…”when we win, it’s with small things, and the winning itself makes us small…” -Rilke
Well, yes, but it still feels good to win! Like my unexpected victory at the DMV today.
It was both time to renew my driver’s license and bite the bullet to get that damned Real ID. Bureaucracy and I have a long time feud, but I figured it would be a more satisfying battle to see my enemy’s face and go in person to the Department of Motor Vehicles rather than shadow box online. It’s a pleasant walk through the park, just a mile or so, to get there, so a couple of weeks ago, off I went. There were two lines outside, one for appointments and one for non-appointments and both only about 10 people long. The nice man who greeted me said I didn’t actually need an appointment and could get everything I needed done on this visit. Just go to Window X, get a slip of paper and wait until they call you for Window Y.
I hunkered down with my Crostic Puzzle expecting a long, long wait, but was called up within 10 minutes. The pleasant person at the window listened to my hopes to both renew my license and get a Real ID. Had I happened to have my passport or birth certificate with me, I could probably do both right away. Well, wouldn’t you know it, it was the one day I forget to put my birth certificate in my pocket. (Ha ha!). So instead I made an appointment for a few weeks ahead, grabbed a little booklet to prepare for the written test and off I went. A surprisingly pleasant and efficient little visit and neither side needing to put on the boxing gloves.
Time rushed by, as it sometimes does, and there I was at the brink of my appointment. So last night, took out that little study guide to prepare for the written test. Turned out it was not very well organized as a test preparation manual, just a lot of prose information and no practice test at the end. So I looked online and lo and behold, there was a practice test of 30 questions. Took it without studying and dang if I didn’t score 28 right out of 30! Yeah!
I just had to laugh at how I had worked myself up with some good old-fashioned-test-anxiety from those school days I never cared to revisit. Truth be told, the last test I took was my last DMV written test probably some 15 or 20 years, because the last time I renewed my license, they waived the test.
So I awoke this morning confident in my multiple-choice powers, ready to ace it and then present all the requested documentation for the Real ID—two bills sent to me at my address and either a passport or birth certificate. All well and good.
Except… My passport is at the Ghana Embassy in Washington DC, getting a Visa stamped into it and though I paid the money for the expedited process, we seem to count days differently and I haven’t received it back yet. Before my wife left to bike in the Netherlands, she reminded me of the file that has our birth certificates. However, mine was clearly a copy and I imagined that might be a problem. Nevertheless, off I went.
Got in to the building after a mere five-minute wait and only five more minutes until I was called to the window. Sure enough, birth certificate copies are not accepted and though I doubted it would work, I did bring a previous passport. But no, no good. However, I could still take the written test and get my photo take to renew my license and then return another time to get the Real ID.
And that’s when things got good. I had been told May of this year was the deadline for flights requiring Real ID, but the man said it had been extended to May of 2025!!! Yeah! Bureaucracy shot itself in the foot and was so backed up that they had to postpone the date. I will happily wait.
And then things got even better. For whatever reasons, he said “You don’t have to take the written test. Just pay us the money, get your photo taken and you’re done.” I did both and the entire visit probably was 30 minutes.
Who would have guessed? A government office that actually works pretty well! Enough workers to handle the work, an efficient system that actually works, pleasant people working there. Even Kafka would have been pleased! Of course, I’m sure there are many stories of maddening inefficiency and perhaps I just got lucky, but in my two visits, it seemed like the unthinkable was happening— a bureaucratic systems handling some high-stakes needs actually working! Praise to the DMV!
At least for now.