Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 14, 2013

Waiting day at the DMV

After investing an hour of my time at the Division of Motor Vehicles I am now no longer in danger of finding my driver’s license has expired.

My upcoming birthday meant my license was soon to expire, so I was forced to give myself the gift of a renewed license. I have to admit I was pretty nervous about the renewal process, especially after the horror stories I had heard from co-workers and friends, not to mention the ones I have read in the Daily Telegraph’s Letters to the Editor section. I was imaging the DMV had turned into some sort of maze, like that M.C. Escher print with all the stairways leading to nowhere.

As a teen, I underwent the same nerves everyone does when they take the written — or in my case computer screen — test for their driver’s permit, and again when you have to face the frightening driver’s test. Now that I’m older, I think those tests are probably more nerve-wracking for those who administer them rather than those being tested.

Of course, after passing my written test and driving test, it seemed to be smooth sailing. Ever since then, all I had to do was show up before my license expired, present said valid license and I was pretty much automatically issued a new one. When I moved to West Virginia, the process was similar, though I did have to prove I was living and insured within the state.

Since so much has changed and I had heard so many stories of people spending hours or having to make multiple visits just to get their license, I tried to go as prepared as I could. I read the DMV website and other non-state websites that advertised themselves as DMV “guides.” I tried to get a copy of everything I could find with identifying information on it.

Then I realized I had no idea where my birth certificate was. They always tell you to put important information like birth certificates and Social Security cards in a safe place. What I wasn’t counting on was my “safe place” being so ingenious I couldn’t find it.

After an hour of scouring my apartment I had firmly in hand paper evidence that I had in fact been born and was not a figment of my own imagination. Feeling armed and ready, I packed all of the information together and began mentally preparing myself for standing in line.

I arrived shortly before 9:30 a.m. I didn’t want to go too early out of fear that everyone else had the same idea to get there early and get things over with. Of course, I didn’t want to go too late on the off chance I would spend the entire day waiting around. I got up to the desk in a relatively short amount of time. I should have known things wouldn’t be that simple.

I thought I had clearly read the website and gotten everything I needed, but it turned out I was one document short. So, I had to turn around and head back home to try and find proof that the Social Security administration has me on file.

Heading back to the DMV, I got in line, showed proof of who I was again and then was dispatched to another line to wait. And wait. And wait some more. The comments from the people ahead of me in line seemed to indicate the line hadn’t moved in quite some time. I took my time scanning the people.

Many were adults, some frustrated over whatever business they were trying to handle and others trying to wait as patiently as possible. A lot of the others were teenagers, some excited and others looking nervous, about getting their license to drive.

It sort of made me wonder if those first few trips to the DMV had seemed longer or shorter because of the excitement over the newfound freedom I would soon be getting. It’s hard to be without a car for anyone these days when few people live within walking distance of work, school, the grocery store and all those other amenities we need. It’s hard to be a teenager without wheels in some respect because that is sort of the first sign of impending adulthood.

Of course, after feeling nostalgic for these kids I began to feel sorry for them. They had just begun a long, arduous relationship with renewing driver’s licenses, handing over car titles and making sure your registration hasn’t expired. Though my registration is now renewed, I made a mental note to double check my inspection sticker before moving up in the line.

I presented all of my documents a second time and then headed down the line for my vision test. With that over quicker than I had anticipated, I was sent to wait again. At least this time there were chairs instead of a line. It was a brief wait before I had my license in hand and was sent off again an officially licensed driver.

Well, at least for the next five years.

Kate Coil is a reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at kcoil@bdtonline.com.

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