Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A DMV Horror Story

A humorous description of my fiasco at the Department of Motor Vehicles this past September

Just after the completion of my driving lessons in preparation for my liscense test, I came to realize that I had misplaced my drivers permit. Search as I may, it was nowhere to be found.

"Oh well" I thought to myself. "I'll just have my Dad drive me down the the DMV and we'll pick up a copy. I'm sure stuff like this happens all the time. No big deal, right?" I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Not wanting to be unprepared before embarking on this 30 minute excursion, I logged on to the Pennsylvania DMV website at about 12:30 to make sure I had brought all the neccesary materials. After searching through the "teen drivers" page and finding the "Reacquire/Extend/Duplicate Permit" page, I was informed that I would first need to fill out a "DL-31" form, which they thoughtfully had a link to right on the site. How helpful! I had the option of mailing it in and getting my permit through the mail within 7-10 business days, or merely bringing it in to the DMV office and picking it up over the counter that day. How convenient!

After clicking the link, my computer informed me with an obnoxiously loud dong that I did not have the latest version of Adobe Reader installed, and could not view/print this form until I did so. 10 minutes and several little green bars later, my printer spewed out this 1 page document...on 2 seperate pages. A careful reinspection of the document informed me that it was 1 page with a back, and was not valid if printed any other way. But oh no, that couldnt stop me! A few minutes of careful deliberation later I discovered that by printing this document 1 page at a time and reinserting the freshly printed page back into the paper tray, I could acheive a two sided print. After grabbing my wallet (because after all, there might be a fee and I might need some ID), we were on our way.

Filling out the form while sitting in the passenger seat, I noticed a signature-sized box labeled "Notary: Only Needed if applicant is under 18". Understand that this is an application to get a second copy of a drivers PERMIT, not a liscence. In a state in which the driving age is 16, how many people still have their permit (which expires after 1 year) after the age of 18? My guess is about 5. And yet they didnt feel it neccesary to write that a notary was required for all signatures of under 16 applicants save for a tiny little box in the bottom lefthand corner. "What!?!" I exclaimed to Dad. "Apparently I need to get this notarized."

"Well you didnt already sign it, did you?" he asked.

"Ummmm...." I replied.

But never fear: I had printed a second copy for just such a scenario and though to bring it with me. God I'm smart. We changed course in the direction of the nearest notary office. Apparently the notary got these cases a lot, because she recognized the form and before I opened my mouth to explain why we were there she said "You need a permit duplicate?". After having her officially watch me sign 2 other forms, she checked the computer database and found that Andrew Doris did indeed have a drivers permit issued to him, and it had not expired yet. After charging us 21 dollars for her, uh, "services", she told us my permit would arrive in the mail in 1-2 weeks.

"Whoa, hold on" my Dad told her. "I thought I could just pick it up at the DMV right now."

"Oh don't worry, we'll call you as soon as it comes in. That way you don't have to drive all the way out to Frazer to get it! It's much easier this way."

"Ya but I want it now" I informed her. "Will the DMV give it to me today?"

After casting an unsure glance back to her boss for assistance, the boss informed us through a glass screen that yes, you can get it there, but "they're not legally required to give it to you".

"But they will, right?" I clarified.

"Maybe, but they don't have to" she reminded us helpfully. Wanting to make sure we didnt drive all the way out to Frazer only to be told that they don't feel like giving it to us, Dad valiantly tried to call the DMV via operator. After 3 unsuccessful computer-animated-voice-reads, he cussed, hung up, and said "We'll take our chances". Notarized form in hand, we head off to Frazer.

In a hurry to get there, my Dad honks at some idiot on the road who not only refuses to turn right on red, but refuses to turn when it's green as well. After keeping us stuck behind her crawling at a snails pace for several miles she finally pulls off the road...right into the same DMV office we are headed to. She is also a teenaged driver, mother beside her, trying to learn the rules of the road from her parents just like me, and some impatient hothead just blared his horn at her.

Rushing to get in the office without making eye-contact with the flustered youngster, we enter the door and find ourselves last in a lengthy line of angry people. As one fuming middle-aged man exits, confused teenager son tailing behind him, he mutters under his breath "I feel like I'm in f***ing Egypt." Neither me or Dad are quite sure what that means, but (no offense to Egyptians) we take it as a bad omen.

When we finally reach the counter, a plump woman greets us with a smile. "I'd like a duplicate permit please" I say as I hand her the notarized form.

"Got ID?" she asks.

"Sure do" I reply cheerfully as I hand her my YMCA membership card, complete with name and picture.

"Uh uh, that won't cut it." she replies. "You got a birth certificate? social security card? passport?" When we inform her that we do not, she shakes her head at us for our ignorance and hands us a typed printout. "This was online." she explains. "Next".

Not bothering to waste my time challenging her, Dad and I walk out of the office pissed off. "The whole purpose of a notary is to confirm that signature was written by you" my Dad vents. "What's the purpose of paying for a notary if you need to prove your identity all over again to the DMV? Had I agreed to let that lady at the notaries office mail it to us, we wouldnt have recquired any ID at all!"

"And why are they so damn picky about what type of ID you present?" I chip in. "If I were applying for a new permit, that's one thing. But I'm only trying to reprint the same permit I already legally acquired the first time!"

The printout she handed us has 2 large paragraphs of technical jargon, most of it I know already, and the last line says "you must provide identification in accordance with order P-15" yada yada yada. Clearly, we determine, order P-15 must be mighty specific about what types of ID are valid and which aren't. The picture on my YMCA card was taken within a year, I look exactly like it, and the same goes for my High School Student ID cards, which are also deemed no good. The reason any ID must be provided at all is due to a law designed to prevent those who cannot legally acquire a permit/license from acquiring one. This group is mostly made up of felons and illegal immigrants. I hardly think I look like either, but I suppose rules are rules.

Angered but determined, I remember that I have my passport right on Mom's desk at home. We drive 30 minutes back home, grab my passport, and as backup write down my social security number from old tax forms. Then we hop right back in the van, drive back up to the office, and just slide in 20 minutes before it closes. This time, there is no line, and the women greets us with a smile.

"Okay, back again" I say as I proudly present her the notarized, completed form AND the passport. "I'd like a duplicate permit please."

"You got your social security card?" she snaps, cocking an eyebrow.

"Ya I have my number right here" I reply, showing her the number we scrawled on a post-it note.

"No I said do you have your card" the women repeats.

"You don't understand" Dad says irritably, seeing where this is going. "We don't even have a card for him in our possession. I don't have a card either, but we have the number on that card, which is all that matters in the first place.”

"He's gotta have a card" the woman informs us. Pointing to the same internet printout she gave us an hour ago, she points to the very bottom line where it says "order P-15 and P-....and Social Security Card". "I can't belieeeeeeve you didn't bring it this time!" she says demeaningly, as if we were immeasurable idiots for not understanding her casual dismissal. "I gaaavve you the form."

Unable to believe our ears, we stammer out a few explanations before she tells us "There's people in line behind you, please sit down." As we confusedly walk away, she kindly adds "Oh, and take your stuff".

After calling Mom to find that my Social Security Card has been locked away in a safety deposit box ever since we last needed it to GET my first permit, we turn back to the car infuriated. Since the office closes soon, we don't have time to go to the bank. "Does that idiotic bitch realize that I pay her entire salary?" Dad quips, irate. "She gets better benefits than I do for sitting behind that desk and making life hard for people. THIS is why people hate the DMV. That passport is good enough identification to grant you access to any country in the entire world, but its not sound enough ID to get you a permit."

"A copy of my permit" I corrected him. "They have a government database with all my information right in their computer. Forget my social security number; they already know the date my first permit was issued, my height, weight, age, birthday, grades, favorite color, and preferred brand of toothpaste. I have provided my name, 3 types of ID, a notarized signature, and my passport and they STILL cant just print out a COPY of the permit that I already have?"

After calming down, we decide to just mail it in ourselves under the "7-10 business days" plan. When we arrive home 4 hours, 6 printed sheets of paper, 3 forms of ID, and 2 faulty customer service run-ins later, I am still permitless.

There are 2 morals to this story:
1. DON'T LOSE YOUR PERMIT!
2. If this is how the goverment handles replacing lost permits, how are they going to run Healthcare?

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