Bureaucracy Before Noon

(the title of this blog post is dedicated to my son Bubs and his current love of the Magic Tree House books.)

I had a birthday last month, and in addition to leaving me stranded in my thirties, December 2 also left me with an expired driver’s license. Which, really, filled me with great joy. Because I certainly can’t think of any way that I would rather spend my time than at the DMV.

Thankfully, Iowa has a sixty-day grace period, because renewing my driver’s license in the middle of trying to budget for Christmas and two birthdays, planning a Christmas program at work, and attempting to bring some semblance of comfort and joy, DARN IT! into my home would have just been way too much fun for one month.

So yesterday morning was the chosen day. Art came home from work early, and I bundled myself out in the -4000 degree windchills and off to the brand spankin’ new Iowa Department of Transportation building. I was armed with my handy-dandy Google maps directions, my expired license, and the checkbook.

Yeah. Google maps can eat my socks. The place is shockingly easy to find. If you don’t follow Google’s bizarre directions. That only set me back 1/2 an hour. But no worries. That 1/2 hour just meant that by the time I did reach the DOT headquarters, my van was just starting to warm up.

I was prepared for a long line and so I was pleasantly surprised that there were only two people waiting to be given an official number before me. I showed the nice lady my license, received my number and a clipboard, and headed to wait. I filled out the little questionnaire (yes, I am an organ donor; no, I do not need to register to vote; no, I am not on the terrorist watch list) and listened to a fancy mechanized voice calling numbers to various counters.

It didn’t take long before I was called, which filled me with great happiness because, really, when does that ever happen at the DMV? I should have known better. Oh, cruel fate, cruel destiny.

I gave the lady my license, my clipboard, my name and birthdate. I told her that I was a legal citizen, that I had not had my license suspended, and that I was not planning to do anything that might result in having my license suspended (unless making fun of the Iowa DOT on my blog counts– oops!). I tried to make cutesie friendly conversation with her, but she was having none of it. Heaven forbid that she should show even one ounce of personality to a number.

And then, before I could even pass my vision test, before I could get a terrible picture taken, before I could pay an exorbitant fee to pay for the fancy new DOT licensing station a fancy new chauffeur’s license, doom fell.

She asked for my social security number. I told it to her. She asked if I had my card with me. I did not.

Somehow my social security number did not match up to my name and birthdate.

(So maybe I should be on the terrorist watch list).

We had reached a standstill. I could receive no license until I brought my social security card in. She was nice, if someone without a personality can be nice. And that was that.

Except that my card was locked in a fireproof lock box in the coat closet. A lock box that we lost the key for.


You’ll be glad to know that the Together family are now proud owners of a fireproof lock box with no key and also a broken lock. But at least it’s fireproof. And at least I got my card out.

So I returned to the Department of Transportation, this time with my social security card and also a just-immunized baby in tow. I do know how to have fun, I do. And really, nothing says fun like bureaucracy on a Monday morning.

Again there was just a short line, and this time I didn’t have to fill out paperwork (since they already knew I was a terrorist), so I spent my brief wait making googie faces at Little One and praying that she would stay happy until I was done. The lady I had spoken to earlier had said that it was just a matter of changing my social security number in the system.

The lady lied.

Apparently, living in Iowa at this very moment, there are two Erin Jo Willhemina Barbarina Josephina Togethers. Both with the same birthday even. And one has my social security number, and one has the wrong social security number. And so they couldn’t change my wrong social security number to my right social security number because there’s already some creepy fictitious version of me with my right number in the system.

Let’s have a big round of applause for government accuracy, shall we?

Thankfully the new personality-free government employee believed that I was not a terrorist or an identity thief or a big fat liar, and that the issue was theirs, not mine, so she took it to her supervisor to override in the system.

“It will just take a few minutes. I’ll call you back up.”

And then, just as Little One was starting to fuss and I was plying her with graham crackers, the server for the entire Iowa Department of Transportation went down.

Suffice it to say, I still have an expired license.

And a sneaking suspicion that 2010 might just be the year I have a breakdown.

God bless America.


9 thoughts on “Bureaucracy Before Noon

  1. And this is the point in which we say to Iowa DMV, SERIOUSLY??? REALLY!! Ugh, in spite of this being at best frustrating and at worst nervous breakdown inducing, it certainly makes good bloggy fodder. (Also, your sarcasm never fails to crack me up. Too bad it didn’t work on the DMV lady).

  2. first of all, thank you. for reminding me that i need to re-register my cars πŸ™‚ i already got my new driver’s license last year (sorry)
    i can relate to your story… being so cutsie nice – please like me, please think i am fun, please get me out of here quickly! and my hubby had a similar social security issue years ago!! but i am betting this lady did not even glance twice at sweet little one. i hope your issues get resolved… and that you can drive again. and that they take you off the terrorist list. πŸ™‚

  3. Sheesh… So, at some other time, they had entered an incorrect SS for you? Weird. Are you really sure you want to eliminate a built-in alias? What if you need her some day?

  4. aghhhh! No way! What IS IT about the DMV? Do you think it’s done on purpose? I mean, like a terrorist plot to keep all moms with young children frustrated and angry and exhausted?

    The one good thing in all this is that at least we don’t need to worry about the government getting involved in our healthcare.


  5. ahh, DMV’s. i have to drink and be heavily medicated before going to one (i’m kidding…kind of).

    when i started working in h.s. my mother gave me my sister’s s.s. #, and i had it for the longest time. and now i don’t work anymore. and my sister will collect all my s.s. when she is an old lady, and i will be homeless (that is if there is any s.s. available).

    oh and here is a very important tip on how to out wit the cheap dmv cameras when taking your license pic… slide in, eyes straight ahead, and constant smile. do not break smile or glance! do not sneeze! do not breath! do not get distracted by baby in your arms (that is what happened when i took my last dmv pix). slide out holding the same position.
    and if you hold your tongue to the roof of your mouth while smiling it will lift double chin (i know your going to go find a mirror right now and try it :-), it’s true! and i’m not saying you have a double chin).

  6. I heard that some places don’t allow you to smile for you driver’s license picture. I wonder if a DMV person came had influence in that? I’m looking forward to seeing a post that it’s finally over!

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