Lisa is getting tired of me ragging on her in this blog (she does pay the rent after all), so instead I am going to spend a little time complaining about the Philadelphia Department of Motor Vehicles.
I am becoming familiar with the DMV. I have been there three times now.
I thought I was prepared. I thought I knew what I was doing. I spent an entire morning researching how to obtain a Pennsylvania driver’s license.
Yet, I was no match for the DMV. It was like I was Iowa State and the DMV was the Hawkeyes. Or I was the Hawkeyes and the DMV was Ohio State.
Either way, I was up against indomitable force, and it was going to break me.
Like all lost causes, this could easily have been avoided. My Iowa license expired last month, three weeks before I moved to Philly. I could have walked into the Iowa County DMV, said “what’s up,” and I would have walked out with a brand new license.
But no. I decided that since I was starting a new life in Pennsylvania, it would be symbolic to begin adventure with a new identification card. How splendid!
But proving once again that I shouldn’t be allowed to hold adult responsibilities such as pay bills, drink alcohol or shop at Von Maur, I botched this assignment, even dragging Lisa down with me.
Obtaining my license wouldn’t have been such an issue except I had landed this freelance writing gig in Hammonton, NJ. This was a 45 minute drive, and I had four options available: borrow a car from one of Lisa’s classmates (ideal), sign up for Philly Car Share (perhaps an inevitable course of action), rent a car (expensive) or take the train (an hour train ride plus a three-mile hike/cab ride).
The two most likely options, signing up for the car share or renting a car, required a valid license, and I had three days to get this done.
Unfortunately, the DMV does not work around my schedule. They operate on Satan’s schedule.
So anyway, like I said, I inspected the DMV’s rules like I was searching for shake in the couch cushion.
The crux was I needed two proofs of residency. I needed a lease agreement, which I was able to obtain. But the second document was the bitch. Acceptable documents included a W2 form, current utility bills in my name, mortgage documents, tax records or a weapons permit. None of which I had.
However, if you have a roommate with any of these documents, you can bring them along as a second proof of residency. Hence, I forced Lisa to skip her morning class and shoved her in a taxi to go to the wonder that is the Philadelphia DMV.
It is like McDonald’s Playland mixed with Candyland and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
Wait, I was thinking of Tijuana.
The DMV is an underfunded nursing home meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets the original version of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale (you know, the version of Cinderella where the evil step-sister cuts off her big toe to make her foot fit in the glass slipper).
So Lisa and I made our first trip to this real life version of a George A. Romero horror flic.
Actually, Tim Burton has the DMV nailed to a T. Remember in Beetlejuice when Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis go to the afterlife to meet with their case worker? That is exactly what the DMV is like. Luckily no one shrunk our heads, though I think there were a couple folk at the Philadelphia DMV that had that particular ability.
On our first trip, Lisa and I didn’t make it past the information desk. The nice-enough lady with an indecipherable European accent informed Lisa that she needed a Pennsylvania ID, and her student ID wouldn’t suffice. To get a student ID, Lisa needed documentation from the school proving she was a student.
Fine, we would come back.
Lisa again skipped her morning class, collected her school documentation, and we went back.
There was a different lady working the information desk. She was as useless as a crab with no claws. She said Lisa’s admission letter didn’t count, she needed an actual letter from the university stating that she was “currently” a student. I also found out I needed an additional signature on my lease agreement.
By the time we were able to go back to the DMV for our third trip, my school board meeting in Hammonton had already passed. Luckily, one of Lisa’s classmates was indeed kind enough to let me borrow her car, even though I was driving with an expired license.
But I needed to drive to Hammonton the next week, so back to the DMV went Lisa and I. One last time.
The European lady was there this time, and was actually happy to see us. I told Lisa we were probably the only “normal” people she had dealt with all day.
Lisa had her proper documentation. I had my proper documentation, including a Sports Illustrated that had been mailed to me at my new address. Apparently, with my lease agreement and the magazine, I didn’t need Lisa. But she is a trooper and got her new ID anyway.
It took two hours, but I got my Pennsylvania driver’s license.
Today I rented a car and drove to Hammonton. It felt good. I felt like a true resident of Philadelphia.