Five years ago, I went to our local driver’s license bureau to renew my license. It didn’t take long; I handed in my old license, got a new picture taken, read a line of letters, let them know my new address and signed away. Within minutes, I was back out the door, renewed license tucked in my purse. My previous license served as documentation since I had shown my birth certificate and social security card the first time I got my license.
A few months ago, in December, I realized that things had changed drastically. It was time to renew so I walked in to the office armed with nothing more than my previous license, just as I had done every other time. Before I left the office, I became aware that my driver’s license had nothing to do with my being capable of driving. My driver’s license had become a way for my government to track my every move.
The first requirement in the renewal process was signing a document stating that in the event of a national draft, I agree to be subject to that draft. If I don’t agree, no license. Now I know the chance of a 51-year old woman getting drafted is slim. But why did I have to agree to that in order to drive?
Signed document in hand, I waited for my turn at the counter. When I was called, I stepped up and handed the clerk my old driver’s license. I was then asked for my birth certificate and social security card. I explained to the clerk that I had been in there several times before and they had that information on record.
Silly me. The laws had been changed and now I was required to provide those documents again. In addition, I was told that I could no longer just tell them my new address, but I had to prove where I lived by providing two bills that were addressed to me at my address. Trying to think on the spot, I told the clerk I didn’t know if I had two bills under my name. She asked me if I was married. I told her yes, and she said that if the bills were under my husband’s name, I had to bring in a copy of my marriage license!
I was more than a little infuriated since the bureau is in another town from where I live and they are only open six days a month. Nevertheless, I went back home, licenseless. It seemed to me that a driver’s license was no longer proof of ability to drive, but was rather a way of making sure that I lived where I said I lived and was married to whom I said I was married.
In the meantime, before I was able to get back to the DL office, daughter Gnome had to renew her license as well. They gave her the same runaround, telling her that she had to bring proof of where she lived. She tried to explain that all her mail goes to her P.O. box, since she gets packages of varying sizes that don’t often fit in her mailbox. Not acceptable, they said. She had to bring in something that had come to her in the mail with her name and address on it. Remembering that maybe some Amazon packages had come to her at her home, rather than her P.O. box, she finally found some mail with her name and address and returned to the license office.
Not acceptable again. Apparently things coming from Amazon don’t count as mail. (Should we have to pay shipping costs then?) By this time I was even more furious, now on her behalf. How does having a statement from Amazon mean that my daughter is any less of a driver? Oh, that’s right. The new driver’s license has nothing to do with your ability to drive.
The next time I went to the license office, I was well armed. I didn’t want to make another trip, or have to try to get there on one of the six days that they were open. I remembered that my cell phone bill is in my name, even though I do all transactions online. I simply printed out a paper copy of the bill that clearly had my name and address on it. I also subscribe to a church video club for kids and that bill had my name on it. On a whim, before I left the house, I decided to bring a third item with my name on it—my bank statement. It wasn’t a bill and I was sure they wouldn’t accept it, so I brought it only as a backup. I grabbed my birth certificate and social security card and headed out.
The male clerk looked at my cell phone bill and my video bill. He accepted the video bill without question. I had my folder open and he saw its contents. “Is that your bank statement?” he asked.
“Yes, it is.”
“Can I see that please?”
“Don’t you only need two proofs of address?”
“Yes, but I’d rather see your bank statement.”
“I am sure you would, but I already gave you two proofs of address.”
“I need your bank statement because I can’t accept your cell phone bill as a bill.”
“I get a bill every month and it has my name and address on it.”
“I can’t accept cell phone bills as a bill. I want your bank statement. I promise I won’t scan vital information.”
Reluctantly, I handed over my bank information to my government. They needed that as proof that I can drive. I was seething, but there was more to come.
“I hate to say this, but I can’t accept your birth certificate.”
Incredulous, I protested. “It’s got my name on it, date of birth, parental information, my footprints, and it’s notarized. What can possibly be wrong with my birth certificate?”
“It was issued by a private hospital that is not accepted by the government. I need one that was approved by the State of Utah.” The government. Of course. Only the state can prove that I am who I say I am. He gave me a list of numbers where I can call to have my Utah-approved birth certificate sent to me.
Icing on the cake, I tell ya. I came home, found a very small, very tattered, very faint government issued birth certificate from my home state. I haven’t taken it back there yet. I want to wait until I am much calmer, and have scenarios planned as to how I will calmly react if this one gets denied too.
I vented to my family about the lack of driving ability needed to renew one’s driver’s license. It’s all about having your papers. But the insanity isn’t restricted to our driver’s license bureau.
Our local UPS will no longer mail a package for you without seeing your “driver’s license.” Only people who can drive, can mail, right?
Our local college library requires a driver’s license and proof of address (here we go again) in order to get a library card. Only good drivers should be allowed to read. (Hey wait, shouldn’t the driver’s license be proof of address since you have to submit two forms of address in order to get your license? Oh, there I go, using logic again.)
After listening to me repeatedly vent about the situation, daughter Em called me over the weekend. “Do you want to hear another driver’s license horror story?” she asked.
Of course I did.
One of Em’s friends from our home state recently went to go get her driver’s license renewed. She was told by the clerk that her photo was unacceptable. Why?
“Because we can’t see your eyebrows. Your eyebrows have to be clearly visible in the photo.”
Seriously? She was told that she would have to hold her bangs back away from her forehead while her photo was being taken so that her eyebrows would show. How she kept from laughing hysterically at the clerk, I don’t know.
I can see it now. “Police were able to apprehend the suspect by comparing his eyebrows to the photo of his eyebrows on file at the driver’s license bureau.”
Don’t think Big Brother is watching you?
Ask the people of Ogden, Utah.