Is This Any Way to Run…Anything?

For those of you who think its the Federal Government that’s FUBAR, check out this venting from my experience last Tuesday.

It is time for me to renew my driver’s license, something that has been pretty routine for years, nay decades. Now, however, Homeland Security has gotten into the driver’s license business and I must say I don’t object. They came up with what they wanted. The card of those “wants” that every driver got from their state is pretty specific. US citizens must bring either:

*their government-issued birth certificate or a valid US passport or naturalization papers.

*social security card or W-2 form or paycheck or SSA-1099 or non-SSA 1099 showing complete social security number. No copies accepted.

*if there was a name changed from birth one must produce any court-ordered or government -issued marriage/divorce certificate that links birth to the current name.

*two documents that show current address. (This was a problem since they prefer utility bills and we do all that by email.)

If you happen to have that stuff at hand you’re a better man than I, Charlie Brown. But I got it together. The card advises making an appointment online to avoid long lines and longer wait times. I did that, or I tried to. I live in south Palm Beach County about 4 miles from the Broward County line. Palm Beach is the largest county in the state and Broward isn’t far behind. In both counties, there were no available appointments until mid-April. My license expires February 26. Actually, I lie. there was one appointment available. It was in Belle Glade, as far west as you can go in the county until you hit either Lake Okeechobee or the Everglades.

My wife said she heard that the Margate office, about 8 miles away, was pretty easy to deal with even without an appointment. I happen to like the drive to Belle Glade. It is pretty, solitary, and provides sights, sounds, and smells of old Florida. It’s about an hour and fifteen- minute drive. As I was deciding what to do, poof! the appointment disappeared. If I had taken the drive and the lines were longer than the hours allotted to the service I would have been in deep do-do.

I’d have to go to an office and stand on line. “Fahrfallen” would be what grandma would have said. It is uttered with a sigh and equates to FUBAR in Yiddish. Something told me I should bite the bullet and just go to the office closest to me, one town north, Delray Beach, Florida. That’s when the fun began.

The government center complex shares a parking lot with the commuter train station. There were no parking spots. Fortunately, my former office at the Sheriff’s Department was at the far end of the property and I had my retiree credentials. I parked at the Sheriff’s office and hung my ID from the rearview mirror. Then I walked about 100 yards in 90-degree heat to the DVM. There I encountered a line and a police officer, He looked bored to death (it was 10 am). He I asked if this was the driver’s license line. His response came without eye contact, “There’s only one line.” Uh huh. I got on the line and in about a half an hour I was face to face with a nice lady who gave me number D-303. Understand depending on what one was in that building for your number could be preceded with any one of a multitude of letters from the alphabet. It also made understandable why there was virtually not a place to sit and that D was deceptive as far as wait time went.

My next problem was that I had a minor surgical procedure scheduled back in west Boca Raton at 2:45. My bones told me that D-303 would come up at a point where I wouldn’t have time to make my doctor’s appointment. I called the office and a very sympathetic woman rescheduled me for Thursday, which was also my fail-safe day if this didn’t work out. With the ability to worry about only so many things at once, I clutched my papers, opened my Kindle, and sat down to read. I read until an autistic teen went as we used to say in Brooklyn, “screaming, yellow bonkers.” His mom got him settled dow. By then I had sighted a chair about twenty rows up that I slipped into to with my guilt following me. There I found in front of me a baby in a carriage whose delight was throwing things out of the carriage and also out of reach of his parents but right at my feet. I didn’t get much reading done. In the interim, two hours passed. Now we were up to D-280 being next. I was right. I never would have made the doctor’s appointment.

An hour later, it was my turn. Station 17 was my call and there I went. I was asked to take an eye test. The lenses were so dirty that I had to wipe them three times with alcohol wipes before I could even see my test line, line 7, which I read perfectly. The gentlemen said to me, “You know every 10 years you have to get a new license plate.” I did not know that. He said we can do that now or you can come back next week before the 26th.  I gave him an, “Are you kidding me?” look and said, “Now!” He excused himself and returned with the plate announcing, “I even put the registration sticker on it for you.” I didn’t think tipping him was in order so I just said thank you.  after all it was a one-inch square piece of adhesive tape with four numbers on it. He also told me that if I didn’t turn in my old plate and it got stolen I would be liable for any tickets, accidents etc the robber got and it would take a long time to unravel the mess. “There’s a box outside you can drop your old plate in.” “Roger that!”

Then he took my picture and minutes later handed me a new license.

Oh, did I mention that neither he nor any other person asked me for anything that was on the card, the very same card that indicated there was no earthly way I would get a driver’s license without them?

So I ask you. Is this any way to run a Driver’s License Office?

They used to call county government in poli sci the “dark ages” of government. Seem still to be true–at least from my perspective.

An occasionally cranky Bill Gralnick observes the world from this perch and shares his sightings with you every Sunday. His books and other essays are available on his website

Let’s say in chorus with him, “Read! It’s good for both of us.”




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