On Birthdays and the DMV

Birthday time can be tricky.  I become introspective and look at what I am not doing, or could be doing better. I compare my insides to other people’s outsides, and come away feeling less than, not accomplished.   My amazing friends and family balance this, and it is for them that I am trying to be being slightly less mean to myself this birthday.  I am consciously trying to catch myself doing things right rather than whipping myself for doing things poorly or half-assed.  My husband reminded me that we have only been here in Dallas for 90 days as of a few days ago, so maybe not having conquered the city yet is okay. That was weird. Feels a hell of a lot longer.  Losing everything and moving 3 times in that span of time does strange things to your sense of continuity.

I increased my knowledge of Dallas and How Things Are Done Here on Monday when I went to get my Texas Driver’s License.  If you’ve been in a fire, and didn’t have one of those handy boxes located elsewhere with all your important documents in them that prove that you are indeed yourself, you will find it’s quite difficult to get a driver’s license even if you don’t have to take the road test.  I went to the DMV two weeks ago and discovered once I was there and in the queue to get my license that I needed my actual birth certificate, a real one with embossing on it.  This Monday I had that, along with bills and a local bank account with my name and address on them – 3 of those to prove I actually live where I say I live.  I also had snacks, drinks, and my kindle.  I felt legit, and ready for the DMV.

So, at 8am on Monday, I drove about 30 minutes away, and stood in line number 1, and got my number and was sent to waiting area B to fill out paperwork and become an organ donor. After filling out pages 1 and 2 completely in black or blue ink, I went back and looked at the first page, which tells you all the things you need. In plain language which I had overlooked before (Fail!) it was telling me that along with that embossed birth certificate and proof of residency, I needed to also prove my social security number was mine.  I wasn’t sure how I could do that, since you can’t get a social security card until AFTER you have a driver’s license, so I gave up my place in line, moved to another area and waited there to talk to a counselor for the weak of mind and infirm like me.  Luckily, my counselor was a woman who had been in a fire herself and understood how very hard it is to become a recognized legal person again. She told me I could go home and get a copy of my 1099 to prove I had a real social security number, and assured me that I was “almost there” with the documentation.  That small reassurance was really needed.  I tried to give her a present when I went back the 3rd time that day, but she couldn’t take it. We settled for a big hug.  She was great and I was glad I could tell her that.

The reason for my 3rd time back to the DMV that day is that after triumphantly returning on the 2nd visit with my 1099 and making it through seating room B, and all the way up to window 20, I wasn’t done with the legalities.  I thought I had my correct car registration, I did not.  As the woman at window 20, Jacquelin said, “Sewell (my car dealer) does not work here.  I work here, and that is not the correct document.” To my credit, I realized she was simply telling me the truth even though I didn’t like what I was hearing.  So, I got back in my car and drove to the Dallas County Tax office 20 minutes away.  I only got a little lost, and when I opened the door to that abysmal building I saw at least 150 morose and depressed people snaking in line to get whatever documents THEY were missing from the depressed and morose workers there.  I took a deep breath, walked away from the Building of Despair, and called my dealer David at Sewell.  He promptly figured out the problem, and had Legal email me my real registration.  I drove home, printed it, and headed back out the door.

The DMV has a cool deal where once you have a number that day, you can go stand in a different line, and when you get to the front of that, they will put you at the top of the automated system.  Bypassing 200 or so people felt kind of icky and great at the same time.  This time back at window 20, Jacquelin high-fived me when I showed her the correct document and we chatted as she processed me.  She works 10 hour days and the office usually processes about 500 people a day.  People lie to her all day long, and she has to keep moving things along. The reason for all the scrutiny is that Texas is a boarder state, and they are mandated to thoroughly screen people.  Made sense to me.  Jaqueline was funny, kind, and took my picture three times until I got one that was cute. I gave her my thumbprints, proved I could see with my glasses on, paid my $25 and happily took my paper receipt and said goodbye.

I sailed out of the DMV, got in my car, and then REALLY looked at my temporary license.  My first name was spelled wrong –  I am an EY not a Y.   I fly a lot, and you know, they are picky about that — your name freaking needs to match. I didn’t cry, I didn’t throw anything.  I sighed, got back out of my car, ducked under two lines, and went back to window 20 and peeked over the cubicle at Jacquelin, who was helping another man.  She frowned at me.  “What now?”, she asked.  “Name’s misspelled”, I said.  She sighed exactly as I had done, and had me sit in a cubicle next to her as she finished with her customer.  Then she fixed it. She said it was her fault, I would not be charged, but we had to start again.  Documents, Forms, Thumbprints, Vision Test, no charge, and it only took two tries to get my picture right.  It was the best photo of all of them really.  Then we really said goodbye.

So, in my effort to battle my normal birthday negative introspection, what did I do right on my DMV day?  I swam that morning.  I blocked off the whole day to do it.  I didn’t allow myself to get angry or to give up. I changed tactics and went with Plan B at the Building of Despair.  I had snacks and beverages with me.  I tried to listen and see people as human beings.  And despite a total of 7 hours of my life being sucked away, I met two really lovely women, am very sure I do not want a job at the DMV, and will in two or three weeks have my Texas Driver’s License.  And then I can start working on getting a passport and my social security card. God help me.

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