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No Driver's License for You

A driver's license is, in the United States, a symbol of our entrance into adulthood. It is our bas and bar mitzvah of sorts as many other civil or religious ceremonial passages into a new sense of ourselves in our community.

Some rites are religious, but this one is the province of the state in which we live--there is no national driver's license. We have joined the realm of the adults and now have access to the family car or we can buy our own with all that money we snagged from family celebrations of our birth. It's wonderful.

Sailing into full adulthood, years later, we find ourselves needing to renew that wonderful bit of identity protection and it's down to the local DMV. A brochure has come to our home to tell us exactly what will be required to prove we are who we say we are. A new license will not be provided without such proof. The list is longer than you might imagine and you proceed to collect the bits of evidence you need, never for a moment thinking something would not be accepted.

But one little thing does matter enormously and you will not know this until a dour-faced woman looks down at it, up at you and then down again as she says, "No license for you. You have a middle initial on your Social Security Card and that's not on your birth certificate."

What? Years ago, after receiving a middle name at a religious ceremony and beginning to use the first letter of it, you got that card and put that initial on it as your official government ID. But your birth certificate doesn't have that middle initial and the woman points to this. She will hear no arguments for accepting that you are who you say you are. The card doesn't match the certificate and that's that. Ah, ha, you must be a fraud!

A Social Security replacement card is issued after some distress and you have it, until you can't find it and it's time to renew your license. What will happen now? Ok, you go to a different DMV office.

There, you approach the desk with some trepidation with all your documents (yes, an excess of documents) in hand. The woman looks at what you have, looks at the SS card and says, "Oh, no, don't use this. It has a middle initial and your birth certificate doesn't have one. Use your passport instead," and she passes you on to get your license. As simple as that, she made a smart choice and you get your license renewed.

But, as you sit waiting for your photo to be taken, your credit card to be scanned and your form to be examined yet again, small talk begins. Small talk always begins when there's any level of anxiety. It's one way we seek comfort from strangers.

"My mother is 86 and she's here," the woman begins. "She's right over there in the special license section." Her mother is 86 and getting her license renewed?

"No, she doesn't drive. She stopped driving years ago, but her bank said she has to have a photo ID driver's license because they're concerned she may be money laundering."

This is more than ludicrous. The woman deposits a check for $77 a month and she may be money laundering? I know that the Federal requirement is anything $10K and over so $77 a month is laughable. Where did that bank official go to school or did they?

The elderly woman, separated from her daughter by the DMV because they both need something different, sits stoically. She's learned in her life that you can't fight bureaucracy that is either deeply entrenched or too stupid to know when they're being stupid.

She survived the years after the Depression, WWII and all the ups and downs of the economy since then. The woman knows she needs to sit and do what they want. There is no use trying to convince them she's not money laundering.

A small mistake by someone reading handwriting on a form, too, almost stopped a neighbor's daughter from renewing her passport. The problem arose when her mother's maiden name had been misspelled on her birth certificate. "I'll take it this time," the woman said, "but you'd better take your mom, oh, by the way, is she still with us? Take her to the health department to get that fixed. May not cause a problem now, but, in the future when she can't accompany you, it could cause a problem."

Another woman saw a need to be less-than-rigid in her role of issuing an important document after she'd seen a number of supporting documents for the woman's passport. It wasn't caprice, but understanding.

Secure in the belief that all your official records are correct? You might want to check. I stumbled over an error in a valuable database and had to supply, again, all type of documentation to get it fixed. In the meantime, someone could have wrecked my credit.

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