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My Morning at the DMV

(note: this post was written before the shootings at a Pittsburgh synagogue this morning)

I had to renew my driver’s license and decided to upgrade to the new version that acts as a sort of domestic passport, because Mom said I should. That meant going to the Department of Motor Vehicles in person. My last visit, ten years ago, wasn’t too bad, so I assumed things would be the same this time and didn’t try too hard to get there before the place opened. Bad idea.

Just as I arrived, the doors opened and a long line of people was walking in. I then spent a half an hour circling the parking lot, trying to find an open spot. Some people are good at following random walkers, stalking them to their cars, and intimidating other drivers away. I am not one of those people. I finally lucked into a free spot, seconds before I was ready to give up. Once inside the building I was sent to my first line of the day. This was the concierge line, where we waited to be told which line to wait on.

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“I don’t wait on lines, buster.”

Then I stood on a longer line, and had my paperwork checked and was given a ticket that specified what I was there for and gave me a number. A very high number. Once I left the line, I found a spot on the wooden benches with everyone else, to sit and wait. These benches were clearly chosen by a local chiropractor, hoping to make a lot of money out of people leaving the DMV in pain. I tried to run through all of my neck and shoulder stretches, without banging into people on either side of me, but it didn’t help. I was in an enormous amount of pain, and I’d forgotten to bring a book to read for distraction, so I watched the silent recipe videos on the screen in front of me, and watched the ticket numbers slowly rise. An hour and a half later, or so, I was called to one of the clerk’s windows, to do my vision test, and have my paperwork checked over (there was a scare when the clerk thought my birth certificate might not be valid because there was a scrap missing from the corner of the paper, but he checked with his manager and it was fine). Then there was the identification photo. For some reason they don’t want the pictures taken with glasses on, even though I am close to blind without my glasses. It’s possible that I was looking in the direction of the camera when the picture was taken, but I have no idea.

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“Am I facing the right direction?”

Then I was sent back to the benches to wait to be called again. This wait was more like half an hour, not too bad, and my papers were rechecked, and things were typed into the computer. I asked why my papers had to be checked so many times and the second clerk said, protocol, and shrugged. And then I paid, and was given a temporary license, and I was, finally, able to leave.

The relief of walking out of the building was enormous. I felt like I’d been in there for days instead of just a few hours. As soon as I got to the car, as a reward, I decided to drive around the corner to Trader Joe’s, and bought one of every winter squash they had. That almost made the trip seem worth it. But by the time I got home I was barely able to sit up long enough to eat my lunch. The pain in my neck and back was excruciating and the resulting nap was long.

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Winter Squashapalooza!

Next task, renewing my passport, or actually, getting an entirely new passport, because the one I have is from age fifteen and has never been renewed because I haven’t been out of the country since that long ago trip to Paris and London. But I need more rest before I move on to that task, and I’d also like to see how the first picture came out, and see if there’s anything I can do to look less like a drunk person when I can’t wear my glasses.

I’m doing all of this because I have the time, while I don’t have an internship, and because I feel like I should be prepared, either for the lovely possibility that I might someday go on a vacation again, or for the less lovely possibility that my country is starting to resemble pre-holocaust Germany and I will need to be able to leave in a hurry. I don’t really believe that that’s going to happen, yet, but it’s a fear, and having a fresh passport would reduce some of the underlying anxiety.

The problem, though, is that dogs don’t get passports. Dogs can be put into quarantine before being allowed to enter certain countries, and they are often put in the cargo hold instead of in the airplane itself, where they belong. I can’t imagine going anywhere that won’t treat my dogs like the worthwhile people they are.

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They are refusing to take their passport photos, in protest.

So, more likely than not, I will be staying home. And if the world crashes down around me, I will at least have two forms of I.D., and the dogs, and a huge stash of winter squash to keep me company. The dogs will be thrilled!

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They will be thrilled, when they wake up.

 

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

97 responses »

  1. I hope you will be able to go on a lovely vacation and not have to worry. I hope you get relief from the physical pain you are exeriencing soon! Hugs to you and your pups!

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  2. Too funny with their passport picture refusal shots….. We stay home with our gal and wait……

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  3. CA allows one to make an appointment. Cuts down the wait time. Need Soc Sec card plus either valid passport or birth certificate. I need to get it done.

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  4. Oh my gosh how complicated do they have to make it?? After today, for security I guess.

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  5. Sorry you had so many obstacles hope you have a good getaway.

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  6. I love the joint protest. Right on, girls!

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  7. I can relate to the bafflement/discomfort of having photos taken without glasses. I was prepared for that when I renewed my license this last time, but feel so blind and vulnerable when I can’t see.

    I think it’s a good idea to have a valid passport. If need be, we can always drive with our furry friends across the northern or southern borders.

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  8. You have been in my thoughts today.

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  9. I found out at my last driver’s license renewal that someone at the Texas DMV decided to mark me as a non-US citizen in 2006 because they didn’t have my birth certificate on file. I was never notified to provide my birth certificate, and it was a massive disaster. Fortunately, I managed to get everything in place to get the renewal done, but I was furious. I understand why people get frustrated with bureaucracy a lot more now!

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  10. My peep had to do that last week. The lines weren’t that bad. Didn’t get any winter squash.

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  11. If you ever have to run for the border come to Canada … you’re always welcome here! Although you might prefer the weather in Mexico … that’s on my list of places to run to, personally … I’d plan on driving right through the USA if at all possible to get there the way things are going these days. Maybe it will be different in a couple of years for Americans … I’d like to say it can’t get worse but by now we all know anything can happen. In the meantime, enjoy your squash bounty and practice your driving skills! 😉

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  12. I do enjoy your blog but I was just more relieved than anything else to see your post today. I wasn’t sure where you lived and with the news of the shooting … Well I’m glad you’re safe.

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  13. Max has traveled some 6,000 miles in cargo. It’s not so bad. The DMV routine is always a test of one’s patience but, again, that’s just life. I hope your photo came out OK. My photo makes me look like your basic axe murderer…on a bad hair day.

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  14. Your dogs are really lovely and I am pretty sure they wouldn’t want to be left behind when you go on a long trip.

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  15. Sorry you had a frustrating morning at the DMV. I’ve spent a lot of time there in the last few years taking kids to get permits and licenses. Not all kids have to take the driving test, but my daughter had to…multiple times! She would get say number 133. Then they would call out…131, 140, 564, etc, so you never really knew how long you would be there.
    My husband and daughter can’t focus at all without their glasses on, that would be kind of frustrating to take your picture without your glasses. I don’t exactly get the purpose of taking a pic with no glasses.
    Today is another terrible day for America. It is scary that we see our country as starting to resemble pre- Holocaust Germany. I wish that wasn’t true but it is. The amount of hate in our country is truly disturbing.
    Thankful to have a dog(you have 2!) to make our journey here a little easier.

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  16. Are you in Pittsburgh? When I first saw the news, I couldn’t believe it. I’m sad for our country.

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  17. I love how you celebrate..with squash!

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  18. We can renew our licence by post here, and much of the process is also available online.
    Passports are the same, unless you need one urgently. There are almost no places left where we have to actually attend to get those done, due to centralisation of all the agencies.
    I liked how you used the photos to illustrate the points. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  19. Renewing a driver licence is much the same here. Waiting in line for a number and then waiting to be called. Paperwork, a photograph, and then after what seems an eternity, I have a shiny new card to carry in my wallet.
    I would have thought we’d be able to have a digital version for a digital wallet.

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  20. You could always save one (or more) squashes to launch with a catapult (or water balloon launcher??) if the world does indeed crash down around you. Good way to squash the bad guys 🙂

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  21. Ha! Or dress the dogs up like BORDER collies and waltz right across the border of your choice. it will look only natural 🙂

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  22. What an ordeal. I’m sorry to learn about yet another shooting

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  23. ALWAYS bring a book! Actually, I never go anywhere without a notebook so I can write while I wait. I even carry one when I have no reasonable expectation of waiting for anything. I feel so bad about your back and neck problems! I hope you find some relief from them. This post resonated with me, because my driver’s licence expires next month and my husband tells me I must mail it in NOW, and I need the eye test part filled out. However, we live in a small village and anytime we have gone to the DMV, waiting has not been a problem. I may go there just for the sake of making a blog post about it, although, alas, I have no adorable doggies to brighten things up.

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  24. I know the pain of uncomfortable chairs in waiting rooms!!

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  25. Wonderful Rachel. Maggie has her passport and her jabs are all up straight, but we’ve never used it.

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  26. Ah…the DMV, the great equalizer of humanity where everyone is treated horribly and made to endure agony. The news of yet another mass shooting is heartbreaking. What is wrong with the country, with humanity in general? 💔

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  27. The sadness is, indeed, everywhere. I thought of you and your family, too. Our sympathies to you, your family, the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and around the world which will mourn yet another assault against them.
    I am so very sorry.

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  28. I live 30+ miles from where the tragic shooting happened in Pittsburgh yesterday. Sorry you had to go through that stuff just for a passport. Does this mean you have a “real” id? Are the dogs still protesting? My thoughts and prayers are with the families of loved ones and friends and the Jewish community.

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  29. Our DMVs allow people to make appointments. I was out of there ten minutes after my scheduled appointment time. Whole time there was about 40 minutes – that includes standing in line for “pre-check” Appointments are so worth it. While I was waiting I heard a DMV employee tell someone it would be AT LEAST a three hour wait! UGH!

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  30. ‘I can’t imagine going anywhere that won’t treat my dogs like the worthwhile people they are’. I love that sentence.

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  31. Do get on your passport requirements ASAP. My cousin, who has a dual citizenship (she’s half Canadian and was born in Canada, but brought to the USA at less than 6 months old) had a dickens of a time trying to get hers. I have a current one and I will not let it lapse, because like you, I’d like to be prepared if things keep getting worse. Also another thing you can do is get your dogs certified as therapy dogs. Then they can ride in the plane with you. My therapist has offered to do the paperwork for Ms. Hunydog in the event that I ever want to fly somewhere and take her along (I’ll be responsible and make sure her shots are up to date and all of course). These are scary times. And now you know, NEVER go to the DMV without a book (or two), or some knitting or hand crafts to do, or a puzzle book. Those lines are long and the place is inherently BORING. My sympathies! 🙂

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    • I can see Ellie as a therapy dog, but no responsible person would sign off on Cricket in that role. Maybe Ellie could be Cricket’s official therapy dog.

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    • I know what your cousin went through. This summer, I applied through the passport office at our local library. Then I got a letter from the Passport Office saying my birth certificate wasn’t usable because my parents’ names weren’t on the back! If I had known that was a requirement, I would have written them in. The person at the Passport office should’ve known that. They gave me a specified number of months to get a new passport (too much trouble). If they didn’t receive it, they were going to send me back my birth certificate. When I get it, I’ll write in my parents’ names and try again. Red tape is so frustrating. That birth certificate has the state seal on it. There’s nothing wrong with it.

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  32. Ah yes, the good old DMV. I’m already dreading next December (2019) when I have to go. I do like your rewarding yourself with a trip to Trader Joe’s. TJ’s tends to cure any ailment!

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  33. Bureaucracy sucks doesnt it! Glad you survived the ordeal

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  34. I had to go to the Social Security office last week. I signed in and got a paper that had a number on it, not too high, okay, good. I looked at the screens that were counting down and realized that they all had a letter and a number and I only had a number. I whispered to my husband, “how come they have letters?” No idea. It turned out that it was because I had an appointment – they called ME in by name, felt so special! Appointments, great idea. Also, you will not have to flee the country. Stop watching CNN. 🙂

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  35. I can empathise with your feelings.

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  36. You have the cutest dogs in the world! Hope everything is okay. 🙂

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  37. One of the biggest and best surprises when I moved from NYC to Upstate New York was the DVM offices. Up here the workers are friendly and helpful and they consider a line of 5 people a “rush.”

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  38. The DMV is always a challenge!

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  39. Keep going, Rachel! Life’s never easy, but it’s worth a battle or two, isn’t it? It has given you good company and a sturdy pen to make it.

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  40. Oddly enough last week I read a story on face book about a couple whose dog has a passport. I thought that odd but it was not in the US and they seemed to travel in all sorts of unusual countries. I still want to look it up and see what it is.

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  41. If I did not know better, I would have firmly believed you were living in my country. Your DMV sounds exactly like our department offices for licenses and vehicle matters. I must admit that I have become a bit wise to their ways and never go there when they open, but maybe an hour or so before they close. Once you are in, and they have started on your paperwork, they have to finish your application for the day. And since they want to go home as well, they do seem to work a lot faster.
    As for the passport, mine will need to be extended or updated, sometime, luckily not just yet.
    And I really do not like my doggie traveling in the cargo either. I do know of some dogs and some airlines that let them travel in the cabin. If I recall correctly, Lufthansa was one of the airlines. 🙂

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  42. Lol re looking in right direction of camera! I used to swim up to the wrong friends in swimming pools. Laser surgery sorted me 🙂

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  43. Rachel, if Dante was around today, his first level of hell might be waiting at the DMV. Or, maybe Jean Paul Sartre’s “No Exit,” would be sited at the DMV. Getting a Passport seems much easier by comparison. Keith

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  44. Those lines sound terrible, and the physical pain in the neck even worse. I can’t help but hope that you don’t go anywhere where they don’t treat dogs well. Though you might choose to find a good babysitter or a nice hotel for animals. Sorry you had to go through that.

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  45. Sounds like your day was pretty eventful…
    I hope if you ever do travel you get to have your dogs with you…

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  46. If you get the kindle app on your cell phone you will always have books. As for flying, if your dogs are small enough to fit in a carrier that fits under the seat they can go as a carry-on, though there may be an extra fee for that.

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