When I got home from work a few days ago I found in the mail two new license plates and a sticker for the front car window, lower left corner. I hadn’t requested them and just assumed that the people in charge knew it was time for me to change my plates.

I backed the car out of the garage a little so I could reach the license plate in front, then realized that I needed a tool I didn’t have to remove the octagonal bolts holding the plate on the car. So I hustled over to the hardware store with a sample of what I wanted and bought the required tool.

Then the work began. After leaning over until my back hurt, I brought one of the chairs from the breakfast table outside to sit in while I worked. It even has a cushion to save my poor skinny butt from the torture of sitting on a hard, wooden seat.

I removed the octagonal bolts from the license plate on the car, and off came the plate. The one in back of the car required a Phillips screwdriver, but I had that.

Proud of my efforts, I dropped the old plates in the trash can, peeled the sticker from the front window, and discarded it as well. I put the new plates in place, screwed them in tightly, then stuck the new sticker to the car window. I was done, and I was pleased. My wife had encouraged me to take the car to a service station and pay for them to do it, but I did it all by myself.

Resting in the house afterward, the phone rang. It was my grandson, Will, who asked if the license plates he had ordered had arrived. He had given my address, since his car is registered in my name. I choked out a “yes” reply and said I would send them to him (he’s in Austin for a job).

But what would I do without license plates? Go to jail, others assured me, there being zero tolerance for miscreants.

So off I went to the courthouse to apply for new license plates, certain that I’d be given paper ones in the interim. And here’s where the story gets mystical and unbelievable. I was about 20th in line and thought I’d be there the rest of the day, but several officials were busy taking care of us, and I made it to the front of the line in 10 minutes. “Next” called the next available official, and I jumped up and presented myself and my request. She wanted to see my driver’s license, and I gave it to her. She examined my face and the face on the card, handed me two new license plates and a sticker for the window, and asked for only $6.50.

I could hardly believe my good fortune and hurried home to put the plates on my car. (I had used one of Will’s plates to drive to the courthouse, so as not to end up in the hoosegow.) There I fastened the new ones in place, put the new sticker in the right place on the car window, and exhaled a long and satisfied breath.

In the words of Robert Browning, “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.”

Melvyn Schreiber lives in Galveston.

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