17

Honesty is not always the best policy

The DMV(dept of motor vehicles), CA loves me too much or hates me limitless, I am not sure anymore. For the uninitiated, when you go in to get your license in USA, you have to give a written and vision test and then a behind the wheel driving test to get your driving previledges. If you are not a citizen, you have to submit I-29s and passport and visa copies to show your legal presence in the US.

I gave my written exam in 2011 and took my driving test in august 2012 while at grad school in San Diego. In both the exams, I was among the rarity in my school or people I know, who passed in their first go. I had to go in twice to the office after that because they wanted some more paperwork.That is when my DMV rounds began. Mind you, the DMV is not a fun place to hang out. If you thought the Indian RTO is inconvenient and a pain in the backside, the DMV is in another league of it’s own.

I waited to get my card in the mail with bated breath. 15 days…. 30 days…. 45 days…. And then 60 days! Finally I lost my patience and gave the Sacramento office a call. And, what do I hear,? They don’t have my picture. All this, after I had asked the lady after my driving test if I was supposed to get my picture taken again. She had refused and I had confirmed twice! Yet they told me then, that I was missing a picture. Why they did not call me right away? Your guess is as good as mine. So anyways, I went to the San Diego DV office again and did the whole picture taking thing. Finally my card arrived in the mail and I heaved a sigh of relief. Until I saw my mugshot and almost choked on my breath. Don’t worry, no one will see it, they said. Every cute bartender saw it. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Most of my friends already had their driving licesncesv by that time. Most people were good to go for a couple of years. Heck, I know a few people, who just gave their written exams and received their cards in the mail in a month, totally skipping the behind the wheel exam. Me? I was supposed to drop into their office by March 2013 again. They gave me a validity of 7 months, completely on whim. None of my papers were ending in March’13. My I29 was good until Oct 2013 and my post completion employment authorization was good till Dec 2013. So, I went in again in February 2013. This time, they very generously extended my license till Dec 2013. It seemed like this time the date was based on my ending of the authorization card. I was supposed to go in with a proof of my 17 month extension of employment authorization for the next renewal which I would have received in November. Once again for recap, people with the same visa situation as me, were owners of licenses good until 2015-2016, etc. So, I went in again in last November. They took all my paperwork and told me as usual to wait for 60 days for my card and if it doesn’t arrive, to call the sacramento office. Well of course! It did not arrive in the stipulated time frame. I had to go to the Santa Ana office, show them some more paperwork, get my temporary license extended, and wait again. Siggghhhhhhh. Finally my card arrived with a due date of? 26th September 2014, my birthday. I think I shed a tear or two at the thought of going in for my 3rd renewal within 2 years of driving. But this was nothing.

Three weeks back, I received a notice from the DMV. Usually when you are close to your renwal date, they mail you a notice regarding how you can extend it. Sometimes you can be eligible for renewing it over the phone, online or sometimes you can send your paperwork in mail. If it has been 5 years, you have to pay a renewal fee of $33, and for the unlucky few, you have to give the written test again. Me, you ask? My letter stated that I had to :

1.) Take the vision test
2.) Give the written exam
3.) Take behind the wheel driving test
4.) Pay a renewal fee of $33 in the office

Peaches! This was perfection personified by the DMV. I felt so sad, so so sad, that I can’t even tell! After 2 days of fuming, I made around 3-4 online appointments at the Santa Ana office to try and sort out the mess. I spoke to a lot of people at work and asked people on facebook to figure out if it was common. Apparentlty, everyone was clueless about this and said it had been 20 years or so they had been just renewing it. Great! DMV wanted to make me jump through a million hoops for no apparent reason.

So, I started studying a little bit and went to try and wriggle out of all this. I was told their that sometimes they gave the license for 2 years, and sometimes for 5 years. They just pick people to do it. There was no way of waiving that off. I just tried to smile inspite of my crest-fallen face and decided I will attempt the test then and there. Thankfully, I passed with just one mistake.

The guy who checked my test, printed out an interim license to give me and told me that I will have my card in 2 weeks. Now, I should have just kept mum, taken the paper license, thanked him and walked out without as much as a second glance, right? But no. I had to be an epitome of honesty and I blurted out to ask why would I receive the card right away. He told me because I already had a license. I went on to say that the notice I received said that I had to take a driving test too. He asked me the booth number where I had submitted my paperwork and went to check the letter. He came back and re-printed a temporary license to say that I have to take a driving test next 😦

This makes me so so sad. I am just running around in circles like a dog chasing its tail. And then, its me and my big mouth. When will these two learn to keep quiet?

ETA on 09/17: I passed my driving exam! Tiny update here.