Other than getting notified you have COVID-19, nothing strikes more fear in the heart of Americans than a trip to the BMV or DMV. It’s like being put on death row, or having a colonoscopy or dental exam. It will take way too long, you will get to spend a lot of time with questionable people, and some of them may look in places you’d really wish they wouldn’t.
A few weeks ago, I made that dreaded trip because my driver’s license was about to expire. I had put it off too long and was about to lose my rights to drive a car, which in America is second only to owning a firearm as a Constitutional right. As our nation’s forefathers said, we are endowed with certain unalienable rights; life, liberty, and the pursuit of independently owned transportation (with air conditioning and cup holders).
Before embarking on my journey I first looked up on the State of Ohio’s BMW website what paperwork I needed to get the new TSA compliant ID for travel. Boy was I in for a shock. To get the new TSA compliant ID you must show proof of the following elements; your full legal name, date of birth, proof of U.S. legal residence, social security number, proof of address, legal name change (if applicable), favorite color, first crush, and shoe size. The Ohio BMV website even had a tool to help make sure you had all of the bases covered. You could select documents in your possession, (i.e. birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, child support statement, court order of probation, parole or mandatory release, winning lottery ticket) and it would tell you if you had enough documentation. It was like playing on-line bingo or slots. You kept clicking until the website flashed, buzzers went off, and you get handed an IRS form. I eventually hit the ID card jackpot and rounded up the necessary documentation. I could not find the parole paperwork but fortunately I still had my Immaculate Heart of Mary report card from the second grade signed by Ms. Greene. I did well that year, other than a C+ in grammer.
One fine Saturday morning, with all of the documentation rounded up in a large box, I headed down to the BMV and arrived 10 minutes prior to opening. As a pulled into a parking spot facing away from the BMV I thought maybe this won’t be too bad, I didn’t see a restless mob of people waiting to get in. It was a bit chilly that morning so I wanted until 1 minute prior opening to get out of my car and head in. As I stepped out of my car and turned around I say a mass of humanity rushing towards the door, like rock fans trying to get into the Who concert. All was lost, I was crestfallen. I do not know where all of these people came from, it was like they appeared out of thin air. I dashed over to get into the line, which looked like the lines now at our grocery stores, and bided my time. The BMV soon opened their door and the mob moved forward, but was not maintaining proper social distance, which at this time was 15 days BP (Before Pandemic), so we didn’t know better. It’s interesting how we divide our life up into segments, like before 9/11, or after you have kids or got married. I think when we are older we will be saying things like remember before COVID-19 when you could just walk into any grocery store and buy toilet paper or instant potatoes, and you could go to a bar and drink next to other people? Now you have to drink alone and use leaves as toilet paper, which sounds like a bad country song.
Surprisingly the line was moving rapidly, but once inside the building I realized that people were just getting numbers so I took my number 39 and went to sit down. But there were only about 35 seats so I stood near the back wall, like a delinquent sent to the back of class. As they slowly called off the numbers I observed my fellow clientele waiting in line and it was obvious that I was in rural Ohio with a crowd that were regulars at Walmart. There was no doubt that several of these people did have parole paperwork, child support payments and lottery tickets as proof of identity. Many of them were in sweats, one in shorts (it was about 35 degrees that morning), and one in flip flops, (the bane of my existence). The most striking was a middle-aged man wearing a coat that resembled the U.S. Flag and a Make America Great Again cap. I wondered if he provided lighting to his coat at night or folded it into a triangle when not in use. I saluted when he walked by, not wanting to disrespect our flag.
After about 45 minutes my number got called and I trudged forward to the front of the counter. There were about a half dozen clerks all working diligently and all big enough to be offensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals, and probably just as good. I wondered if it was a prerequisite to be supersized to work there, or if it was the result of having a job that did not require you to move for 8 hours with 6 fast food restaurants within walking distance. As I got to the counter the clerk serving me commented to her co-worker that she really liked her new Triple XXX-large sized t-shirt because it was super comfy. If I have to be isolated at home for 90 days for COVID-19 I may need one of those myself.
The clerk began to look over my large pile of paperwork that proved I was Roger Westermeyer, that I was born in Kentucky, that I currently live in Ohio, and there was not a warrant out for my arrest (anymore). After a couple of minutes she finished looking over the paperwork and said everything was in order, and she then started asking me a litany of questions. Was I indeed who I claimed to be, was I living where I said I was living, what is my quest (to find the perfect bourbon), and what is the airspeed velocity of a (European) unladen swallow (24 mph). I got all of those answers correct but then the questions got more interesting. She then inquired if I was fit enough to drive. Upon hearing this question I glanced around at the others in the room and quickly surmised that about a third could not honestly answer that question in the affirmative. I wondered how much traffic would decrease if the State actually required people to pass a fitness test before getting their license. My mind drifted off to me driving to work each morning during rush hour with only a few thins souls on the road with me, no stress, easy merging, no tailgating, relaxed. I snapped back to the moment and replied yes, and then she asked me if I was currently on any illegal drugs. Once again, I looked around the room and thought that another third of the crowd would be eliminated if that question was answered honestly. I answered no, (because I rationalized that bourbon was not a drug), and she smiled and finished up my paperwork. She then snapped my photo, where I gave a half-hearted smile, punched some holes in my current license and gave it back to me, and said keep this and some paperwork until my new license arrives in the mail in about 2 weeks. It’s now been three weeks and I have yet to receive my new license. It could be that COVID-19 has slowed down the issuing process, or maybe she was looking for the airspeed of an African swallow. Or maybe she knew that alcohol (bourbon) was a drug and that I lied during the quiz. Good news however, the State of Ohio just announced that you can drive with an expired license. Hopefully that will mean I won’t have to return to the BMV anytime soon, but I do think I am overdue for a colonoscopy.
This blog’s song is David Allan Cole’s take on the perfect country song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOAz9tMYs1Y