Today, as I do on most mornings, I made the quick three minute walk through the cool morning air to get the mail. I don’t subscribe to any magazines and very few people write me letters, so generally I’m left with a bunch of sales ads and junk mail, but today I finally received something I’d been working to get since I moved to Memphis in July. After multiple trips to the DMV (department of motor vehicles) that left me feeling frustrated and angry and had me questioning whether it was even worth it to go back, I finally received my Tennessee drivers license in the mail today, and as I made my way through the thirty-nine degree chill I felt a sense of accomplishment. I had put a lot of effort into getting this thing and it was finally made official, that I’m a resident of the city of Memphis.
Two weeks ago on a Wednesday, I went to the DMV to get my drivers license, armed with a book to keep me entertained, and the stubborn notion that I would wait as long as it took to take care of my business that day. It was necessary because the presidential election was less than a week a way and although I’m registered to vote here in Tennessee, I’m not able to vote without a state issued ID, which pardon my french, is tres stupide. Why would you be allowed to register to vote without a Tennessee ID but be required to have one to actually vote? Anyway, I needed my drivers license Wednesday because I didn’t want to have to go on Thursday and then I wouldn’t be off work again and able to get my drivers license until after the election. I woke up extra early on Wednesday, five instead of six, in order to get ready and be at the DMV well before it opened so I wouldn’t have to wait long inside. I’d planned to get there an hour before it opened and as I rolled into the dark parking lot, there was only one other car there. The driver of the other car was still sitting in the comfort of his pickup truck, sucker, so I quickly got out and made my way to the front doors, where I took my place at the very front of the line.
To my dismay the hours displayed on the door said that they opened at 8:30 instead of 8:00 like I’d thought. So before I even go inside I know I’m having to wait an hour and a half because I couldn’t do a simple google search for “DMV hours”, but rather relied on my memory which unfortunately failed me that day. I leaned against the brick exterior of the building like one of the cool kids from high school in the 60’s, and opened up my book, Barbary Shore by Norman Mailer. It wasn’t too long before Mr. early bird got out of his truck and made his way over, too close to where I was standing, and of course wanted to talk. Although I had my eyes focused on the pages of the book I could sense his presence getting closer, and although he could clearly see that I was reading, he decided to bother me anyway and commented on the weather and how we could use some rain. I nodded and grunted a sound of approval wondering to myself why this weirdo sensed that I cared about and kept track of how much rain we’ve been getting. With the formalities of the relationship stripped aside with that question apparently in his mind, he then asked me what I was needing to do at the DMV. I told him and that was followed by a series of other questions and explanations at how to better handle the situation next time to avoid multiple trips there, then thankfully somebody else arrived and he leeched onto them.
The doors finally opened at 8:30 and I made my triumphant march at the front of the line to the counter, but before I could give my reason for today’s visit, the woman at the counter yelled for anyone taking a driving test to come to the front of the line. I’d just been waiting in line for an hour and a half only to be passed over by six people who were doing something that the DMV thought deserved priority. I was not happy, but eventually it was my turn and I took my paperwork to the counter; application, birth certificate, court ordered name change, utility bill for proof of address, and my Florida driver’s license. The woman ruffled through my paperwork and then stopped when she got to my birth certificate, glancing down at it, then back up at me. This pattern continued several times and then she began shaking her head. I figured that this moron couldn’t figure out why the name on my birth certificate was different from the one on my Florida license, so I gave her a few more head shakes before I stepped in to clarify. I explained about the name change and referenced the court ordered document she was holding but she still didn’t seem to get it. Finally, she asked me who Leticia Munoz is, and after explaining that she was my wife, the lady chuckled to herself and showed me the California birth certificate bearing her name. I’d grabbed the wrong birth certificate and a wave of emotions ran through me beginning with anger and ending with devastation. I’d just spent so long waiting and it was for nothing, I felt like crying.
I couldn’t believe that happened, but everything eventually got taken care of after I went home, got my birth certificate, and then got in the back of the line back at the DMV. They gave me a temporary paper ID and told me they would mail me the official one. I was skeptical that I would be able to vote with this driver’s license that clearly looked fake, but it worked and I voted and finally today my official drivers license arrived in the mail. I tore open the envelope eager to have my new ID but was immediately disappointed as I pulled it out. The Tennessee driver’s license is the flimsiest I’ve ever seen. All of my student ID cards at colleges were thicker than this thing, even my temporary paper ID was more sturdy, and that’s not an exaggeration. I could literally bend this thing in half and break it. I guess I should be thankful that I’m done with the DMV for a while and finally have my license, but Tennessee really needs to step up their ID game, because it’s pretty pathetic.