One man?s identity proves questionable to authority figures

Keith Brumley

Keith Brumley?Franz Kafka?s Fourth Cousin, Thrice Removed?

“You don’t exist.” The clerk at the Kingsbury County treasurer’s office looked up from her computer. “You’re not a person.”

“I’ve always felt like a person,” I said.

“Nope,” she said. “You’re a company.”

“It’s true that I enjoy company,” I said, “but I pretty sure I’m a person.”

The clerk raised an eyebrow … And I felt done for.

It had all started innocently enough when I when I remembered an auto technician who’d off-handedly mentioned that he’d once seen a Jaguar XJ6 for sale cheap on Craigslist. Since I already have an XJ6 (sans heater and air-conditioning), I thought I’d try to find one in better condition and use the present one for parts.

No such luck. I instead ran across a Saab. I called the owner and made a deal. I then booked a flight to Wisconsin, flying out of Sioux Falls the morning of Sept. 4, landing in Wisconsin that afternoon. The owner picked me up. We drove to his house where we did the paperwork.

“Do I need any transit papers? I said.

“No,” he said. “There’ll be no incidents. You have seven days to transfer the title.”

I gave him the money, got in the car, and drove away 8212; with no license plates. It was a beautiful afternoon and the owner had left a CD holding the sounds of Jose’ Feliciano, Carlos Santana, Norah Jones, and Arlo Guthrie. He told me that the car had been his ex-wife’s. When they divorced, he said, she had taken his SUV … but the car title was in his name.

The owner also mentioned that his ex-wife was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

“I love her,” he said, “and I know she has a sickness. But I’m learning to take care of myself.”

I understood.

By dusk I was in St. Paul. That’s where my daughter goes to college. She was scheduled to fly into Minneapolis the following day. I stopped at The Five-Star Café (and) Ethiopian coffee-house in Sibley Plaza, had a cup of coffee that couldn’t be beat, and looked for a motel. I chose the Red Roof Inn in Minnetonka. The motel clerk gave me directions. I lost my bearings, however, and wound up wandering around an industrial park.

I saw a police car and flashed my lights. I needed some rest. The police pulled into a parking lot. The officer stepped out of his car. I did the same.

“I’m lost,” I said. “I need directions to the Red Roof Inn on Plymouth.”

“Just a minute,” the policeman said. He stepped back into his car and drove around both the front and the back of my car. He once again stopped his car and stepped out.

“Do you have a driver’s license?” He said. I gave him mine (it was the only one I had.) I also gave him the completed title and bill of sale 8212; just in case.

The officer explained that I was not only driving through Minnesota illegally and at danger of having my car impounded, my car was not on any data base, and therefore non-existent. The officer then received a domestic dispute call, gave me directions to the motel, advising to avoid heavy traffic, and thus went on his way. I was unnerved but nevertheless found my motel.

The following day I caught my daughter as she came into Minneapolis, safely deposited her in her dorm room and sped back to South Dakota. I slept straight through Labor Day.

Bright and early Tuesday, I went to the courthouse to get plates. That’s when the clerk said I didn’t exist.

But there I was, in the flesh so to speak, and the evidence was overwhelming. The clerk had no choice but to make an adjustment in the computer system and I was thankfully given a bona fide registration slip along with a real, live S.D. license plate. I drove back home, called the Saab folks in Sioux Falls, and made a post-purchase inspection/oil change appointment for September 9, 2010.

On September 8, however, I had another appointment with my cardiologist. I am, by the way, a survivor 8212; among other things 8212; of a quintuple bypass (technically speaking). I also stopped by the Saab place to verify that my appointment was the following day and not the week after. It’d been a strange trip and I just wanted to be sure.

The service manager looked at his computer.

“Is your name Susan?

Keith Brumley is an SDSU alumnus and current journalism graduate student at SDSU. Contact Keith at [email protected]