Dealing with government usually is a strain, but 30 minutes to renew my West Virginia driver's license as a REAL ID, get a new photo, be fingerprinted and get out the door isn't bad.
Unlike a previous driver's license, at least this one bears my correct gender. Even though the Department of Motor Vehicles official failed to record on this new license that I marked on the process card to be an organ donor, fortunately I still carry that authorization in my wallet.
A couple years ago, the federal government's Homeland Security rammed through the states the concept of a REAL ID for use as federal ID for air travel, entrance to federal buildings, etc. West Virginia had the option to ignore the federal effort but instead fell into lockstep with the feds and imposed strict identification rules to get or renew a driver's license.
A list of needed identification is mailed to license holders when their license is up for renewal.
When I entered the DMV last Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. a woman was standing at the end of the entry line making sure I had all the necessary paperwork.
Unfortunately not everyone entering the facility was so vetted, meaning the woman in front of me didn't have the proper documentation and she repeatedly had to search through her purse and her husband had to go to their vehicle to get acceptable paperwork that bore her name and address.
Fearing the worst, I had with me as ID my U.S. Passport, original birth certificate, concealed carry permit, voter registration card, original Social Security card, city water bill, bundled cable-telephone-Internet bill, cellphone bill, electric bill, natural gas bill and city trash-police fee bill. In fact, I think I had everything except a DNA sample, which I suspect will be the next thing the government wants for its database.
After providing all the information to the clerk at the issuance window, signing paperwork, paying $13 and being asked if I wanted a regular driver's license or a REAL ID, I was sent to have my photo taken, where I was again asked if it was for a REAL ID and if I wanted my fingerprints taken.
After electronically scanning the index fingers on both my hands, the woman working the camera actually took a second photo because in the first one my eyeglasses flared into the camera lens, making me look like a deep sea diver.
Twenty-five or so seconds later the temporary driver's license fed off the printer, the clerk peeled it off and reminded me I would get in the mail my REAL ID license in 10-15 business days.
By getting at the DMV when it opened at 8:30 a.m., in the middle of the week, in the middle of the month and having all the ID I needed, I think I avoided the rumored long lines and lengthy waits.
In all, it was a painless experience. By being there early in the day, I was met by friendly and helpful clerks who hadn't had their humor tarnished by repeating the same verbiage for eight hours nor being harassed for eight hours by applicants who didn't have the proper documentation to get what they were seeking.
I feared a long wait, but my 30 minutes would have even been shorter if the woman ahead of me had read the instructions and brought with her the necessary documentation.
Contact Jim Smith at email@example.com