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Bureaucracies have a license to drive people crazy

I am not sure which is worse, waiting in line wasting time or waiting on hold wasting time. The Department of Motor Vehicle and the U.S. Postal Service seem to require both of these waiting periods before much can be accomplished.

I have found myself in a bit of a predicament that requires me to be in contact with both institutions about the same problem. On top of all of this, I am possibly committing a misdemeanor every time I drive because of one or both of these bureaucracies.

It all started back in August when I was sent a notice to renew my driver’s license. I was happy to send DMV my check for $15, give them my new mailing address and satisfied to have another four years of a funky photo on the plastic card.



My birthday came and went in September without a word from the DMV. I kept waiting, checking my post office box — no driver’s license. The amusement of knowing I was in possession of an expired license lasted a day or two, but still I procrastinated.

Just saying DMV gives me the heebie-jeebies. I finally called on Oct. 11. They said my license had been mailed Sept. 17. They said the only thing I could do is go to my local DMV office and get it renewed without any cost.




Of course they recommended I get an appointment to avoid the lines. The first available appointment is not until tomorrow. I took it. The man on the phone assured me if I were pulled over, the cops would let me go because the license would come up valid in the computer.

I decided to take him at his word because it was what I wanted to hear. Well, in talking with CHP Officer Sherry Reehl last week, she told me I could find myself in a world of trouble if I am stopped. For one, if the computer has the wrong information — if it says I do not have a valid license — this is a misdemeanor. According to the local traffic court, that could set me back $350.

If the computer does have the correct information and I am still in possession of an expired license, then I would most likely be issued a fix-it ticket. Reehl said it’s not uncommon for DMV to make a mistake. And if they have with me, the officers are probably not going to believe my tale and will assume the DMV knows what it is talking about.

After I punched the key pad numerous times to get a live person, I learned on Thursday from the DMV my license had been reissued Oct. 17. I still don’t have it. Lance, who works in an office near San Jose, was the most helpful DMV employee I know. He got approval from his boss to issue me a temporary license.

He assured me it would be here by tomorrow. I’m not sure how he can guarantee this when no mail from DMV headquarters in Sacramento is reaching me.

I did not get very far calling the 800 number for the Postal Service to enlist their help. Sean, who was working Thursday somewhere in the Midwest where there was no snow but it was cold enough for it, apologized for the license not arriving. He took my information, but said first class mail cannot be tracked, adding that he would tell an investigator about my woes.

Tom Millham, our local postmaster, was much more forthcoming with information. The only thing he couldn’t do was produce my license. He told tales of mail getting stuck in sacks, being eaten by machines, piled on someone’s desk and being cooped up in the wrong post office box. He said there were at least 100 reasons why my license has not arrived.

Besides a misdemeanor the thought of identity theft has crossed my mind. Millham assured me it was near impossible for someone else to get into my box to steal my license.

Lance at DMV said with my photo on the license it would be hard for someone else to use it. He said there were other built-in security devices, such as the magnetic strip on the back. “I am not at liberty to say what is in the strip,” Lance said. “But it is for your protection.”

For some reason I hung up the phone feeling less assured. I felt Big Brother was watching. It struck me as odd that I can’t know what information is being stored about me on my own driver’s license. No wonder people are paranoid.

But I digress. Tomorrow morning I will be at DMV and a legal driver once more.

— Kathryn Reed is managing editor of the Tahoe Tribune. She may be reached at (530) 541-3880, ext. 251 or e-mail kreed@tahoedailytribune.com


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