Equality, Alabama

DESCRIPTION OF PICTURE When my drivers license expired in 1968, I was a student at Auburn University, and I couldn't just go to the Lee County courthouse in Opelika to get it renewed. That would have been too easy. It would have made too much sense. Alabama required that drivers licenses only be issued in the county where you maintained legal residence. Students were a lesser category of citizens who did not have the right to declare their own residency. The college made residency decisions on the students' behalf, in loco parentis. Colleges did not want students voting in local elections, so no way, Ida Mae.

After much directionless family discussion, it was decided that I could use my grandmother's house at the corner of US-231 and Rouse Road, as my address of residence. Her mailbox was on the main highway. The address was a rural route out of Titus, Alabama. You could look it up.

The conditions that my parents imposed on me for this maneuver included a prohibition on mentioning to the authorities that my grandmother owned a car and drove it every day. She was illiterate and therefore could not pass the written test.

When I got to my grandmother's house to explain this, her sister, my great-aunt, Julia, was visiting, and she explained that it wouldn't work that way. My grandmother had a great falling-out with the letter carrier from Titus, and he had refused to stop off there for years. My grandmother carried out all of her post office dealings with the letter carrier from Equality, who served mailboxes on the side road. So my grandmother moved her mailbox from the big highway to the side road.

At this point there is a piece missing from this narrative, about how an illiterate person benefits from the services of the post office. My head hurts every time I try to tell this story.

Another piece missing is that my grandmother definitely lived in Elmore County. But the way the county lines trisected the wide spot in the road known as the town of Equality left some degree of ambiguity regarding which county or counties that town might be in. So I called to check. The rural route that the letter carrier followed from Equality to Rouse Road was definitely in Elmore County.

Anyway, I drove to Wetumpka and passed the written tests and got a drivers license which stated that I lived in Equality, Alabama.

In spite of my best efforts, I graduated, got commissioned, and got sent to submarine school in Connecticut. But the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act said that I did not have to get a new drivers license, so I kept the one from Equality.

One day in Gales Ferry I took a corner too fast and skidded just a little bit, and a Connecticut cop pulled me over right away. He asked for my license and registration (don't get me started about Alabama vehicle title laws) and he said to me, quietly, "The only reason I stopped you was so I could get away from that domestic dispute back there. But now that I've done it I have to give you a ticket."

Then he burst out laughing and said, "Equality, Alabama, huh? Okay, that's such a good one that I'm letting you go."