After living in Ohio for almost nine months, I decided to finally get around to changing my PA driver’s license, registration and plates over to Ohio.
I pretty much just thought I’d walk into the BMV — that’s what it’s called here, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles — and get it all done on the spot. This was not to be. A friend who I was complaining to about this process said all of that changed after 9/11.
This is why, when you move out of state (and I strongly do not recommend it), you need to give up your car and driver’s license, because it is the only answer to saving your sanity. I wrongly decided to keep my license and car, and this is my sordid story.
Day One: I called the BMV. I explained what I needed to do and was told I better have a pen and a large notebook to write everything down.
“Really,” I said, “I was just calling to find out how much it would be, I didn’t think I needed an instruction manual to do this.”
The employee began to rattle off all the stuff I would need to do, faster than I could write it down. I scribble incomprehensible notes on large pieces of paper.
“You’ll need your current driver’s license, a Birth Certificate with a raised seal, your Social Security Card, a utility bill that is proof of your Ohio residency, and if you were ever married we need your marriage license or divorce papers to prove the name change, if your name is not the same as your birth name. Also, if there’s a lien holder on your car, we’ll need that information. There’s a form we have that you need to fill out and send it to the lien holder so we can change your Title to Ohio.
“We will also need to know the city of the Kindergarten you attended, as well as your third grade teacher’s name, and if she was married or single, and we’ll need a copy of her teaching degree. We’ll need a list of all the enemies you had in Junior High School and what you ate for lunch on August 4, 1979. If you have any children, we’ll need to know their blood type and proof of their vaccinations.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, “I have a current valid drivers license, why do you need all that?”
“Because we want to break your balls as much as we can, and drive you to the brink of insanity, so you will learn you should never, ever, move out of state. Also, we want the State of Ohio to make a profit from your misery. Any other questions?”
“Umm…no, not right now.”
It was also my understanding from our conversation that I’d be able to get a temporary registration for my vehicle, which was expiring in two days, while I got all this stuff done.
Day Two: I go to the BMV. You have to take a number when you walk in. I was number 70, and they were calling out numbers in the 50s. Then someone made an announcement that if you were here for a registration renewal only you could come up to the front in numerical order. She called out numbers, so I didn’t move when my number was called.
Then I’m thinking, “Is someone else going to call out my number?” I daydreamed about all the things I could be doing rather than sitting in this dreary office with its hard, wooden chairs, uptight looking people, and little paper numbers.
After a while my number was called. I went up to the employee, who looked to be about 90 years old and explained what I needed to do.
“Did you get a booklet?” she asked.
“No,” I replied, “I just called yesterday, I didn’t come in. But I took a lot of notes. Maybe I don’t need a booklet.”
“Oh, yes, you do.”
She handed me a six-inch thick manual, and I thought once again, you need an entire instruction manual to do this? What is going on here?
She then rattled off all the things I needed to do.
“Hold on,” I said. “Can you write all this down?”
She advised me that the first thing I had to do was get the driver’s license. I couldn’t get any of the other stuff done without getting that first. I had no idea that the Title to my car was another issue; it had to be changed over to Ohio.
She started writing things in the booklet and told me I needed a Numi — something printout from Social Security to prove I had a SS Card, since I couldn’t find mine.
Having gone to the Social Security office the week before, I discovered they close most days at 3 p.m., which is usually when I’m first getting out the door to get things done. Not being a morning person presents certain problems. So I’d have to get up early one day for that.
She gave me a form and explained it had to be filled out, faxed to the lien holder of my car (which I first, of course, had to get their fax number, yet another phone call to make), and then they were at some point going to fax the Title of my car over to the Clerk in Steubenville. In about one week from the time I faxed it, I was to call the number on the form to see if they had received it. I wasn’t sure I got all of that and she repeated the whole thing again.
“I don’t have a fax machine.”
“You can go to Kroger; they have one there.”
Another trip. More money. More aggravation.
“How can I get a temporary registration? It’s expiring tomorrow.”
“You can’t. You have to have the Title changed over first. But you can’t do that until you have an Ohio license.” My head was spinning.
“But yesterday I was told…” my voice drifted off. It was pointless. I wasn’t getting a temporary registration. I’d be driving illegally for at least seven years while I attempted to get all this crap done. I probably had some kind of unpaid fine out there for something, which meant there was probably an arrest warrant out for me…
I’d get pulled over, thrown in jail, and I have no family around or friends who could afford to bail me out. So this is what it would come to. However, jail was sounding pretty good right now. Certainly better than having to deal with all this.
Yep, I could avoid this whole process. All I’d have to do was speed on Route 7 through Steubenville and I’d be pulled over within minutes. But who would take care of my cats? I had to go through with this — for the sake of my babies.
Printouts, fax numbers, Titles, Birth Certificates with raised seals, Lien Holders…are they kidding me? What happened to, “Here’s my PA license, I want to change it to Ohio, and get Ohio plates, here’s my money.”
No, nothing is ever that easy anymore. It’s no wonder people are driven to the brink of insanity by being forced into becoming harried, inexperienced and unpaid secretaries and clerks to take care of their own business. Are there support groups for this? There should be!
I left the BMV with my heavily notated booklet and a sticky with a phone number, which may or may not lead to the elusive Birth Certificate with its coveted Seal of Approval. After arriving home and taking a handful of Xanax and a few shots of whiskey, I then unsuccessfully attempted to hang myself from my ceiling fan.
I then proceeded to make my first phone call to the Hempstead, New York, phone number, which would hopefully provide me with my Seal of Approval.
Ring, ring, ring. It rang like 20 times, and then went into a busy signal. It was around 4:30 so maybe they close early. I tried again, same result. Not even an automated voice. I would have welcomed it at that point.
I looked at the booklet with all the notes, plus the page full of notes I’d taken the day before and really started to consider moving back to PA just to avoid all of this. Surely, packing up and moving and paying $500 in rent per month would be more cost effective and less psychologically damaging than this? I considered this for a while and downed a few more shots of whiskey.
Then I made a phone call not on the list.
“Suicide Hotline, how can we assist you today?”
“Hi, I’m trying to change my license and plates and Title and registration and everything over to Ohio from Pennsylvania and – “
“Hold on dear, we have a special division for that.”
The phone rang and someone immediately answered. Why can’t people always answer phones like this? You have to call a Suicide Hotline to get a real person to answer the phone?
“Suicide Hotline, Driver’s Licenses, Titles, Lien Holders, Plates, Fax Numbers, Phone Numbers, Phone Calls and Birth Certificates with Raised Seals Division, how may I help you?”
I poured my heart out to the nice young man. He knew all about my struggles.
“Oh yes,” he told me, “We get thousands of calls a week just like yours. You’re not alone.”
I cried and yelled and took out all my frustration on this kind person. He knew just what to say, and just how to soothe me. He assured me it really wasn’t necessary to kill myself; just to take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and one phone call and fax and piece of paper and trip to various locations at a time.
That crisis averted, I decided it was too late in the day to continue with this and gave it up for the night. Exhausted and mentally wrung out, I went to bed and slept for 22 hours.
Day Three: I arose early; for me, anyway, 10:30 a.m. in my book is early. I had run out of coffee and money, but thankfully still had these coffee singles a friend made me buy when we went shopping together. Thank you, dear Pam. Waking up without any coffee in my state of mind with what I needed to accomplish would have been a direct ticket to a padded cell. After gulping two cups down, I got on the phone.
I called the Town Clerk in Hempstead, NY, again. First it rang 10 times, then the wonderful automated voice came on: “If you know your extension, dial it at anytime.”
I did not know the extension. Press this, press that, press this for that, and on and on it went. I let out a great big sigh and strung out a slew of foul words, but remembered my advisers advice: take a deep breath and think positive, soothing thoughts. I then flung my phone out the window, hitting the mailman.
I had a backup, emergency cell phone and called again. This time, amazingly, after 25 or so rings, an actual person answered.
I explained about needing a raised seal birth certificate. She quickly gave me a number, and an extension to call. I thanked her and immediately got on my knees and offered praise to God, along with sacrificing a goat, for this small but useful lead.
I called the number and it rang 30 times before the automaton picked up. I left a message.
Next, I tried to call my buddy Doug, a branch manager in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, where I had taken out a personal loan, secured against my car. Doug and I get along famously; he’s a great guy and it’s always a pleasure to see him or talk to him. He would know — or could find me — the fax number I would need to fax this stupid form to get the Title change going. Of course, he wasn’t in yet, so I left a message on his voicemail.
“Doug, where the hell are you? Don’t you know I moved to Ohio? I need you to tell me phone numbers of places. Please call me back ASAP, it’s an emergency!”
Five hours and some seven phone calls later, Doug, nor anyone else, has called me back.
To be continued…