After nearly a year of living in New York, I thought it might be time to maybe do some adult things like changing my driver’s license to my NY address. Armed with determination and not much else, I made the initial foray into the DMV wilderness, only to promptly return home when I saw the lines were longer than the lines on pretzel day, and that I needed not one, but two, proofs of address, which I definitely did not have with me.
My will wavered, but after another month or so had passed, I plucked up the courage to try again. I researched online what documents I could use as proof of address, and although they required only two, I took about five with me, just in case they didn’t want to accept any of them. I went decently early in the morning after having only coffee, and there wasn’t a terrible crowd, and I even made the photographer laugh, which seemed like an auspicious beginning. But after that I sat down and began to wait, and wait, and wait. Patience is the number one virtue the DMV will teach you, I do believe.
I read chapter after chapter in my little book on French cuisine that I had tucked into my bag with an ear cocked for my number. (On a side note, I now want to make my own mayonnaise and bake wonderful raspberry tarts and go to the boulangerie for fresh baguettes every day, please.) Several days or weeks later, my number was finally called and I cheerfully popped up to window 12 with my stacks of documents. I pulled out my required passport and social security card and current license and two forms of address, which the girl looked over in a bored fashion. She rifled through my papers, spreading them into a growing stack, and rejected document after document. The 1099s wouldn’t work for address verification because it wasn’t the exact kind of specific 1099 listed on her document. The IRA form was no good for her either. She called over a coworker who looked over my papers with equal suspicion and rejected every last one. I tried in vain to plead the case that an IRA statement is practically a bank statement, but she was not to be persuaded. “How about a light bill?” she asked. I wanted to point out that this is not 1990 and everyone in my generation pays all their bills online now and who even has paper light bills, but I held my tongue.
“Nope, I can’t do this,” she finally said. “Come back another day.” I blinked at her, and suddenly without bidding, tears sprang to my eyes. “Is there a time of day I could try when I don’t have to wait so long?” I quavered. “Come at 7 AM tomorrow,” she told me. Utterly defeated by the bureaucracy, I shuffled through the mess of papers she had made, trying to sort them back into their appropriate envelopes. My hands were shaking as my lack of breakfast began to catch up with me, and I sniffled loudly as the painful minutes ticked by and I continued stuffing. (She really had made a mess of things!) She didn’t quite know where to look, and I don’t know who was more embarrassed, me or her. Probably me.
And so, close to noon by that time, I made my soggy way out of there and back home. As I was going, I saw I had a disheartening text regarding a further snag in an already lengthy professional process I’ve been in the middle of. I sat on the subway and cried like a true New Yorker as I made my long way home, and all the other riders kindly ignored me, as they do. Did you know that you can’t claim to be a real New Yorker unless you’ve cried on public transportation? True story. So I guess I’ve arrived, even if it is a rather embarrassing rite of passage. Do you guys hate crying in public as much as I do? I tend to cry on the rare occasion I get really mad, and I look all vulnerable and weak, and I’m just like, come on body, does this really have to be your response? How about giving me a rush of adrenaline to run a four minute mile instead? That, I could live with.
Anyway, back to the topic on hand… I decided, not today satan, and that I would not complain, and would instead paint my moldy windowsill because making a house look nicer always cheers me up, but all my efforts to find paint in my neighborhood stores were for naught. Well, okay then. So instead I wrote a darkly humorous email about all my li’l troubles to my girls, since if I’m gonna have vexations, somebody might as well laugh at them. And I definitely complained a little, despite my valiant resolution.
The next morning I roused myself before the crack of dawn and made my stone-faced, resolute way back to the Manhattan DMV, without even stopping to make coffee. The girl had said be there before seven, and blimey, I was going to do it. I got there about fifteen minutes till, and upon inspecting the door, saw the sign said they don’t open till eight. You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me. The humor in all this was beginning to make itself apparent, because when things just keep going wrong, you can only laugh or cry. Since I had already tried one yesterday, and also laughing requires a lot less cleanup, it was time to be amused. I decided to wait until seven just in the tiny case that the girl was right and the door was wrong, and sure enough, at seven on the nose a little security guard unlocked the door and ushered me in. I could almost have dropped a kiss on the top of his little head, if I hadn’t been so busy getting to the front of the line.
Upstairs I was addressed by a man who was Exceedingly Cheerful, considering he was working for the DMV before the sun had even risen. He went over all my paperwork with me, and when I told him how many trips I had made and that I practically lived here now, he assured me that I had everything I needed this time and would not have to come again. I breezed through the photo section, and in just a few seconds my number was called. No way. Not window 12 again. I approached apprehensively, and sure enough, there was the same girl from yesterday peering back at me.
“It’s me again!” I said chirpily, as she looked up, startled. Since she was bound to recognize me, I thought I’d just break the ice right away. “Yesterday was a bad day, but I’m back, and next time I come, I’m bringing my bed with me,” I said as I commenced to pull out all the new paperwork she had recommended. “You won’t have to come back for five years, because this time you have what I need,” she told me. She filled in the forms needed, I filled out the questionnaire required on the screen, I paid the bill. “Wait! Please don’t hate me!” she gasped. “I completely forgot to do the donor section. We’re going to have to start over. I’ll refund your money, and just go to the counter and have them take your picture again. Tell them I sent you.”
And so we went through the whole lovely process one final time. She confirmed my info, I paid (again), and at long, long last, she handed me that sweet little piece of paper that verifies I’m a New Yorker. My preciousssss!! “You’ve been very helpful, and I hope I never have to see you again, or at least not for five years,” I said sincerely with a smile. “Well, when you come in five years to renew your license, you can just do it at the kiosk,” she told me with equal sincerity and another smile. And so ended our tender friendship.
I thought coffee would be in order, so I walked the few blocks to a lovely shop I found which I suspect is run by Christians. On the way, I passed a cathedral, as one does here, spilling a warm glow through its open door onto the damp, gray street. On impulse, I stepped inside and alongside the other scattered praying parishioners, I took a moment to thank God that was over. And then I had a very luxurious breve latte which is basically the best warm drink one can have on a drippy and chilly morning, and that is the end of this tale. There is no pious moral to be added, but if anybody needs to form a DMV support group, I am there for it.