The process of procuring a driver’s license in my new state of residence did not start well. Having lived in 3 states in the past 3 years, we expected it to be like the others – you surrender your current license and the new state happily accepts you and gives you a new one as long as you can recite the little letters on the screen of the eye test machine. Easy-peasy. Well, not so in the Hoosier State.
Shortly after our arrival in Indiana, we happened upon a state fair booth staffed by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles boasting the claim “Answering All Your Driving Questions.” The only pressing driving question I had was “How do I get myself a new Indiana license so I can surrender the horrible one they gave me in Iowa last year? You know, the one where I look like I’m only minutes away from blowing up my meth lab?” - (Tip - never use the words ‘meth lab’ in a joking manner in the presence of law officers. I was nearly arrested by the looming Troopers until I unsheathed the photo in question from my wallet and upon viewing my mug-shot, they nodded in sympathetic agreement.)
“It’s simple ma’am. You will just need to report to a BMV branch with necessary documents and take the written exam. If you are able to pass the exam and you have the appropriate documents, you will be issued a driver’s license for the state of Indiana.”
“I have to take the what? Why? I haven’t taken a driver’s exam in 24 years. How am I supposed to pass it now when I barely passed it then? In Iowa and Pennsylvania and every other state they just hand it over.”
“Fraud ma’am. We’re working to prevent fraud. Pennsylvania might not care about fraud but we do. It's just been too easy for illegal foreigners to get a driver's license. We just can’t have that.”
“So taking the driver’s exam will prevent illegal foreigners from driving?”
“That’s our hope ma’am. Here ma’am,” She said handing me a copy of the Indiana Driver’s Manual. “You’d better take this.”
Though I've given it a lot of thought, I am still totally unable to understand how forcing legal drivers from other states begrudgingly transplanted to the Hoosier State is going to put an end to illegal aliens procuring drivers licenses. But my brief exchange with some of the Indiana BMV’s finest quickly demonstrated that logic was not at play here. The Turk however, took it waaay harder than I.
“That is it. We move. I am not taking exam. Why I take exam? No one else need exam? Why Indiana? Are so many people dying to live here? No! Nobody want to move here. We all come here because we have to!”
At least the BMV girl had the good sense not to shove a Driver’s Manual in the face of a hostile foreigner.
After putting it off for as long as I could, hoping for divine intervention to occur and get me out of taking the driver’s exam, I eventually gave up and set the date last week. I assumed that logic would prevail on the driver’s exam and as I am generally a rather logical woman and dare I say, since entering motherhood, an overly cautious driver, I felt I would have little difficulty with the exam.
I took a practice exam online to familiarize myself with the testing style. Out of 10 questions, I got 4 right. I sucked. In 24 years of driving I’d only had 3 violations (If we don’t count run-ins with the Philadelphia Parking Authority and I’m not counting those as I was always an innocent victim in all of those many, many incidents. I mean come on, if the Philly Parking Authority was a worthwhile organization, would they have their own reality show? No, they are simply the trashy equivalent of the Kardashians in the US Parking Authority world! But I digress.) but according to the online sample test, I was clearly not fit to drive. Immediately I cracked open the manual. It was time to study.
The night before my exam I was a wreck. I barely slept. It was like being 16 all over again awaiting my turn at the wheel to gain my freedom and the right to blast my Guns and Roses as I cruised the town square. Back then failure meant I’d be relegated to a life in the passenger seat doomed to listening to my BFF’s bad Paula Abdul rather than calling taking over the driver’s seat and bringing Axel Rose with me. Now failure meant…well, I wasn’t really sure. If I failed would I have to move back to one of the states where I held a legal license or would I just have to give up driving until I finally passed? Either way, the consequences were far worse than the doom of Paula Abdul – Strait Up.
I dropped my Midget off at Preschool and nearly vomited from nerves on my way to the BMV branch. I practiced all Indiana road rules I’d read about in the manual on the way there hoping I would create a mind meld.
“NUMBER 38 to DESK 6!”
I cautiously laid all my materials on the desk and stated my wishes with the secret hope that the mustachioed woman on the other side would inform me that the rules had changed and no exam was necessary for someone with a stellar driving record like mine holding a driver’s license from a fellow letter ‘I’ state.
“Ma’am, this Driver’s License does not constitute a legal form of photo identification.”
“But it does everywhere else. It works for the airlines.”
“We are not the airlines ma’am. We the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.”
“The place that issues Drivers’ Licenses right?”
“But you don’t accept a Driver’s License as a form of ID.”
“That is correct.”
Things were not starting off well between Yolanda and myself. She looked over my papers and told me that I was missing my passport, birth certificate, Social Security card, pay stubs confirming my social security number and a letter from the postal service confirming my address change. My 5 utility bills and Iowa Driver’s License were not sufficient.
Thirty-five minutes later I returned with the requested documents and Yolanda began typing. She typed for about 10 minutes and then gave me instructions for the exam before informing me I would most likely not be able to receive an Indiana Drivers License because the names on my birth certificate, Social Security card and passport were not identical. My passport –has both my maiden and married names as well as my middle name while my social security card has only my first and married name and unbelievable as it may seem, my birth certificate does not contain my married name. I tried to explain things to Yolanda but she lost patience with me and my uppity need to have 4 names.
“Just go take the test. If you pass we can try to send it though. If it goes, you good. If not, you need a new passport or Social Security card with just one name. You gonna need to pick a damn name and get it the same way on everything.”
After the reassuring conversation with Yolanda, I was filled with confidence and certainty for my exam. That was until I realized in my trips to and from I’d forgotten my glasses at home. I looked at Yo about to ask if I could postpone my test until I ran home to get my glasses but the snarl beneath her mustache propelled me forward . It seemed I would be taking my “Written Exam” on a touch-screen computer sans optical assistance.
Fifty questions with a two hour time limit. The questions ran the gamete from how many days suspension is issued for driving with a suspended license to how far before merging lanes should one begin signaling. The computer stopped me somewhere around question forty-four with a flashing congratulatory banner. I’d made it. Suck it Yolanda.
Yolanda, unimpressed with my testing excellence, handed me off to finish processing with her 60 year-old trainee Joyce. Joyce was a true Midwesterner from her hefty lower half in stretch jeans to her bad perm and genuine smile. Joyce’s inability to see the keyboard without the glasses she continuously misplaced on the top of her head brought a bit of levity to my hostile day with the BMV.
“Mmmmkay hon, we need to do an eye test and git yer photo. Come on over here.”
Eye test? Damn you Yolanda! Why didn’t you let me get my glasses?
“M’kay hon, just read the first row.”
The first four were fine. The rest – not a clue.
“Weeeeell…maybe we should try another row.”
This time I got the first six.
“M’kay. Let’s just try once more.”
This time I got nine out of twelve.
“Well, that’s probably close enough. We just won’t tell anybody. M’kay?”
Suck it Yolanda – Newbie over here just hooked a blind sister up. That’s how we chubby girls roll.
“Now lemme snap a quick picture. No teeth and hold you head real high,” she leaned over out of earshot of the crowd around us “I find it makes your face look thin and hides any extra chins.” - Yea, that’s right only a chubby girl can truly hook another sister up. I'm sure Yo would have done the same for a sister with a mustache. This time, instead of looking like a meth-lab proprietor, I looked like a dark haired Heidi Klum. That a girl Joyce!
Just when it appeared all was running smoothly void of Yolanda, my new comrade Joyce was equally thrown by the name game being played out on my documents. “I’m going to need to call my supervisor.”
Fifteen minutes of confusion later, the girls at the BMV decided to just run my information though Homeland Security to see if I was legit. The same Homeland Security who has had me on their radar since I married a foreigner 6 years ago and ventured noisily into the world of immigration. Needless to say, I came back confirmed. Homeland Security has my every alias from birth to 40 and I was clean.
2 hour, 2 trips home and after providing my out of state driver’s license, Social Security card, 5 utility bills with my new address, a letter from the Post Office, pay stubs confirming my Social Security number, my passport and birth certificate I finally had a new license – or at least a paper slip stating I would receive a new license in the mail shortly. In an attempt to spare the Turk the same drama I asked my new friend Joyce, “So my husband isn’t a citizen. What documents does he need to get his license?”
“Oh just the letter from the Postal Service, his Greencard and a Social Security card.”
“What about passport, birth certificate, pay stubs, utility bills all that?”
“Oh no hon, his Greencard trumps all that.”
Of course it does Hoosiers, of course it does. After all, my foreigner only has one last name.