I just knew something was going to go wrong. I had my paperwork in hand, all 4,327 pieces of it – which I needed to prove that I was indeed an American, and did indeed have a driver’s license from Pennsylvania that was legit. Despite this, I knew, somehow, when I got to the BMV — that being Bureau of Motor Vehicles as they call it here in Ohio — that it would not go smoothly. And I was correct. All I had to do was change my license over from PA to Ohio. That’s it.
First, being the vain person that I am, this trip to the BMV had to be well-planned. Since I’m going to have to look at my mug shot on my new license for four years, the picture needed to be good. This required planning. Hair and makeup people; the works. Manicure in case my hands were somehow in the picture, pedicure, just because when you’re getting a manicure, well, you just have to get a pedicure.
I had to drive to the Bridgeport BMV, which is 20.7 miles away because when you are changing your license from out of state, you have to go to THAT office to take your eye exam. They cannot make it easy for you by letting you go to the local office in Steubenville, which is around 6 miles away. So this means you need to fill up your car. More money.
Upon arrival, I was told I had to go next door to take the eye exam. Luckily, no one was in there except the examiner. The eye test was simple, and although I can’t see what I’m typing right now, I passed. This would explain a lot of car accidents. I went back to the first office and proceeded to take out all my paperwork. This included but was not limited to:
A certified copy of my birth certificate
My marriage license
Social Security card
Pennsylvania Driver’s License
Proof of Address: I had two bills; an electric bill and a gas bill
A letter from my tenth grade psychology teacher saying she did not consider me a terrorist, along with her teaching certificate
A letter from my gynecologist, stating I was female, and no alternative surgery had been performed
The agent, who was “just doing her job,” told me I was well-prepared, however, the proof of address wasn’t going to be acceptable. You see, both the gas bill and the electric bill both had these big words across them: TERMINATION NOTICE.
“This means you could have moved…so we can’t accept this,” she told me.
“I can assure you I haven’t moved. Termination notices is a way of life for me, I get them every few months. Doesn’t everyone?”
She just glared at me.
But I had a Plan B. I went out to the car and got Evelyn, my 93-year-old next-door neighbor, who could vouch for the fact that I lived next door though she could not remember what my name was and what street she currently lived on.
I dragged her into the office and after 15 minutes of being unable to convince the agent that I lived at stated address, I tried another tactic.
“I just got this birthday card in the mail today, it has my address on it and a postmark.”
Said the agent, “We can’t accept that, either.”
“The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the United States federal government, is it not? You mean to tell me a card that has been delivered by said agency, clearly showing a postmark that was delivered to this address today does NOT prove that I in fact live at this address?”
“No, it does not.”
“Can I just smack you in the head, now? Are you effing serious?”
The long-suffering agent looked at me sorrowfully, and glanced over at the security guard, who sat up straighter. Clearly she was used to this kind of behavior from frustrated citizens.
“We can take a bank statement, a bill which does not have a termination notice – “
“I had to drive 20.7 miles to get here. I had my hair and makeup, manicure and pedicure done for this occasion, and I purchased a new outfit. I am ready for my picture to be taken, readier than I have ever been. I brought in all your damned paperwork as well as a live — well somewhat live — person to prove who I am and where I live. I am not leaving here without my license. This is unacceptable!”
She looked over at the security guard and I was escorted out. This was not going well.
The guard kindly told me I could go to the Steubenville office, since they would have the record of my eye test on file.
“Wow, really? I don’t have to come all the way back here? That’s awesome!” I got on the ground and kissed his boots. I saw many other lipstick marks on them.
I arrived home and went online to print a copy of my bank statement, since I’ve gone green with paper and do not have anything mailed to me that I can access online. Wouldn’t you know — the statement did not have my address on it. Freaking useless.
I did have about 30 envelopes from State Farm. They love just love to send me stuff; virtually every day, to the point where I no longer open up anything from them. I have three policies with them, including a renter’s insurance policy. I had a virtual treasure trove of stuff with my name and address on it. But the big question lingered:
Would it be acceptable to the BMV?
I grabbed the stack of papers, shoved them in the six-foot trunk with the other paperwork, and set out for the other BMV office.
I took a number and waited. I wasn’t in the best mood at this point. I was pretty much expecting things to still go wrong.
My number was called and I hauled my trunk of paperwork up.
“So you’re Mary Catherine and you were just at the Bridgeport office?”
“So they warned you. Yep, that’s me.”
“You’ll need – “
“I know what I need,” I said.
I handed over all my paperwork and said, “I have several things from State Farm, I hope you can use them. They are all recent, all have my address…in fact there’s a renter’s policy in there somewhere.”
I braced myself, waiting to hear the “Not acceptable” line. But the agent asked her coworker if they could take it. Ironically, she never even took the papers out of the envelope; she waved it at her coworker, who said, without really looking at it, “Yes, we can take that.”
She began looking through my paperwork, and I breathed for the first time since I’d arrived.
“Do you take credit cards?” I asked.
“Debit cards, cash and check.”
I felt the bile rise up in my throat. I didn’t have any cash on me, none in the bank, nor did I have a check on me. I had assumed they would, like every other normal functioning business in the world, take credit cards. They should have expected someone who shows them proof of address with a disconnect notice is probably not going to have the cash to pay for their license.
Don’t they know when you’re getting a new license you have to prep for the picture and that this cost money? I mean, c’mon.
Luckily, I had just received a card in the mail for my birthday, from my parents, which contained a check, bless their hearts. I knew I could draw off the check, even if I had no money in my account; I had done it before.
The agent kindly let me fill out the paperwork and said I could come back with the money. Phew.
I left the BMV, thinking the bank was to the left. After driving about two miles out of my way, I realized I had gone the wrong way. I busted a U-turn in the middle of the road and nearly ran over a lady with a baby in a stroller. Truly, it was her lucky day.
I arrived at the bank and went inside. I pulled out the check and asked the teller if I could draw on it.
“No,” she said.
“Yeah, but I happen to know if I go to the ATM, right outside, and deposit this check in there, the ATM will allow me to draw on it immediately.”
“Yes, it does that.” I looked at her quizzically but she really didn’t have an explanation for this.
“Okay, then, I’ll go outside.” Which is what I should have just done in the first place…
Cash in hand, I headed back to the BMV. Took another number, and waited. They actually called out my name without calling my number…strange.
Now that everything was just about in place, I started thinking about how I looked. I’d had the cars windows and sunroof open and my long hair had been blowing all over. I had no idea what kind of state my makeup was in, not to mention my mani and pedi.
I was directed over to the camera area, where a mirror was prominently placed. I played with my hair a little, checked the makeup and decided it was going to have to be good enough, took off my shoes and socks, saw the pedicure was intact, and I was ready to go.
After only 28 pictures, we got it right. The rest of the building was now vacant and it had gotten dark outside, but I had a pretty good picture. Then I looked at the license and saw it was good for only three years, not four, like in PA. What was this? I had to go through this again in three years?
Granted, it would or should be easier since I would not be transferring a license from another state. Then again, I wasn’t so sure I’d be living in Ohio in three years. Life brings changes all the time, so I could be anywhere in three years. Like homeless in New York City.
That would probably work out pretty good; you don’t need a car or a license in the city. It was something to work toward.
Next: Why you should Give Up Your Car and Driver’s License When Moving out of State, Part III – Transferring the Title and Getting Plates
Once there, they wouldn’t take my gas or electric bill as proof of my Ohio residency because each one was a termination notice (which has since been paid) and that is not acceptable as proof of residency… Had to leave there and go back home and find something…with my address on it.