Adventures at the DMV

This is the first time in nine years that I had to renew my driver’s license in person. The previous time I was able to do it online, but in Colorado, you can only renew online every renewal period, so I had to find a DMV office (next county over) and head out.

I don’t know why I was nervous other than simply having to deal with officialdom. When it comes to bureaucracy, nothing is ever simple. I was also worried about the eye test. I think I see fine, but what if they didn’t think so? I don’t like making appointments in the winter. I prefer being able to drive when it is my choice; i.e.: when the sun is shining and the streets are completely dry, and I didn’t want to have to worry about making appointments to get new eyeglasses this winter.

The first part of the eye test went well. They stopped me even before I finished reading the appropriate line of letters, so I presume I did okay. The next part, testing peripheral vision, was a problem — not the seeing part, the trying-to-figure-out-which-is-my-right-and-left part. So I raised my hand to indicate which side the light was on. Saved me from inadvertently blurting out the wrong direction.

Then, during what should have been the easiest segment of the process — the fingerprinting — things got strange, so strange, almost everyone in the office had to get involved. First, the machine didn’t read my print. Hands too dry, apparently, because after they wet my finger, the machine worked. But the print didn’t match the print they have on file. After a somewhat lengthy consultation, they decided the angle of the print was different this time. Or it could be just the excuse they used to enable them to override the system. The last time they took my print was a mere month after Jeff died, and I am not at all the same person I was back than. Fingerprints don’t change, or so they say. But grief changes our bodies in so many ways, so why not the fingertips, too?

They had asked me if I wanted to list an emergency contact, and I said no, but after she’d finished the “paperwork” and I’d signed the electronic pad, I decided I should add a contact. After all, if I end up dead in a ditch, someone somewhere should be told. So now another person in the office had to get involved because all the people I’d already corralled said it wasn’t possible to reopen my file — but obviously it was possible, because this new person did.

Then the coup de grâce — my photo. No glasses, no coat, no hat, no teeth. (No teeth showing, that is.) The photo is not necessarily supposed to look like us so that any person can check our ID; it’s supposed to look like a machine replica of us for easy identification by face recognition software. And the photo is in black and white. The pretty twenty-something photographer commiserated with the awful photo, then added, “But no one should have to look at it.” To be honest, I don’t know what she meant. That I was too old to have to show my ID to buy liquor or cigarettes? (Neither of which I buy anyway.) That if I drive correctly I won’t be stopped? That I looked like such a homebody I wouldn’t need to show my ID to TSA folk?

Doesn’t matter what she meant. I’m stuck with that photo for the next five years.

But, on a more positive note, I don’t have to go back to renew my license for another five years! Yay!

When I got home, being primed for dealing with officials, I went to the local Courthouse to renew my license plates. So now I’m good to go for another year.

Watch out, world. Here I come! Figuratively speaking, that is. I’m not planning on going anywhere any time soon.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.