Bucket Lists

Bucket Lists and the Common Good - March 2, 2014

State Representative David Perryman

What is on your Bucket List? Composing a list of what you would like to experience, do, feel or see before you ‘kick the bucket’ may allow a person to focus on goals or aspirations that may not otherwise be well defined.  Remarkably, the term, ‘Bucket List’ did not even exist before the 2007 release of the Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson movie about the impact of a chance meeting of two men of very diverse backgrounds whose paths were not likely to cross.

The Bucket List is a phrase that communicates clearly and concisely that we all realize our mortal nature and that individually we all seek that unique experiential blend of events, occurrences or emotions tailored by us for us. In short, no one else can compile your bucket list.

In the movie Freeman plays Carter, a blue collar mechanic whose dream to be a history professor was cut short by the reality that circumstances and life’s challenges often mold futures.  Consequently, Carter’s life revolves more about what he must do to nurture and raise his family while foregoing his own aspirations.  Though never a college professor, he becomes an expert at Jeopardy and is a genuine intellectual.  Unrealized aspirations do not impinge Carter’s character but hang in the back of his closet like an unworn jacket.

Nicholson on the other hand plays Edward, a billionaire and four-time divorcee who amassed his fortune in building medical facilities and has no time for anything except his own eccentricity.  Edward’s life choices have resulted in estrangement from his daughter and no family other than a personal secretary whose life he delights in tormenting.  Outwardly, Edward has no unfulfilled dreams.

The men meet for the first time after having been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and that common fate weaves these two divergent lives into a story of mutual respect, support and quite frankly, compassion on a level that is not often achieved in our superficial society.

Both men grow through what they each bring to the relationship and while Carter’s list is fulfilled, it is Edward’s life that is fulfilled.  Through the example of Carter’s humility, Edward ultimately is able to gain a grasp of humanity.  While the fulfillment of Carter’s bucket list takes the two men around the globe, Edward’s reward is the understanding of the true meaning of family and the benefit of doing for others. 

As the characters become closer, Carter is able to mark off “laugh till I cry” as he explains to Edward the role that the Asian Palm Civet plays in the processing of Kopi Luwak, Edward’s favorite coffee. Through their time together, Edward comes to realize that the BEST three months of his life were the LAST three months of Carter’s life. 

Sadly, obtaining drivers licenses and identification cards in Oklahoma has become a ‘bucket list-type achievement.” On a cold winter morning last week, 30 to 45 people were already standing outside the Chickasha license examination office at 7:45 a.m. for a chance to apply for a license and take a written and driving test. 

Gone are the days when a new driver simply went to the courthouse in their own county.  With state budgets slashed, the state’s ability to deliver this core service has been devastated. For instance, the residents of the 18 non-metropolitan counties south of I-40 and west of I-35 in Southwest Oklahoma are served by only 5 driver license offices.  Those sites are Chickasha, Ardmore, Lawton, Altus and Clinton.  Thirteen counties in southwest Oklahoma have no driver’s license bureaus and many larger communities like Hobart, Anadarko, Duncan, Elk City, Pauls Valley, Weatherford and Purcell have no facilities to serve their residents. 

So when we see a long line of people in below freezing temperatures before the sun is up in Chickasha, those applicants are just as likely to be from Caddo County, McClain County, Garvin County or Stephens County as they are from Grady County.  That means to get in line, they and their parents had to leave home at 6 a.m. or before, missing work and school simply to apply for a license.

1.125 million Oklahomans who are new drivers, have moved into the state or simply need a state issued ID are required to run this gauntlet each year to be served by 116 examiners who, on average, each process nearly 9,700 applications each year.  It is no wonder that many who arrive to get in line are not served and have to come back on other days since an examiner has to verify a birth certificate and verify three or four other records and if the applicant is a student, there are a couple or three school records that must be verified.  The number of applications that can be processed is limited and in a short staffed office like Chickasha, the problem is compounded if one of the examiners is sick or on vacation.

Driver’s license offices across Oklahoma are understaffed.   I have looked to see if I can find any waste in the DPS budget and I cannot.  These employees have not had a raise in nearly eight years and it appears that the overhead has been cut as much as it can be. 

It has been an eye opener for me.  

Ultimately, Edward’s bucket list includes things such as “kissing the most beautiful girl in the world,” a feat that he was able to mark off when he and his estranged daughter were reconciled and he kissed the cheek of his little granddaughter. He is also able to cross off "help a complete stranger for the good" from the list as he eulogizes his friend at Carter’s funeral.

Getting a driver’s license in Oklahoma should not be a bucket list event.  Until the budget is increased, we can’t expect much improvement.  Remember that the next time someone mentions that we need a cut in the income tax!

Thank you for allowing me to serve as a State Representative.  If there is anything that I can do to assist you, please call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov. I look forward to hearing from you soon.