Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cattle Call

In the theatrical world, auditions are known as cattle calls, but that's what I felt like yesterday when I went to get my driver's license renewed at the East Bay location in south Provo. I dreaded waiting in long lines and sitting there with nothing to do while the process moved like a herd of snails on parade, so I came prepared with a sandwich and a book.

However, the line was surprisingly short and I went happily to the first window where the process begins. My good mood didn't last long. I'd forgotten my social security card - not my number, but the card that proves it's my number. Never mind that the number is in my head, on the medicare card in my possession, and I had to have it to get the passport I presented to them, but no, that wasn't enough. If I couldn't find the actual card itself, the clerk told me with a smile (am I paranoid or did I detect a certain sense of power-mad glee in it?) that I could get a replacement at some other government office some distance away where I would be privileged to stand in another line.

No thanks. It was mid-afternoon and I knew that by the time I went home and found the card, I'd come back to this office and find longer lines. It was risky since the office buttons up precisely at 4 p.m. No exceptions, no mercy.

Though I didn't remember exactly where the card was, I knew sort of where I might have put it in my desk, so I went home to west Provo, found it, and drove back to the driver license office. There's only one Window #1 where the process starts. Other people at windows 2, 3 and 4 weren't that busy because people weren't funneling through Window #1 very quickly. (I'm reaching for a dysfunctional alimentary canal metaphor here that would apply to dealing with government institutions but it isn't working so I'll skip it.)

In its infinite wisdom, the Utah Legislature changed the law so new and renewal licensees have to show four forms of identification. I brought my passport, birth certificate, proof that we paid property taxes in Utah County this year, copies of paid utility bills, and my driver's license. In lieu of the social security card I could have brought a W-2 form, but I don't work, so I don't get those anymore. Faxed or photocopied documents are unacceptable, and if your name is different than the last time you got a license, the law says you have to have documentation for the change. We have government assurance that images of all these documents will be kept in a "secure database."

Now if the Utah Legislature doesn't think I am who I say I am with proof from three documents and 35 years of paying taxes in this state, what makes them think four will be stronger proof? And how do I know that database is really secure? I'm just asking. If the Legislature wants to do something useful, they could put the social security office, the passport office, and the driver license office all in the same vicinity, next to the city office and the county courthouse. With drink dispensers.

As I left those hallowed precincts, was it my imagination or did I really hear sounds of mooing from the 20 people still standing in line?

Anyway, I medicated with chocolate as soon as I got home and I'm fine now. My new license should be here in time for my birthday next week.


jww said...

I'd heard that getting a license in NY was awful, and it was, but not nearly that bad. FOUR forms of ID. That is astounding. (Our lines WERE pretty long; lots of waiting. I had a 5-year-old with me at the time, so we had a bag of books and everything, prepared for a long haul. I'm lucky he's so patient.)

Janet Kay Jensen said...

I had the same experience - but I had received the MOST confusing document prior to renewal, so I had everything in my repertoire at hand. So ridiculous for RENEWAL. We are in the system. They know where we live. They know way too much about us. I can see that for the FIRST driver's license, but please . . . . . this is over the top. And you have to wait for the thing to arrive in the mail. Last time it was made on the spot. We are going downhill fast. It's a conspiracy.