The Dreaded DMV
I’d been thinking, before I start traveling again, that I should go ahead and change over my New York driver’s license to New Mexico.
I was hesitant to do it because (A) my NY license was good for one more year, (B) it was hard to get, and (C) I’m pretty certain that I don’t want to live in New Mexico. But it’s where I am at the moment, so I decided to do it.
I mentioned to some friends that I was planning to switch over. One of them replied, “Then, you’d better be prepared with all your paperwork.”
She continued, “I just had to renew my license last month. Before you go, better look online to see what you need to take.”
The New Mexico DMV, called the MVD out here, has a downloadable list of things that they can accept. It’s arranged into three lists. You need two items from List A (Documents that Establish Proof of Identity and Age), one item from List B (Documents that Establish Proof of Identification Number), and two items from List C (Documents that Establish Proof of NM Residency).
Oh, I miss the good old days. The days when I could move to a different state, roll up to the DMV with my valid driver’s license, take the eye test, pay the fee, have my photo taken, and walk out with my new license half an hour later.
Those days are long gone. Even back in 2006, when I first got a New York driver’s license, they required a long paper trail. In New York, they assigned a “points” system to the paperwork and you had to bring in items that totaled up to six points. I never understood their logic.
That was eleven years ago. I guess the rest of the country is catching up to New York now and is requiring more “vetting.”
I carefully followed the instructions on the New Mexico MVD’s website and compiled the required paperwork, but when I went to the MVD Express, a satellite location that charges a fee for the convenience of not having to go to actual MVD, the young man who was checking people in showed me that my tax form only had the last four digits of my Social Security Number on it.
Back to the drawing board. It took awhile, but I finally dug out an old W2 that had the whole number. Back to the MVD Express again.
This time, a young lady checked me in. All the paperwork was correct. I sat down to wait my turn. Ahead of me was a lady, trying to renew her license plate.
“Your plate is 542NYC, right?” One of the clerks asked her.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“This is a vanity plate, right?”
“A vanity plate. A special license plate that you chose.”
“No, it’s just the plate that they assigned me.”
“Well, it’s a vanity plate. You’re paying extra for it.”
“I’m from Ohio. Why would I want a plate that says ‘NYC’? The car is a 2004 and I’ve had the plate since then. You mean I’ve been paying extra all these years for a plate I didn’t choose?”
The poor woman was asking about getting a refund when my name was called. “Miss Sally, come over here and let’s get your photo.”
I followed the clerk to the end of the counter, where I perched on a blue chair in front of a blue wall. She positioned the camera and tapped on the computer.
Smile frozen in place, I sat waiting while nothing happened. She tippity-tapped some more. Still nothing. She rebooted. Nothing. She called her colleague over. This woman had a cell phone to one ear.
“George says the system is down,” she announced. “At all our locations.”
A groan rose in the office. Anyone waiting to apply for any kind of ID was out of luck. I was given back my NY driver’s license, plus copies of my paperwork. They assigned me an appointment time for the following day.
The next day, I arrived right on time, but had to cool my heels for twenty minutes before they could take me. This time, though, there were no glitches. The camera worked, I answered their nine questions, and I walked out, 45 minutes later, with a hole punched in my NY license and a piece of paper that is my temporary NM license.
As I left, the clerk chirped. “Welcome to New Mexico.”
For the the third time, I thought. I smiled as I kept walking.