I've been a Democrat all my life, ever since I voted for George McGovern in 1972. I believe in equal rights, equal opportunity, equal justice. I believe the government has an important role in our lives, not just in regulating the economy, protecting the environment, providing infrastructure, but also in helping the poor and disadvantaged, and in making sure we all have basic modern services, including health care.
But I must admit, sometimes it's hard to believe in the government. Like when you go to change your driver's license and car registration when you move to a new state.
I understand the state needs to make sure you are who you say you are, and that you're not registering someone else's car. But seriously, in Connecticut at least, the bureaucracy requires a list of identifying documents as long as your arm. (I found this out by calling the DMV, negotiating my way through several queues and after about 15 minutes finally talking to a real person.) If it was half as difficult to register to vote as it is to register to drive, there would be a hue and cry across the country.
I couldn't deal with all the required documents -- some I'd never heard of -- to register my car. So I started with my new license, which seemed easier. All I needed was my old driver's license, a passport, a birth certificate, my original Social Security card, and two pieces of mail to demonstrate I now live in Connecticut.
Luckily, I got a passport a couple of years ago. But I do not have a Social Security card -- somehow I'd lost it since it was issued to me a half a century ago. I was told I could use a W-2 Form instead. But I'm retired. The last W-2 Form I received was in 2003.
They finally admitted they would accept a 1099 Form. That's nice, but when I found my 1099s from last year I saw they did not have my full Social Security number -- they read xxx-xx-5555.
What to do? I would have to apply for a new Social Security card. But wait! I unearthed one 1099 that showed my full Social Security number. Whew!
So yesterday morning I drove over to my nearest DMV office, about 20 minutes away. There were cars waiting to turn into the parking lot. The lot was completely full, and people were waiting for cars to leave so they could get a spot. I inched my way into the parking lot; waited for a few minutes; crawled into the next lane, where another half dozen cars were lurking around waiting for a space.
I thought I'd try street parking. So I drove around several blocks, only to find NO PARKING signs, and a large warning NO DMV PARKING. TOW AWAY ZONE in a nearby strip mall.
I went back to the DMV parking lot. It was still overflowing, so I decided to go home and return toward the end of the day when, I thought, more people would be leaving and I could at least get a parking space.
The DMV office closes its doors at 4 p.m. I got back at 3. There were still cars waiting to enter the lot. I trailed in behind an SUV, followed around to the second row, waited a few minutes until -- I got lucky. Someone pulled out and I scooted into the space.
I walked into the DMV office and found the Information line, where you go to get your number. There were about a dozen people in the line, with one person behind the counter. Each applicant was taking two or three minutes for their query. So about half an hour later, I got my number. A119.
Take a seat. They'll call your number.
Fortunately, I'd brought a book. And about 25 pages later, I heard my number called over the louspeaker. A119. I went to one counter, presented my documents, paid my fee, and was told to go wait by the windows until my name was called. I walked around to the windows, took a seat, and waited again.
Three more lines, three more counters, three more document transfers. It took a little over two hours to get my license . . . not counting the time spent fighting for a space in the parking lot.
So this is how the government works? Providing inadequate parking. Requiring people to wait in multiple lines. Taking two-plus hours to do a job that, without the wait, would clock in at about 10 minutes.
It's enough to turn the most ardent government-supporting liberal into a right-wing conservative who yearns for a smaller government and argues for privatizing government services.
One silver lining. The people working behind the counters were very patient, very nice, very accommodating. It's the higher-up government bureaucrats who have to take the blame for designing a poor system that treats everyone with equal contempt.
And now I have to start the even-more-involved process of registering my car.
But listen to this. B went over to the DMV this morning to change her license, arriving 20 minutes before the doors opened. She found parking, but there was already a line out the door. She eventually received a number. But that's as far as she got. She was rejected because her IDs did not match up exactly. One had her maiden name, one had her maiden name included with her married name, another just had the first initial of her maiden name. She may have to go to court get her documents all in order. "I feel like I'm in a Franz Kafka novel," she said.
So wish us luck. But we'll remember, it was Kafka who wrote, "Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy."