Tales of the DMV

Getting my Real-ID has been Real-HARD for me. I had to make five trips to the DMV within a 24-hour period and still have to go back again. I saw several familiar faces each time I returned, people who, like me, either hadn’t brought the right combination of paperwork or had to come back because the statewide server broke down.

Both days found the place stuffed full of Americans across the gamete of lifestyles and social classes all trapped together in a small area for about an hour. I distinctly remember a man with no teeth and a Disney character tank top sitting beside a businessman in pressed trousers and a starched shirt; a “What’s wrong with putting America first?” T-shirt wearing man next to a couple of Polish speaking ladies trying to get car tags; one parent with two feral children running and screaming in and out of the rows of chairs asking questions about school to a parent whose children were quietly sitting beside her; and a crusty, bushy-bearded man reeking of stale, cheap cigarettes squashed up against a lady with a designer track suit, perfect nails and hair, a bit too much perfume, and a lot too much make-up. These characters, along with your average Joes and Janes, made up the rotating, but constant of 20 or so folks waiting their turn. Despite the obvious, visible differences, one could tell we all had the same desperate hope, that we had brought enough pieces of paperwork in the correct combination to get us out of there!

The five ladies who worked behind the counter were the quintessential DMV employees you see in movies or on TV. One was very pleasant but must not have been working there very long because she had to ask her co-workers questions for virtually every transaction she made. One was peppy and seemed to get through two times as many people as all the others combined. One was very matter-of-fact, a little cold, and didn’t seem too worried about customer care. One was earnest and nice, but was flustered easily and didn’t look to have many tools in the tool shed, if you know what I mean. And then there was the maniacal one who I honestly think took secret joy in telling people they didn’t have the correct paperwork and they would have to come back. She “helped” me on my third visit by telling me I would need to bring in a copy of my marriage license, emphasis on copy. When I came back with my license in hand and had spent another 45 minutes waiting my turn, I was called to the cubicle of the pleasant lady who probably hadn’t been working there too long. I gave her my paperwork and when she came to the marriage license, Maniacal Lady took it upon herself to, without being asked, lean over from her own cubicle into that of the person who was helping me. Maniacal Lady took a cursory glance at the copy and, with a smile on her face, said it didn’t look like it had the proper seal and that I would have to order another one from the State Recorder’s office in Jefferson City (our state’s capital). As she said this she looked me straight in the eye, raised her eyebrows, and shook her head as if to say, “I have the power to make your life miserable and I like nothing more than watching all the hope vanish from your eyes.” (Did I mention this was my fourth trip?) Because Missouri has an extension to become compliant for Real-ID until October 2020, and because I was more frustrated than I can remember being in a very long while, I opted to just get a regular driver’s license and come back another day to try again.

I actually cried on the way home–I couldn’t help it.  I felt like I was seven years old and had been wrongly blamed for something I didn’t do, but couldn’t find the words to explain the truth. I’m sure the deepening fatigue I was now feeling didn’t help. The only thing that could come out was tears.

Each time I had gone to the DMV a different person helped me and told me something different than the previous one had said. I checked the list of requirements on the state website and thought I had all the pieces it listed as necessary. After that visit, the fourth one, I finally called the county recorder’s office and learned I had brought in all the correct paperwork and that I wasn’t the only casualty of the local DMV. Apparently there has been ongoing confusion among the DMV staff about what qualifies as an “approved copy” of a marriage license despite the county recorder going over in person to train them.

Armed with this new information, I found myself getting back in my car, limping myself up to the counter without bothering to take a number, and sharing this with Nice Lady who had helped me before Maniacal Lady butted in. Living up to her moniker, Nice Lady was very kind, didn’t scold me for butting in line, and set about trying to sort it out for me. She went over to tell Maniacal Lady what I had discovered, but Maniacal Lady didn’t believe it. Eventually, a call was placed by Nice Lady to Jefferson City for a final verdict, and…I was right! Maniacal lady was WRONG! Her face dropped when she found out and for just a brief moment I thought I had won the day and could get my Real-ID completed. I was wrong. Maniacal Lady rallied quickly, fixed her eyes hard on me, and with an all too familiar look, raised her eyebrows and shook her head, as she leveled her last words to me, “You still have to wait 10 days before coming back to get your Real-ID license because you got a regular license earlier today.”

I hope I get Maniacal Lady when I go back. I plan to smile my biggest smile and politely say, “We meet again.”

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