The hero dreaded being stopped and being ordered to produce his "papers." The scene was a frequent feature of old black-and-white movies about Europe around World War II - a staple of KGMB-TV programming between midnight and dawn in the early 1970s.
In the home of the brave and the land of the free, being asked to prove you are who you say you are was outlandish. Then came Sept. 11, 2001. In the years since, getting a plane ticket or renting a post office box or being stopped for a traffic violation requires producing your "papers."
Today, the "papers" are plastic cards, usually a driver's license issued after the applicant has shown the DMV a birth certificate and some official document with a Social Security number. Ladies might need a marriage certificate. The process also includes submitting three fingerprints - right thumb and index finger and left index finger.
Your identity has to be established not only to the satisfaction of the State of Hawaii, but the United States of America. Homeland security, don't you know. National data bank info, don't you know.
The latest version of the "Hawaii Driver License" is something to behold. The 2 1/4-by-3 5/8-inch piece of plastic is a marvel of anti-forgery technology. In addition to two photos of the license holder, a signature, physical description, address and birth date, there are 12 "marks" that can only be seen by holding the card just so - the word "Hawaii" five times, five state seals and two state maps showing the outlines of six islands. That's just on the front. The back of the card has a bar code and what looks to be some sort of Internet-access blob.
For the license holder, the most important numbers are on line 4b - the date the license expires. Ignore this at your own peril. An official state driver's manual says, "Every Hawaii State driver's license is void after the expiration date. There is no grace period. . . . You must follow the procedures for an original license if you fail to renew your driver's license during the renewal period."
By the way, if your license has been "suspended" for any reason, it won't be given back. You have lost it until you go through "the procedures for an original license."
In practice, that boils down to starting all over again, getting a learner's permit and taking the driving test. You might think, Eh, 'a'oli pilikia, I've been driving for decades. Think again.
Getting the permit is no sweat. Get a manual, study it and take the written test. The humbug for experienced motorists is the driving test. Just getting an appointment for the test is an exercise in patience. At 8 a.m., call. Listen to a busy signal. Call. Busy signal. It helps to have a phone with a redial feature. If you haven't connected with someone within 15 minutes of repeated calls, give up and resign yourself to trying the next morning. And the next. And the next.
The limited number of driving examiners can give only so many tests a day.
And it is very definitely a test. The examiners have a 94-item check list. Some are minor transgressions but the points subtracted add up quickly. Break a law such as going over the speed limit and that's that. Test over. Try another day.
The more experienced the driver, the more likely he or she is to fail the test. I should repeat that. The more experienced the driver, the more likely he or she is to fail the test. A couple of common trip points: Failing to keep both hands firmly on the steering wheel at all times. Using your mirrors to back up or make lane changes and failing to actually turn your head and look back or to the side.
Once you've accumulated too many points, the test is over so you don't get a chance to practice the rest of it. I had to take the test seven times before passing and I'd been driving legally and with normal competence since 1957.
On the next-to-last attempt, the driving examiner said, "You're a good driver but you have to remember this is a test."
Mr. or Ms. Veteran Driver, if you must go through the driving test, do yourself a favor. Sign up with a driving school and pay whatever is charged. A one-day session should teach you what you need to know. Kids who were taught by certified driving instructors seldom fail when the rubber hits the road.
I have to admit I'm a better driver than I was and I'm looking forward to the next time I'm asked to produce my "papers." Don't forget to check line 4b on your license.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.