"You've got to go there to know there." -- Zora Neale Hurston

Friday, August 12, 2016

Beaten by the Bureaucracy

     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."


Barbara said...

Unfortunately, I have had a similar experience in the not to distant past. We also had another fun time going to get the Grandson's driver's license. We had to schedule an appointment and were give a date a month away. When he got to the line there was one form we did not have so they cancelled his appointment and reschedule it again for - another month away. Come on?

Anonymous said...

I made the mistake once of going to the DMV on the last day of the year (my birthday is in early January and I had to renew my license), figuring that everyone would be busy with their New Years Eve preparations. Nope! I had to stand in line with a bunch of procrastinators who waited until the last minute to complete some requirement. Never again! Our DMV now lets you make reservations so that's what I do. I do agree with you about the people behind the counter... they are always very nice.

DJan said...

The Washington State process was quite a bit easier. When my car was broken into and all my documents were stolen, I was able to replace my driver's license because I had a passport. I do wonder what happens when you don't have it. Glad you were finally successful and hope for B to get hers soon, too. :-)

MaryAnn said...

I read another woman's description and is was ver unfriendly because of the maiden/married name. Took a lot of money and time to get a license. Good luck on the car

Carole said...

How frustrating! Our local DMV in upstate NY has two locations, and both can easily handle the flow of people. We have a similar system of getting a number and waiting until you are called.

I wonder if the strict requirements for identification are part of national regulations in light of 9/11, or if it is specific to Connecticut.

Good luck with the car registration!

Anonymous said...

I'm taking it that CT will be your final retirement destination? Otherwise, you'd have to go through all of what you went through all over again at another destination.
One of the major reasons why DH and I didn't relocate permanently to Florida was because of all you stated. The fees to register a car in Florida were in the thousands for a first time resident. So, we declined, are staying put and just doing the snowbird thing. Saved us thousands of dollars and tons of headaches.
Yet, anyone can go vote, not show an ID card and do whatever the heck they please.
Go figure!

Rian said...

It is difficult, but I think it's probably that way everywhere... and partially due to 9/11 etc. Recently DH had to renew his driver's license and the lines were long... no matter when you go. They have opened a few more places (which may help). And we had to renew our passports this summer also. The 'Middle vs Maiden name' came up. Nowadays drivers license, passports, voter's registration, etc. all have to be exactly alike. Luckily the passport person alerted us to this when we filled out the forms. My maiden name is now my middle name (?).

Laura Lee Carter said...

I know what you mean Tom! I had to wait for five hours to change my name on my driver's license when I re-married, the longest line I've ever been in! And now we are being audited by the IRS even though they quite obviously don't have the personnel to even do the job. It can certainly drive a sane person crazy...but not a liberal into a Republican, not this year!

Wisewebwoman said...

Life is easier for sure when you hang on to your birth name. Bureaucracy on its creaky old wheels.i had car registration issues when I moved provinces but after my 3rd trip back with even more paperwork I mentioned the endless trekking to reception and I was moved to the front of the line.

stephen Hayes said...

This sounds like a horror. I have no issues with the DMV, except for the hideous picture they took of me for my driver's license.

Pudge450 said...

I live in Alabama and things are somewhat more simple; however, my husband spent 5 hours last week getting a new driver's license. We recently made Alabama our legal residence since we own homes in both Mississippi and Alabama, (we moved up one notch)

Back to the license thing.... At one point the officer issuing the licenses (only one officer working the only office in the whole county) stopped what he was doing to help someone look for their social security card which was lost in the court house. Tempers were flaring.

Luckily I had dealt with a 30-year old descrepancy with a middle initial on my MS license about a year ago. I took numerous documents to support the correction. That officer never looked at any of it. She just asked, "What initial do you want?" Go figure.

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Anonymous said...

That might make a good retirement location blog. Listing of states that have the least red tape?

Connecticut sounds like Michigan about 40 years ago. Most everything is done online with the Sec of State. Frees up the offices so they can concentrate on the things that need a personal visit.
Then again, multiple offices per county certainly expedites things.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it pays to be Handicapped. Last time I renewed stuff, I did it seamlessly, However, I'm never leaving VA.

Bob Lowry said...

Arizona has some serious problems with government and the overall mindset exhibited by the majority of its citizens. Luckily, the DMV works pretty well. It takes about an hour to renew a license in person, instantly online. Since that only occurs every 10 years (5 years if you are over 65), that isn't too bad. Of course, we have lived here for over 30 years. Moving to another state may open up the same can of worms you did.

olynjyn said...

Here in PA you can do renewals online...however, several years ago mine kept being denied...luckily I knew someone who used to work at the DMV and took my information to her...she personally took it in and gave it to people she knew and got it taken care of for me...however, she said the reason my info was being denied is because of the very ancient computer system they were working with...it just wasn't compatable with all systems being used for renewals...I haven't had any problems for the last several years. Whew!

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Oh, Tom! That's just terrible!

That was one thing about moving from California to Arizona six years that wasn't so bad: the DMV here was just amazing. We were used to Connecticut-style lines in California. But when we went to get new drivers licenses and car license plates here in Arizona, it was was very pleasant surprise. We pulled up to the mobile home that houses the closest DMV -- which is in the small town of Coolidge -- and there were plenty of parking spaces and no line at all. Within 15 minutes, we had new drivers licenses (just turning in our old California licenses with no addition ID required), license plates for the car AND had been registered to vote! We were totally stunned!

Anonymous said...

For about a decade now, the conservatives, who want small government, have been calling the shots. This is what you get -- underfunded government can't properly function. Then the conservatives blame it current government. It's a vicious cycle. It started with Ronald Reagan who taught American citizens to hate government.

Janette said...

Moving to Delaware opened me up to the NEW driver's license stuff- REAL ID. In order for your license to be fully federally compliant (meaning you can use it to get on an airplane as ID), you have to have the entire line of identification.
It is MUCH worse for a woman. I had to have my original birth certificate, a notarized copy of my marriage license (the man behind the desk said EVERY marriage- if your name was changed- had to be proved) then the normal- two pieces of mail and my old license.
Don't worry Bob, next time you go to renew your license, you too will have to comply! Be ready :)
I have to laugh when people are complaining about voter ID's. Getting a driver's license is so much more difficult then voting.

Anonymous said...

As for the comment trying to blame this back on Reagan and conservatives, baloney.

If the liberals are SO positive of their superior insight, then simply agree to reduce the size and influence of the Federal govt. and shift that power BACK to the states.

Then, one could move to liberal states or conservative states according to their own philosophical views and give people the true power to choose.

What is the risk if you are so sure that you are right ? You'd get to see the poor conservatives suffer from their decisions to have fewer govt. interventions and programs, and you'd get that chance to have your high tax, high service economy like Europe then we could see who is right. Just be prepared for more experiences like the license branch example.

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