Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why People Go Ballistic

I get it. I understand that going to the DMV is never, ever going to be a pleasant experience. But when it takes two days to get a simple license and car registration processed, there’s a problem. But this is the way things are now since 9/11 and the wonderful inception of identity fraud.

Now that I will be gainfully employed in the fine State of SC, it was time to become a full-fledged citizen again. I started this process on Thursday morning around 10am. In SC, you are required to pay a property tax on your vehicle and this needed to be done before I could start any paperwork at the DMV. I went to the office and quickly saw the signs stating you must go to the auditor if you do not yet have a bill to pay. The auditor’s office, of course, was on the opposite side of the building. No problem, I need the exercise.
In order to get a tax bill, I have to show proof of residency. Not easy. I have no rental lease, no mortgage, no utility bills and no license yet. Aha, my offer letter from the job was acceptable. They proudly presented me with a bill for $241. Before heading back to the payment office, I realized the real property tax office was close by. Since I had submitted an appeal on the value of a home site I own, I stopped in to check on the status. Cool – a refund check should be in the mail shortly.

There is a DMV office right across the street, so I headed over there. When I entered, I saw at least 100 people sitting in chairs waiting for their number to be called. I got on the pre-screening line behind a half dozen people. While standing in line, I realized that I was so excited by the news of the refund check, I forgot to stop at the payment office. Back to my car and back across the street. Of course it was raining, so my good hair day was going flat, not good for taking a driver’s license picture on a ten-year license.
After paying the tax, I decided to head back home, have something to eat, dry my hair and go to an alternate DMV office that might not be as crowded. I arrived there a little after 1pm. I had read all the information on their website and was sure I had everything I needed. I laid out everything at the pre-screening desk and the woman asked for my birth certificate. “I don’t need that, I have my VT license and my social security card,” I responded. “Nope, everyone has to show a birth certificate for a license,” she stated.

Back in the car and heading for home to retrieve my birth certificate. Round trip was probably about 45 minutes. I got back on the line for the pre-screen desk, smiled at the woman and presented my birth certificate. She handed me a number and I went to sit with about 30 other people. It was probably about a half hour before they called my number, but I was working on my patience skills and doing ok.
I headed to Counter 4 and presented all my completed forms and supporting documentation. She looked at my license application first. Naturally, my birth certificate has a different last name than my current name. “We need documentation showing the name change, like a marriage certificate,” the clerk said. I felt tears starting to well up. “Ma’am, I just drove all the way home to get my birth certificate. The lady said nothing about marriage licenses,” I pleaded. I then produced an expired passport, SC Voter Registration card and a Teaching Credential issued by the state. No good. It had to be a certified marriage license, well two actually, and they were sitting in a drawer in Vermont. No license for this girl today.

The clerk then looked at my paperwork for the car registration. “Do you have a signed Power of Attorney from the leasing company?” she inquired. More tears welling and my voice cracked as I responded, “No, I didn’t know I needed that.”   I produced a monthly statement for the car lease, but it meant nothing. I also produced all the paperwork from the dealership, all to no avail. I noticed on the leasing bill there was a customer service number. I called it and explained what we needed. “We can do that, but it can take up to an hour to be faxed,” the rep told me. It was now 4:15 and the office closed at 5PM.
The DMV clerk continued to look over my papers, visited her supervisor several times to ask questions and looked as if she were possibly accomplishing something. She then clipped all the papers together and handed them back to me with instructions to come back tomorrow. My phone rang – it was Toyota Leasing. They had faxed the paperwork. The DMV clerk retrieved the fax and processed the car registration just in the nick of time. I now had a car registered in SC, but still a VT license. Tomorrow would be my last free day before starting my job, so the pressure was on.

Knowing I could not get my hands on a marriage certificate for number one, I asked if a divorce decree would work. “Yes, so long as it is certified,” she replied. As I left the DMV office, I dialed ex numero uno. “Hey, crazy question, but do you still have our divorce papers,” I asked cheerily. Dead silence on the other end. Finally he spoke and said, “If I didn’t burn them, probably yes.” An hour later I arrived to his house, grabbed the papers and exclaimed that I needed a drink after a day from hell. He poured me a vodka and himself some wine. We sat and starting chit chatting. At some point he refilled my glass. I had not eaten much all day, so it hit me fast.
An hour later, my friend Molly called asking what I was up to. “I’m at Vic’s, come over, he has vodka. And pick up some food on your way”. At about 9PM, my ex’s wife arrived home to find three drunks at her kitchen table, empty food cartons and divorce papers – mine, not hers. Thank God she has a good sense of humor.

The next morning I headed to the Clerk of Court to get certified copies of the divorce papers because the ones from the ex were only a copy. I was prepared to deal with the typical bureaucratic BS, but surprisingly they were very helpful. I then drove to the probate court to get a certified copy of the marriage license to number two. Also completed painlessly. I headed back to the DMV and was shocked to be put at the front of the line because I had accumulated four hours of seniority the day before. Within 30 minutes, I had a SC license. I am never moving out of state again. I simply can’t guarantee I wouldn’t go ballistic if I had to endure this all over again.

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