Saturday, May 01, 2010

Adventures at the DMV

...or, How I Became a Man, and Other Cautionary Tales

(While Grammie is at the Kentucky Derby, her guest blogger is Owen, Audrey, and Celia's Auntie Sherri, a freelance writer, designer, and event planner in Florida.)

Following the theft of my wallet last weekend, one of my first priorities was to replace my driver's license. I first attempted to make an appointment online, but the earliest available date at any of the local offices was six weeks out. So I took my place in the line snaking outside the building where I first earned a driver's license 41 years (!) earlier. It actually didn't seem that long a line, but it didn't move much as we stood outside in a steady drizzling rain, collectively celebrating each small advancement -- to the steps, to the covered area, to the door, to inside, and finally to the check-in podium -- after which we got to wait some more, in chairs that lined the small room. Joy at my number being called was short-lived as I was then directed to yet another line, one of three color-coded "feeder" lines to the final step of this journey.

Unlike most of his stereotypically surly colleagues, the clerk who eventually assisted me was cheerful, but not exactly an electronics whiz with his "hunt and peck" method of typing and struggles with the scanner for all the documents I had to bring with me. As time wore on, he commented on what a "slow" day it had been for them, to which I replied with an incredulous smile, "Try telling that to everyone who has been on line all afternoon!" His surprise seemed genuine as he glanced at the coded number ticket I had been given at the podium and informed me that I'd only waited 21 minutes. "Sure," I told him, "Between check-in and you, but that doesn't include the two hours prior to that!"

I was disappointed when he took my picture, hoping that they could just somehow pull up the relatively decent 8-year-old photo on my stolen license as they had at renewal two years earlier, instead of capturing my older, "fluffier," current rain-soaked state. Although it's been at various lengths since that original 2002 shot, my hairstyle is even again close to the one on that license after my major cut for Locks of Love last December.

Unlike many in the room, I had managed to retain a somewhat positive attitude and sense of humor -- after all, I hadn't had to deal with them in person in eight years. But my patience began to wear thin as person after person was handed a license as we waited again in the seating area. When I ventured to the podium to inquire about my license's status after about 25 minutes (20 more than it was supposed to take), I was told to take a seat, like a child being sent to "time out." When my name was finally called almost 45 minutes later, I just took a quick glance and went on my way, anxious to get out of there. It wasn't until later at home that I discovered that Mr. Hunt and Peck had erroneously typed in my gender as MALE!

I hoped I could get the correction made online or by phone, as suggested by friends, but after a half hour on hold with Tallahassee, I was told I had to go back to the local office in person.

Needless to say, I have chosen to remain a man a while longer until I can find the time and energy to deal with the DMV again!

On a more serious note...

My wallet theft is proof that it can happen to anyone, no matter how careful you think you are, and I hope my experience will serve as a reminder to always stay aware of your surroundings and personal belongings. I encourage you to write CID (check ID) on all of your debit and credit cards, and thank those merchants who do check, no matter how small your purchase. "My" thief would have been stopped in the very store my wallet was taken had the cashier just asked for ID when my debit card was used there (yes, you read that right) before the thief and her cohort continued on their way. Those few seconds of inconvenience pale in comparison to the countless hours spent dealing with the aftermath of this seemingly minor incident, as one scrambles to issue fraud alerts, resolve the financial aspects, and replace everything, not to mention the emotional distress and sense of violation.

In addition to CID, avoid carrying any unnecessary items like checks or extra credit cards, and never keep your Social Security card in your wallet! Keep an eye (or even better, a hand) on your purse, and carry rather than wear your backpack in crowds -- and be sure both are securely closed. My theft occurred in a crafts store, so I thought nothing of being engaged in conversation by another shopper, who is now the prime suspect (my description of her matched that given by another victim a half hour earlier in a nearby store). I would love to see surveillance video so I could see how this actually happened -- I am still amazed and baffled.

I will continue to be friendly and trusting, but with a bit more vigilance. Mostly because I just can't bear the thought of another afternoon in line at the DMV!

1 comment:

Granny Annie said...

Very good post Sherrie. Theft of our person in any form is a violation difficult to rid from our minds.

Please tell Owen, Audrey and Celia's Grammie that I watched closely for her hat at the KD yesterday.