Friday, March 25, 2011

Talkin' DMV Blues

Everyone likes to complain about the Department of Motor Vehicles, though I ran into a fairly unique problem a few weeks ago when I went to get my driver's license renewed. It's not the sort of situation most people would encounter, though the rules for renewal have certainly changed in recent years.

When I first got my license, all you had to do is show a couple of forms of identification (birth certificate, social security card, etc...). This made sense, as you needed to prove you were a real person, and that you were legally in the United States. I had no problem with this sort of simple verification, though it used to only be for the initial application. Once you had a license, it became valid identification for renewal, since you had to show the other documentation to get it in the first place.

No longer can things be so easy.

At present, every time you go to renew a driver's license in the State of Maine, you have to show all of the original documentation, again! How redundant is that? Well, that's not where my strange problem arose. I had the documents to prove who I was. My dilemma came when they wanted to see proof or residency. Never mind that I am a US Citizen with a certified birth certificate, social security card, current driver's license, etc... They wanted some certified document telling them I actually lived at my physical address.

I know most people don't run into this sort of dilemma. Most people have their physical address stamped on all sorts of legal documents, like mortgages, contracts, and so on. But I don't. I have a PO Box, and that's all I've needed to use for virtually all of my previous dealings. The last time I had my Maine driver's license done, that's all they put on the license! There was no pin-pointing of your physical address required back then. But now they want to know exactly where you live, and they want somebody else to tell them that, via third-party documentation.

If you think this isn't an overbearing regulation, just think of this: I know for a fact that it isn't this hard to vote! I've seen people show up to the polls with an envelope and say "here's a piece of mail the post office delivered to my new address, sign me up!" The mail is used as proof of residency for voting purposes, but that won't cut it for the Maine DMV!

It may seem strange that I don't have a bunch of documents outing my address, but I've spent most of my life living halfway off-the-grid. My father's attitude about government and personal privacy sort of rubbed off on me, so I don't think it's their business where I live or what I'm doing in most cases. The fact that I'm a US Citizen should be enough to get me my new license. Who gives a damn what house I'm living in?

Ranting aside, I had to go down to my Town Clerk and have her type up a notation on the town's official letterhead, stating what my legal address was according to the 911 system. The lady at the DMV assured me this would serve as adequate proof of residency, as it apparently meets the new bureaucratic standards.

I'm sure I'll get ripped from both sides on this topic, because people have been conditioned to think it's somehow necessary or good that this sort of bureaucratic runaround is in place. It's supposed to make us safer or keep things "fair," but I personally don't like the idea of the government keeping tabs on everyone's home. What's next, are we going to get barcodes tattooed on our forearms, or computer chips stuck in our foreheads? Don't laugh, it's in the works. Maybe not today, but in another generation or two our kids and grandkids will think it's a good idea, because they've been slowly conditioned to accept the omnipresence of the State. Show us zee papers, please!

Do I sound too much like one of those greasy hippies of the sixties? Well, I guess they weren't totally wrong. Oh, I'm such a radical sometimes.

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