Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Adventures At The DMV

As a military spouse, I know that legally I am supposed to get a new driver's license within thirty days of moving to a new state.

As a military spouse, I know that I never get a new license until my old one is about to expire. My most recent license has been with me as I moved from North Carolina to Virginia to Kansas to Hawaii.

I hate having to get a new license. I hate having to take the test. I avoid it at all cost. And the picture of me on my license was really sucky and I still didn't go get a new license, that tells you how much I hate having to take the test.

When we moved to North Carolina and I had to take the written driving exam, I didn't study the manual. I had been driving for about twenty years at that point and knew what all the signs and symbols on the road mean so I wasn't the least bit concerned about having to take the written exam.

I failed.

Can you believe it?!?! They asked questions like, "If you got a DUI how many points would you lose off your license?"

I don't know! I don't ever intend to get a DUI! I'm a homeschooling mom! And when did they start using a point system anyway? Ask me what a stop sign means - that, I know.

So I had to go home, study the manual, and go back a week later to take the test again. I couldn't drive for a week and I've been traumatized ever since. I break out in a sweat whenever we pass the DMV.

So of course, I put it off until the last minute. My license expires this Saturday. I have plans for tomorrow and the DMV is closed on Friday. Today was literally the last day I could take the test.

I got my friend Kim to take me to the DMV in case I failed and they confiscated my license. The last time I had to take the test (in North Carolina) it took about 30 minutes. So I didn't mind asking Kim to do this favor for me and waste 30 minutes of her day at the DMV.

It took three hours.

And not just waiting in line. Oh no.

When I finally got up to the counter and they got my information, the DMV lady - who was really very nice, thank goodness - realized my married name on my license did not match my name in the social security system, which still shows my maiden name.

I needed proof that I've been married for 19 years.

But I didn't bring my marriage certificate with me. (I stopped gazing lovingly at it and carrying it with me every where I went after the first year.)

It was 3:10 and the DMV lady told me if I could get home and get the marriage certificate before 3:30, and not one second later, she would let me take it without making me wait in line again. Otherwise, I would have to come back tomorrow and wait in line for two and a half hours again.

I flew out to Kim's car and we raced to my house. I called ahead, told Emily exactly where the marriage certificate was and told her to meet us at the curb with it. As we were coming through the gate to get on post, Kim handed our IDs to the gate guard and said, "We're in a hurry!"

The guard gate apparently doesn't like to be told that you are in a hurry.

He took our IDs and then walked to the back of the car with them to look at the license plates and inspect all stickers.

I've been coming through that gate at least once a day, and sometimes six times a day, for a year and a half, and they have never once wanted to look at the tags on the car. Not once.

Kim threatened to spank him and he laughed and finally let us go.

We slowed down in front of my house just long enough for Emily to toss in the marriage license and took off back to the DMV. After stewing in some mild traffic we screeched up to the DMV building at 3:29.

I ran back into the office but the nice lady who had helped me before was helping someone else and didn't see me. I stood to the side and held up my marriage license like an olympic judge holding up a score card and waited for her to notice me.

She was taking too long, and the clock was ticking. As soon as a customer left one of the other windows, I charged over to the available clerk and explained my mission while gesticulating wildly at the clerk who said I could do this. She never once looked up at me.

Fortunately, nice DMV lady number 2 was just as helpful and found my application and began entering my info into the computer. Then she stopped. "Uh-oh," she said. "Your marriage license isn't notarized. It doesn't have the bumpy seal, it just has a flat seal."

"I swear I'm married," I panted.

She had to check with a couple of people and fortunately nice DMV lady number 1 stepped in and said, "It looks official, just accept it."

I finally got my test and skittered over to the grade-school desks in the "testing area". There was an older gentleman and a teen boy both already working on their tests. I plunked down and, frantic that someone might tell me it was now past 3:30 and my time was up, raced through the test.

When I stood up to go turn it in, I realized the man and teen were still working on their tests. I immediately assumed I had done something wrong. I must have missed some questions. I checked the back. No questions there. I probably wrote all the answers in the wrong spaces. Quick double check. No. I couldn't figure out what I was missing and I was starting to smell my own armpits so I decided to just turn it in and deal with the consequences if I had messed it all up.

Wonder of wonders, I didn't miss a single question!

The older gentleman finished his test shortly after me and did well. The teen boy failed miserably and left with his head hanging.

Go study, boy. I did, and look at me now! I got my li-cense! I got my li-cense!


  1. Great post. I remember my kids astonishment when we visited Michigan and they realized that mom could drive for the first time. I don't drive in Haiti. The test always worries me a bit too.

    My kids also had thought for years that windshield wipers were for dust before that trip.


  2. According to a JAG person I listened to one time, you CAN get a new license every time you move OR you can pick one state as a state of residence and keep that license over and over (and most will let you do renewals and address changes online). This applies to the military person and dependents. He said that the car registration and insurance was the same thing: where you actually live or where you claim as your state of residence. Also note, husband and wife do not have to have the same state of residence, but the car has to match the owner. Thus, I am a resident of FL and that is where I vote (via mail). Bill is a resident of NJ and the cars are exclusively in his name and are registered in NJ. This helps you avoid property tax on POVs in most states because they exempt vehicles owned exclusively by military members (if my name was on the title, it would not be exempt).

    So, NEXT time you have to get a new license, consider going with a state like GA and never changing again.