Friday, March 8, 2013

Adventures at the DMV

This weekend I will become yet another year older.  Remember that old song, "I Can't Drive 55"?  Well, now I can.  Yep.  That's right.  I'm Double Nickels now.  I can remember when that number seemed impossibly Old.  I don't think so anymore.  And fifty-five sounds snazzier than twenty-two, thirty-three or forty-four.  In some locales I'm considered a Senior Citizen now.  (That makes my 92 year old Mom giggle.) 

It was brought to my attention a month or so ago that along with my upcoming birthday, my driver's license was up for renewal.  I don't know if it is the same for every state in the nation, but here in Wisconsin, we have eight years between visits to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  But nobody I know of looks forward to making the trip.  The last time I was there was 2005?  Impossible!

Oh, drat.

Back in the day a traveling entourage of DMV officials would visit the municipal buildings in our little city on the first or second Tuesdays of the month on some sort of rotating schedule.  This past practice was very beneficial and made license renewals easy.  Life in a small town is much more laid back and there were hardly ever more than two or three people waiting in line.

But then budget cuts took place and the traveling DMV people were no more.  Now all the small towns have to troop to the bigger cities instead.  The best days to visit the DMV are supposedly Tuesday and Wednesday providing you can avoid the 11AM to 1PM lunch rush.  The influx of people crowding into the DMV is of epic proportions, and lines are long.  A number will be provided, sit down, shut up and wait.

New this time around is the Real ID portion of the driver's license renewal routine.  I hadn't even been aware of this new trend until my renewal letter arrived in January.  I guess I've been living under a rock, but due to international security issues, I guess everyone sooner or later will be required to have a Real ID in the near future.

The letter that came with my renewal listed all the documents I would have to provide in order to be in compliance.  I sort of skimmed through the checklists vaguely.  Especially the 'Name Change' portion.  I assumed this wouldn't apply to me since I have not had a name change since the 1970's.   So, I thought I'd be adequately prepared by bringing along my current driver's license, Social Security card, birth certificate and the fee.  I'd just have to run to the bank and our safety deposit box to get my birth certificate and I'd be all set.

Time sort of got away from me like it always does, too much stained glass shenanigans and whatnot, and suddenly here it is the week before my birthday and I was running out of time.  I decided to go to the DMV bright and early on Wednesday morning.  Tuesday night Carl and I went to the bank and retrieved my birth certificate and I stuffed everything I would need into an envelope in preparation for the next day.

But later that night I was reading posts on Facebook and saw my friend Nancy's comments about going to the DMV and how she hadn't realized she'd need her marriage license to prove her name change.  Marriage license?  What?  So I called her and sure enough, she informed me I would indeed need my marriage license to renew my driver's license and get the Real ID. 

Great.  Where in the world did I put that thing?  It's only been 34 years since I've last laid eyes on it.  I did vaguely recall seeing it stuffed in the book from our wedding and after digging around in piles of Stuff I Intend to Do Some Day I found the book but alas, no license.  Then I searched all the places I normally keep stuff and made a Huge Mess (am I really going to EVER scrapbook all this drivel?  I'm not a scrapper, but I'm a great Keeper of Crap.)

By 11PM Tuesday night I was really getting worried.  I had to go to the DMV in the morning and where in the world is the marriage license? Maybe it is in the safety deposit box......ok, I'll run to the bank as soon as it opens in the morning and check. 

8AM Wednesday I am back at the bank with my Safety Deposit Box key in hand.  The tellers at the bank are all very friendly, thank goodness, and I told them what I was back for as they signed me in to the vault.  Neither of the ladies had ever heard of needing a marriage license to prove a name change to the DMV either.  And wonders never cease, the license was in the safety deposit box all along!  Thank goodness.  (But I still have the piles of stuff to deal with at home.)

After leaving the bank I headed straight for Green Bay and the DMV.  I arrived around 8:45AM and was happy to see there were only about fifteen people there ahead of me.  This should go smoothly, I hoped.  The lady at the first desk asked me what I needed and I laid out all my documents in front of her.

She took a quick glance at what I had and frowned.

"Your birth certificate is not certified.  You'll have to get a certified copy before we can proceed.  I can grant you an extension on your driver's license of sixty days so you can get a new one."  She then proceeded to fill out a little card and tried to staple it to the front of my current driver's license.  The stapler was empty, so as she was searching for new staples and trying to open the box, I took the opportunity to ask a question.

I told her the birth certificate I had was the one my mother had given to me when I moved out and yes, it was teeny and looked to be a photocopy of an original, but as far as I was concerned, it was the only birth certificate I ever had.  Carl has one just like it too, except for the names, etc.  I did have the official hospital birth certificate with the gold seal and my teensy baby footprints on the back, but the DMV receptionist lady was not having any of that.

"That's not an official birth certificate,"  she said.  "You'll have to go the county you were born in and find City Hall and request a certified copy.  But at least you were here nice and early in the day, as you can see, we aren't very busy, so keep that in mind for the next time you come."

While she was talking, she had to get another DMV person to help her open the stubborn staple box and after reloading the stapler, she nailed my 60 Day Extension slip to my old license.  Right through my 2005 picture, which was the only good driver's license photo I have ever had, darn it.  I picked up my assorted paperwork and mutilated license with the staple sticking through my cheek and slunk out of the DMV. 

I was born in the town the DMV is in, so there's no time like the present, right?  I called Ann to ask her what was the fastest way to City Hall from my current location.  She said if I wanted, I could swing by and pick her up because she needed to renew her license, too.  Ann was about thirteen miles from my location (and so was City Hall) so I made a beeline for the freeway. 

Twenty minutes later, I was parked in Ann's driveway.  I called my friend Nancy from the car while I waited for Ann to get ready just to let her know, yes, I found my marriage license, but guess what, my birth certificate is a forgery.  We had a good laugh over that and Nancy wished me luck.  Ann came outside and off we went, with Ann driving my car because she knows her way around downtown much more than I do.

Another fifteen minutes of driving and we found City Hall.  I plugged the parking meter with a quarter and we figured out which building we needed and opened the heavy carved wooden doors carefully.   Once inside we found a listing of the government offices and then ascended two flights of pink and black marble stairs.  I was in awe of the building, they sure don't build 'em like that anymore.  It was worth the trip just to admire the architecture.  We made our way to the correct office and filled out the forms we were given and in less than five minutes (and $20) we were both in possession of our Certified Birth Certificates.

Armed with our new credentials, we then drove back to the DMV again, arriving at just after 11AM.  The noon rush hour.   The place was packed.  I got back in line with Ann and the same lady was at the desk.

"I remember you, you were here early this morning, right?  I see you have your new birth certificate, so here's your number and you can just go around the corner to have your photo taken and wait for them to call out your name."  She was a nice lady, turns out we don't live that far apart.  It's a small world.

There was no room to sit in the photo area, so we stood.  Finally a voice yelled out, "Karen!  Is there a Karen out there?  Karen 189?  I see there's two Karens in a row, I need Karen C189!"

I looked at my number, I was indeed Karen C189, so I stepped around the corner.  "Toes behind the line, look straight at the lens......tip your head down.........lower, lower, OK."  Flash.  "There you go.  You can go have a seat in the waiting area."

I hate it when they make me tip my head down.  I know it's to get the glare off the glasses, but wow, tipping a 55 year old fat head down does nothing for the neckline.  Howdy doody, folks, looky there at my triple chins.  Oh, well.  But still, the bill so far for the day was $20, soon to be another $42+, and digital pictures are cheap and I have to live with this drecky photo for another eight years, so REALLY?  Is it necessary to make me look like a bashful convict?  With a double chin?  And when did my hair get so gray?

Vanity aside, we made our way to the seating area.  Luckily there were two chairs open right next to each other, so we pounced on them.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Ann had to be to work by 1PM as she was going in early, and I had serious doubts we'd be out of there on time.  It was now 11:40PM.

There are six stations with DMV employees working on everything from license renewals, Real ID's, vision tests, vehicle titles and registration issues, etc. with digital numbers flashing and a computerized voice-over prompting, "Now serving number C162 at Window Six."  "Now serving number C162 at Window Six."  You get two warnings and if C162 doesn't appear, they move on to C163.  I felt sorry for C162 if they were in the restroom or something.

I can't imagine the pressure of working at the DMV, it must be intense.

Seating is tight and the aisles are narrow.  There are people of all ages crammed in the waiting area, many of them standing up or leaning against the walls and tables, looking completely glazed over as they obediently wait.  Many folks were impatiently checking their cellphones for the time while others were texting nonstop.  The young lady across from us was reading something on Kindle.  One man was watching a movie on his handheld computer while his wife dealt with their squalling baby. 

Chime....."Now serving H155 at Window Two."  Chime......."Now serving R225 at Window Four."

Ann had already renewed her license, so she was done.  My number was still a long way off yet.  There was a younger guy sitting across the aisle from us.  He was very quiet and kept checking the time on the wall and staring at the line of people, as if trying to will things to move faster.  Ann and I chatted very quietly as we sat there, but it was hard to hold a conversation when you're only a foot or three away from other people.

During a lull in our chat, suddenly the young guy's cellphone rang.  He reached into his pocket and apparently in response to a question of his whereabouts, he said very loudly, "I'm at the F%#$-ing DMV!"

I think he spoke for everyone waiting there.   Yes, it was obscene, and no, I don't think he meant for it to come out so loudly, but forgive me, I thought it was hilarious.  Even Ann, who does NOT swear at any time, had to stifle a giggle.  When he hung up the phone, Ann said to him, "I think they might as well add the 'F' to the 'DMV' title,  don't you?"  And that was the first smile I saw on the guy's face the entire time we were there.

Chime.........."Now serving H156 at Window Four," and our blushing young man was finally on his way to renewing his license. 

Finally they were up to C180, then C185 and then YES! C189 at Window Three.

I quickly made my way to the window of the DMV employee I had hoped not to get because he looked so crabby.  (Appearances were not deceiving, he wasn't joyous.)

"Driver's license renewal and Real ID?" he gruffly asked.

"Yes," I said and carefully laid out all my credentials before him.

He picked up my Social Security card and looked at it carefully and then tossed it down quickly.  The next thing he stared at long and hard was my marriage license.

"The embossing on the seal of this marriage certificate is not very deep."  He held the document up to the light and studied it a little more and then felt of the raised seal again and sighed.  He could have made me apply for a new one (another $20 and a trip to a neighboring county and yet another courthouse) but he shrugged.  "Well, we'll see if it passes.  What else do you have here for credentials?"

What else??  Besides my marriage license, new birth certificate, Social Security card, old driver's license and the application?  Nothing.

"This is all you have? Don't you have a passport?" he asked sternly.

"No," I replied, equally as stern.  (Heck, we all know I barely leave the farm, much less the country.)

"All right, step up to the viewer, put your forehead against the pad of paper and read the letters across the top.  And the next line.  And the next.  Do you see any lights blinking?  Where?  You passed the vision part of the test.  Step forward to the counter again."

I stepped forward and watched him put my documents through a scanner.  He frowned again as he looked at the impressed seal on our marriage license, but ran it through the scanner anyway.  When he had to scan my old driver's license, he ran into trouble with my Face Staple.  Try as he might, he could not get that staple out of my cheek.  The staple remover broke off one of the legs of the staple and no matter how hard he yanked on it, it would not come free as he twisted and turned.

I jokingly said, "That staple is causing everyone trouble today," and he looked at me like I'd lost my mind and grunted something unintelligible.

"Having to do the paperwork for the Real ID is quite a bit of extra work for the DMV, isn't it?" I asked as he was working on trying to get the Stubborn Staple free.

"Yes," he said as the staple finally broke in two, leaving one leg still embedded in my photo.  He eventually managed to successfully extricate the piece of metal at last, and shoved my license through the scanner.

Suddenly he pushed his chair away from his desk, "Do you still want the motorcycle license on your driver's license?"  (It's an additional $8 a time to renew that too, but I went through a LOT to get that motorcycle license and I will never drop it.)

"Yes, please leave it on, I never know when the opportunity to ride again might come.  Even old ladies like a spin on a bike now and then," I kidded.

He failed to see the humor in it.

He stood up, walked to a printer, handed me an 8 x 10 piece of paper with my new, horrid picture on it and said, "This is a copy of your license.  Keep it with you at all times when driving.  IF your Real ID is approved, you will receive it in the mail in four to fourteen days."

I quickly gathered up my scattered credentials and thanked him.

He grunted something.

Chime....."Now serving C190 at Station Three."

It was 12:04PM.

"Let's GO, Ann!"  (My thanks to Ann and Nancy, what would I do without them?!)

And with any luck (if the government accepts my non-embossed-enough Marriage License and my background check turns up nothing)  you won't have to read about this drivel for another eight years.

I'm pulling for you.


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Oh for Pete's sake. I've got to do this as they said everyone by 2014 will have to have one of these. At least I know where everything is, I think. I better start gathering it all together so I'll be ready. I think I'll go sometime this summer when the snowbirds have gone home. Maybe the DMV will be less crowded then. One can hope.


El Gaucho said...

Wow, what an ordeal. There's nothing that compares to the DMV to see a slice of humanity all in one place. I feel like there's some kind of sociological study that needs to be done on people who work and/or visit the DMV, that could be fascinating.

Alison said...

Geez Louise! I have never run into a DMV worker who is friendly, they are all as surly as can be. You'd think they might at least be happy to see someone who isn't giving them a hard time or being surly back, but no. I wonder if they'll require all this rigmarole next time I get mine renewed. Changing it from Massachusetts to Washington four years ago was a piece of cake. I don't even know if I have a copy of my marriage license, and if I don't, the only place to get one is back in Massachusetts...

You have my sympathy. And I am once again reminded what a wonderful story teller you are.

Alison said...

I also want to say -- Be proud of that gray hair, woman! You earned it. I've been on a bit of a kick lately of embracing my age. I'm letting my hair grow out and NOT coloring it. Gray is beautiful!

Heather said...

Sorry, but this story made me laugh... I hope we never have to go through that here! You told it so well! Cheers~

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Karen,

The DMV becomes important as we age, can take away our wheels! A friend just had to take away her mom's car very emotional.

I can't believe you had to show all of those papers. In Illinois, we don't have to present anything to renew, eye test, sometimes driving test.


Tufa Girl said...

If? What happens "if" not approved?

I went through much like that with my venture getting a passport. My certified birth certificate did not have my parents names on it. I had to go home-luckily not far since we live virtually downtown -so I had to give them my pretty special certified copy if the one from the hospital. "We send it back to you!" as I appear to tear up.

Hopefully I will be legal to go through Canada from WI this summer.

Junebug said...

Any comfort, Oregon DMV is the same way. I wonder if working for the DMV makes you grumpy or if that is a job description to apply for work there? They have eased up on the marriage license if you have a passport, hee-hee! We are so lucky we get to do this every 6 years, whoopee!

Hopefully your marriage license will pass!! Have a great day!

Zoey said...

Happy double nickels!

I have never heard of going through all that for a driver's license. I hope I don't have to do it in Michigan when mine expires next year!

Debbie@Debbie-Dabble and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

Thanks so much for all your words of encouragement!!

I have seen that you have been on a weight loss journey and have done great in my book!!

I bought a bike and have started to cycle but I need to take it slow as to not damage my knee worse than it is to start.

I did a program at the hospital where I work where they taught calorie counting and behaviour modification to lose weight. That was about 20 years ago and I lost 34 lbs. in 10 weeks and kept it off for about 5-6 years and then our lives changed with Joe working at the Post Office and I ate because of the stress of his job, my job and raising 2 teenage sons at the time. Then all my health issues kicked in and that was the end of me walking the 5 miles a day that I used to walk and it has been down hill since then. But I am determined to postpone this surgery as long as I can plus at this weight, I am considered a poor surgical risk anyway.

My good Frined, Anne marie, who I mention often on my Blog has lost 24 pounds with Weight Watchers but has another 70 to go. So her and I are going to report to each other and encourage each other. I also plan to post about my progress once a week so stay tuned and Thanks again for your support!!

Deb said...

My gosh what an ordeal to renew. I was unaware of all the requirements and hope I have the proper paperwork.I may be in trouble in that department too since my name is not what is on my marriage license. Yikes! And to think that you can vote in this country without ID. It is crazy. And people that are illegal get new driver's licenses all the time and vote too.

Jennifer said...

What an ordeal! I must say I am not sure where my own marriage licence is.Here in Ontario they are way more lack when it comes to renewal time (although it is very 2 years I think). If you show up with your old driver's license and a second photo ID, you are good to go. Happy birthday by the way. 55 isn't old at all!

Lona said...

Oh my goodness what an ordeal. I have to get mine renewed next year now I am wondering if ours has changed. LOL! I think I had better check on that. Ours is every four years. Why do they always make us all look like ex-cons or something. Ugh!
Sorry I have not been around but the Google Reader was messing ups so I got everyone's back postings all at once. I wondered where everyone was. LOL!
The new Wisteria lamp turned out just gorgeous as your always do.
Only you would enjoy snow. LOL! Have a wonderful weekend.