Department of Motor Vehicles

Dear Lurky Readers,

Today is storytime.

This story is called Kate Renews Her Permit at the DMV.

As mentioned elsewhere, Kate never learned to drive when she was 16. I got a permit about a month after my 16th birthday, and happily let it expire without going out driving more than once or twice. By the time I was ready to graduate college, I realized that it was probably a good idea to get one again. So I got another medical exam, passed the permit test again, and got my new permit. Last March. They’re good for a year, so mine expired a couple of months ago.

Fortunately, there’s a provision that you can renew your permit as long as it’s not been more than 3 years since your medical exam (the form actually reads that you must pass your Road Exam within 3 years).  “Great,” says Kate to herself. “I can just fill out this stupid form, beg the parent to drive me to the local DMV, and get it done with.” I print out the form and fill out the half-dozen boxes that apply. (No, my eye color hasn’t changed, for the record).

The DMV is about 35-40 minutes from where we live, and the parent’s car is hot and old and generally unpleasant. None of this particularly well disposes me for dealing with bullshit when I get there.

I don’t know what DMVs are like throughout the rest of the state, or the country, but at the one I go to, before you can take a ticket and sit down to be served, you have to go through a front desk. I step up to the front desk, with my form, my check and my wallet (within are important pieces of ID like my social security card and my green card).

Mr. Wispy (for his beard, as I don’t know his name) asks me what I’m here for. I tell him.

“Do you have your passport? Birth certificate? Two proofs of address?”

“What? The form only says I need this form and a check.”

“What about a PA ID card?”

“Uh…no. Here are my green card and social security card. Are they good enough?”

“No. You still need  a birth certificate and passport. What about proof of address? ”

I glance at my mother. “Well…uh…I live at home. So I don’t get the bills.”

“Payment slips?”

“I…uh…don’t have a job.”

“W2?” [tax form]

“Did I mention I don’t have a job? No income.”

“A doctor’s note?”

“I haven’t been to the doctor’s in a while.” (Because, uh, I’m uninsured)

“So you don’t have anything?”

I think frantically. “Uh…what about bank statements?”

“That’s great.”

“But I only have the one bank account.”

Mr. Wispy looks at my mom. “Well, if she brings a proof of address and is willing to sign an affidavit that you live there, that’ll be good enough.”


We leave. I am in a really, really, really bad mood right now. And when you piss me off enough, I get upset – tears in my eyes upset. There is nothing I want more than to throw shit back in this guy’s face, so we drive the 35 minutes back home.

I get a folder. In it, I put my passport, a recent-ish bank statement, and then scour through the mail for anything that might have been addressed to me. I find a statement from my old (really old) savings account that’s only a few months old. That goes in the folder. My mom finds my long and short-form birth certificates. In they go. Then she finds a couple of utility bills just in case. But, oh wait. My dad pays the bills, so her name isn’t on them. Given the kind of mood we were in, and the annoying ridiculousness of the situation, we throw in my parent’s marriage certificate as well. We drive back. Another 35 minutes. By now, we’re less annoyed and more amused at the situation, but I am still more than ready to throw a total bitch-fest. I am an intelligent, articulate person who does not deserve to be fked around by a bureaucrat who looked like he actually enjoyed turning me away and seeing me flustered.

We get back there. Mr. Wispy is still there. I step up to the counter, a smile on my face.

“Oh, back?”


“What was it you didn’t have last time?”

I put the folder on the counter. “Tell me the things that you need me to have, and I’ll get them out.”

“Was it your social?”


“Oh, your green card.”

Nope.” Both are now out of my wallet and on the counter. “I showed you both of those last time.”

“Then your passport or birth certificate.”

I smile. “Which do you want? Here’s my passport.” I take it out. “And my short-form birth certificate. And here’s my long-form.”

“Proof of address.”

I pull a couple of envelopes out of the folder.

He doesn’t even look at them. “Good, good. Now, what did you say you were here for?”

Renewal of my permit.”

He prints out a ticket. “Go and sit over there and wait for your number to be called. And just breathe.” He grins.
“And not fire.”

Obviously, he didn’t miss my mood. Good.

I gather everything back up and stuff it in the folder to go sit down. Fortunately, we’re only waiting 15 minutes or so before my number is called and I go to Mr Sallow. My spine is steeled now, and I am more than prepared to bring out my final weapon (weeping like a little girl; it works on men more often than it really should).

“What are you here for?”

As he’s done nothing wrong, I’m perfectly happy to be polite. “Renew my permit.” I take out the form and give it to him, and then begin to ruffle through the hundred other things I’ve got with me.

“Just need your green card and social,” he says.

Just my green card.

And my social security card.

Which I had the first time.

I never had to prove my address. I never had to show my birth certificate. Or my passport, for that matter.

We were in and out that second time in half an hour.  But that’s not the point. We should have been in and out the first time in half an hour.

Before, we’d decided that Mr. Wispy was, while annoying and officious, merely trying to streamline the process by making sure that everyone had the proper documents, and saving everyone extraneous time and hassle. By the time we were driving home the second time, we had come to another conclusion: Mr. Wispy just has no idea what’s needed for any of the myriad services that the DMV offers, and so simply demands to see every imaginable thing before granting us the Holy Ticket. That’s worse; an arrogant idiot who is in a position of power over me, over all the patrons of the DMV, and who can allow us in or not, not because of the service we require, but based on our possession of documents that we simply do not need.

Mr. Wispy is not on my list of favorite people in the world right now. He had no reason to refuse us the first time, and cost us an extra hour and a half of driving and waiting time, when we really did have better things to do on a Saturday afternoon.

Anyway, to close this story, I present to you the list of other documentation that my mother and I came up with to prove your address and your identity. I think that the DMV should really look into adopting some of them.

Proving You are Who You Say You Are and You Live Where You Say You Live

the DMV version

1. Take the man back to the house and showing him the bedroom you sleep in.

2. Get sworn affidavits from all the neighbors that you live there.

3. Swear away your firstborn if you lied.

4. Sign the following form

I, the undersigned, do so swear in blood that the form I have signed is accurate

5. Do a dance and song before everyone in the DMV to prove just how sincere (and desperate you are).

But, seriously.

My green card has my picture on it, my INS number, and my address. There is nothing on either my birth certificate or passport that is not included on my green card. The renewal form asked if I wanted to keep the same address on my permit or not. If I was changing it, sure, I accept I’d need to prove I now live somewhere different.

I feel thoroughly jerked around today.

I understand that it is a privilege and not a right to be able to drive. I really do get it.  But for all that, the DMV is there to service the people who have various needs. The top of the paper I got with my permit attached reads “Congratulations on receiving your Pennsylvania Learner’s Permit. You, our customer are important to us.”

The customer.

I am the customer.

If there was a satisfaction survey that I could have filled out on my way out, I certainly would have.

This, dear lurkers, has been storytime.

Join me again on Monday for a return to our regular programming.



Filed under Uncategorized

5 responses to “Department of Motor Vehicles

  1. Joe Union

    Sounds like a typical government thing. What bothers me is when the government takes over health care I expect it will be the same way.

  2. Matilda

    I live in England and I don’t drive or have a passport. I wanted to open a savings account to save up for a trip which would include money for a passport. I have a job, I own my own house but because I don’t drive and haven’t gone abroad I don’t have the right id. The conversation went “Do you have a passport?” “No, that’s what I’m saving up for.” Eventually they accepted the id I had, I sent it off to them, the account wasn’t opened so I went down my bank to find out what went wrong and they told me they couldn’t talk to me without me presenting id. The id that they’d already got.

    I eventually got the account and the passport only to have the trip cancelled on me.

    Different country, same crap.

  3. Ace

    Kate–where’s the scene where you go back to Mr. Wispy and rain down fire and vengeance? And then feed him to the Magical Liopleurodon?

  4. Gin

    Unfortunately, they don’t let you renew your permit online yet. Half of the states already adopted online renewals for driver licenses, but for some reason, driver permits have to be renewed in person and in most cases it’s quite a hassle.

  5. I’ve had a lot of fun times dealing with the PA DMV.

    I had to renew my state ID this summer (I don’t drive either) and I spent the better part of an hour getting sent between two desks because a print out they gave me only faintly printed one of the 1s in the 11 in my date of birth. After about 45 minutes they finally figured out that if their computers were showing my DOB correctly and the electronic strip in that form was showing the correct DOB there was no reason that my new ID wouldn’t show my correct DOB.

    Basically, I don’t think it’s just your DMV that is the problem. Sorry for having a mini-rant in your comments.

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