Thank You, DMV!

I’m reeling. Absolutely astonished. My worldview has been shaken to its core.

I wanted to write about this over the weekend, but held off, afraid that the release of the first part of this story onto the internets might result in a round-the-clock patrol being stationed outside my condo, just waiting for me to leave. I mean, it’s not like the Claremont PD is too busy to stake out scofflaws such as myself. In any case, I’m glad I waited until the resolution to post, because I never would have expected the story to turn out this way.

So Friday, as I’m jetting off to Portland, I had a pretty harried arrival at the airport. The long-term parking lot was full, so I had to speed around to the daily lot to park, and then I had to check in at an unfamiliar kiosk, which wasn’t that big a deal, but I just felt all stressed and all. And so by the time I got into the first security line, the one downstairs in front of the escalator, where they check boarding passes and IDs, I was already a little keyed up.

So when the small south Asian lady said “your driver’s license is expired,” I immediately argued back. “No it isn’t,” I insisted. So she showed me the date: 08-23-06, not 08-23-08, as I’d thought. I received no renewal notice from the DMV. I’ve been driving with an expired license for two months. And, in fact, I’ve flown on that expired license at least once. I don’t have my passport with me, and I don’t have my social security card. So I had to go back to the ticket counter, get approved by the desk agent, and submit to a very thorough secondary screening. (Which, as a slight digression, involved my bags being thoroughly unpacked and checked and swiped for bomb dust. And — as if things weren’t already going well enough — the first swipe of the interior lining of my suitcase set off the alarm on the bomb dust machine. I kid you not. It was, however, a false positive, and so after some steely glares and even more thorough examination, I was allowed to go on.)

On the way home, in Portland, I fessed up to my expired driver’s license at the ticket counter, and the agent there set me up for the secondary screening again, which was, if anything, even more thorough than that in Ontario. But the most astonishing part was its efficiency. I was traveling with a colleague from ITS, and when I presented my “SSSS” boarding pass to the checker, she directed me into lane eight for my special screening. I had my very own team of two TSA agents, who put me through a puffer, which I’d never experienced before, and so I felt momentarily like I’d walked into a science fiction movie. (Of course, recent reports suggest that the puffer isn’t all that reliable, but it sure felt convincing.) After the puffer, the regular x-ray and metal detector, and after that, the swipings for bomb dust. Every single article in both my suitcase and my pink bag was swiped and checked (and this time everything came up clean). And as one of the two members of the TSA team finished with an article — shoes, laptop, laptop case, pink bag, suitcase — they handed it to me so that I could put myself back together.

The most amazing part is that I was done, redressed, repacked, and waiting for my colleague when she finished with the regular security process.

In any case, I’m flying out again on Thursday, headed to Austin for Flow, and would rather not go through such checks again, so this morning I tucked my passport into my bag, just in case. But I also had to take care of the driving part of the driver’s license, and after a phone call to the DMV yesterday, it became clear that the only way that I could get it taken care of was to actually go to the DMV. And without an appointment, at that; the only available appointments were during my classes. So I gritted my teeth and went out there this morning, first thing, right after they opened. I brought a magazine, just in case.

And I never even got a chance to pull the magazine out of my bag. I was literally — not exaggerating in the least — in and out, including checking in, filling out the form, waiting for a window, and getting the whole vision-check-thumb-print-picture-shebang taken care of, in ten minutes.

Ten minutes.

My driver’s license will arrive in the mail sometime in the next 60 days; in the meantime I have my old license, a printout that represents my renewed license, and a slightly bewildered new respect for the ways that large-scale bureaucracies really are learning some lessons about customer service.

4 thoughts on “Thank You, DMV!

  1. This expired driver’s license conundrum recently happened to a friend visiting Cold City, and it was almost the exact same phenomenon: she didn’t realise her license was expired, and only did when it was pointed out to her by security staff.

    The crucial difference was that she wasn’t put through the security ringer for essentially a glitch. Just as one’s passport, even expired, remains positive proof of one’s citizenship, one’s driver’s license, even expired, is still positive identification, which is the exact nomenclature of what is required of you at the airport.

    It is absolutely outrageous that you were put through extra security screening for a simple technocratic expiry. And that is what it was. Something insignificant and in fact arguably could be countered by a focus on the very language used by TSA and the airlines. How small-minded and ridiculous and useless. After all, the 9/11 hijackers had positive identification that was NOT expired. But, alas, this is the age we live in. Never learning, being stupid, reinventing the wheel, and paying the price.

  2. God. Really? I’ve always heard them to say “valid government-issued photo ID,” and assumed in this instance that validity required it not to be expired. After reading your comment, in a fit of being pissed off that I might well have buckled to authority when I needn’t have, I did a little googling, and came up with this post which did nothing to reassure me. And this site (for the Clear registered traveler program) suggests that while expired passports remain positive proof of ID, expired driver’s licenses don’t.

    In any event, you’ve now got me quite righteously indignant over having been grateful for such speedy and efficient invasive examination. And even more annoyed with myself for not having been annoyed sooner.

  3. Eh, I definitely tried to fly once on a license that had been expired for all of six days (and I was gonna get it renewed once I reached my destination, too!), and was stopped by security and told I couldn’t fly on it. Luckily, I happened to have my passport with me, too. But yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s a rule.

    P.S. They “puff” everyone at Dulles, and I think it’s kind of awesome. Like you said–so space age!

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