla, my old ball coach, didn’t really take the time to get to know us — which ultimately led to receiving my trophy when we won the town baseball championship ... and seeing that it had been inscribed to “Bobby Galvin.”
Now, I have been slogging across the Great Flatness of Earth for 62 years and change as I type this ... and there is only one person who ever thought my name was Bobby — well, two, if you count the trophy engraver.
Such has been my lot, as well as the fate of anyone whose name came be Escher’d into formation unintended at birth — the Richards who become Dick, the Williams who become Bill, the Elizabeths who become Liz, Liza, Beth, Betty and Lizardbreath.
I have kept a file over the years of the mailings I’ve received that have mangled the addressee.
Calvin, Garvin, Gorman and Givler. Bob, Rod, Ron and Tom. In my early career as a sportswriter, I had a weekly column called “From the Sidelines” and once got a piece of junk mail that began “Mr. Sidelines ...”
If it had been a more informal piece of junk mail, I wonder whether they’d have just opened with “Dear From ...”
Our names, though, are just the start of the problem when establishing our Real ID — because, after all, we lie. We estimate. We stretch the truth.
We at least stretch our heights. Right there on the driver’s license, it asks for our height; and, as long as it was just a simple matter of rounding up (or down) an inch (or two), depending on the size of the lifts in our shoes.
College and professional athletes are famous for not releasing their actual heights. Are they suddenly going to be under 7 (or 6) feet tall on their Real IDs, so that they can enter nuclear power plants without drawing unwanted suspicion?
Let’s do the next one together. Take out your current driver’s license and see what it has listed their under “weight.”
Now, when you stop laughing, realize the type of diet you’re going to need to go on to reach that figure. I, in fact, know someone — let’s call him Rod Givler — who (on a good day) is within 15 pounds of what it says on his current official Oregon license.
And there haven’t been a lot of good days recently.
Eye color? Take out those baby blue contacts and be honest with yourself. Heck, take a look at the mugshot accompanying this column and tell me what color eyes he has.
My beloved housemate claims my eyes can be gray, green, brown or hazel — depending on the clothes I wear that day. When asked I usually say “hazel,” because it’s harder to explain and it was also my mother’s name — and it reminds me to blame her for 50% of the face on the license.
The state doesn’t have a spot on its prospective Real ID for hair color — because most of us would fill in that blank with “Today?” — but it will ask us to identify ourselves by gender.
Oregon allows three designations under what (for space reasons) is usually designated as “SEX” ... F, M and X, with X referring to “non-binary” and “not specified” classifications. Passports and Social Security accounts already have allowed the X designation, but it is as of yet federal law, or accepted in all states.
And it’s not hard to imagine scenarios where — once Real IDs become officially federal requirements — those with an X on their licenses are trying to board a plane in a state that has yet to realize it’s living in the 21st century.
But that’s a worst-case scenario. I’m certain this federally mandate change will go off without incident across 50 states that can’t even agree that the Earth is flat.
In the meantime, I’m thinking of getting my baseball trophy re-engraved to reflect the real me ... whoever that is.
Mail Tribune copy desk chief Ron Gorman can be reached at email@example.com