The Fixer

“What’s a ‘fixer?’” I asked my husband as we sat sweating together under the relentless sun with the hundreds of other unfortunate souls renewing their driver’s licenses. Bored to tears from the hours of waiting and miserable from the heat, I had taken to scrutinizing every detail of my surroundings.  (This was pre- smart phone or tablet days, and the sun was too glaring to be able to read the paperback I’d brought along.) A handwritten notice was pinned to the wall in front of me stating, “Beware fixers.” My husband explained that fixers are people who are paid to take your place in situations just such as this, and who go through the tedious lines and hoops for you while you stay at home or work in air-conditioned comfort. Sounded like a great idea!

“They’re illegal,” Steve said, bursting my rising bubble of hope.

I still wondered why we needed to “beware,” though. I was thinking that the LTO (the equivalent of our DMV) was the one who needed to look out for the fixers.

We had completed the first steps in the process.  We had filled out the paperwork, paid our fees, and had our pictures taken. We had been a bit surprised that the price for a driver’s license was quite a bit more than it had been the previous year, and grumbling about price increases only added to the misery of the hot, uncomfortable wait.

“It’s a good six times more expensive than last time! That’s outrageous!”

Of course, you have to understand that even with this price hike, it was still only a matter of about $15.00 for everything. But a six-hundred-percent increase was almost too much to bear in the circumstances.  Especially considering that we had now been sitting in the same spot in the grueling heat for hours.  There was a stall in the process.  We were so close.  We only had two more things to do: fingerprints and the dreaded drug test.

The dreaded drug test. We had already experienced this ordeal several times in the past, so we knew what we were up against.  While I sat melting with heat and boredom, I imagined exactly how it would go.

First, we would line up in yet another cattle-call round-up to get our hilariously ineffective bottles in which to deposit the specimen. They are about the size of a bottle of eye drops, with a very narrow opening.  In fact, just like an eye-dropper bottle. I’ll let your imagination fill in the rest of the blanks on that one. Then we would stand in yet another long line to get to either the one female or male stall available for the hoards of people. The poor men! In order to make sure that they actually gave their own urine samples and didn’t bring in someone else’s, the door was removed so they could be observed filling the tiny bottles.  And observed they were.  By everyone.  The ladies’ line filed right past their door. You can imagine how they filled the time waiting for their turn.

The ladies at least had a door on their tiny stall. A door about two inches away from the toilet, since this stall was made for Barbie doll sized people, not real humans. A stall with no sink and no toilet paper. A stall with a very wet floor. (Remember how tiny the bottles were.) It was something I was truly dreading, but also wishing to get over with so we could get out of the place and on with life. I had forgotten to come prepared as I had done in the past with a jar brought from home and hidden in my purse, so I was going to have the full experience again this time.

I did not have a camera with me back then, so this is from a bathroom in a restaurant we recently went to, just so you can see I’m not exaggerating about the tiny size of the bathroom and the closeness of the door. This one, however, is clean – not being used for hundreds of drug tests per day.

But we were stuck, as I said.  The process had come to a complete halt.  Eventually we were told that the computers were offline and to all go home and come back the next day. As we were about to head out, we realized that we had never gotten our receipt when we had paid.  We would need that when we came back. 

A quick dash into the office to get it revealed that the young lady who had helped us was either on break or gone.  The young men who were still there were not able to find the receipt, and couldn’t print one since the computer system was down.  In the end, we had them write out a receipt by hand so we would not have to start the whole process over the next day.

Unfortunately, we didn’t notice until we were at the car that the receipt they gave us was for a fraction of the cost we had paid.  In fact, it was for the amount we thought the price should have been. When we went back and questioned them, they mumbled something about the drug test, which we didn’t understand.  We would get a receipt for the rest of the amount once we took the drug test is what we were led to believe.

Imagine our surprise the next day when, after taking our fingerprints, the LTO workers told us to go next to the small office again to pick up the completed licenses once they were printed. We assumed it was a mistake, but sure enough, the licenses were ready when we got there.

“But what about the drug test?” we asked. “We haven’t taken drug tests yet,” we told the LTO worker who handed us our licenses.

That’s when the young lady behind the desk who had helped us the previous day piped up, “Oh, someone did that for you already.” Someone else gave a urine sample for the drug test for us?           

And then it clicked.  It all made sense.

“Do you work for the LTO?” we asked her.

We never got an answer, but it was clear from the hemming and hawing and awkward side glances from everyone that she did not. We had unknowingly paid a fixer. A fixer who was working behind the desk within the LTO with the LTO clerks!

At least the urine donor had been clean of drugs!


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Rosemary Wilkinson says:

    I remember your telling of this when it happened!!


    1. Haha. It was surely a funny experience. 🙂


  2. Connie says:

    I do NOT miss this part of the Philippines!!!


    1. Heh heh. But we miss you, Connie!


  3. Ernest Manges says:

    When I had to go through this process, as a man, a lady working for the LTO sat at a desk with a little window right into the bathroom where I needed to produce my sample. I sometimes wonder what she thought of her job. Thanks for sharing this story. I really appreciate your writing!


    1. Hahaha! Thanks, Ernie! I appreciate your kind words!


  4. New Media Works says:

    Reblogged this on Search School and commented:
    Driver’s License, Fun, Humor, humorous, Missionary, missions, Philippines


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