Me no Speak DMV Americano

Trying to get your ducks in a row can sometimes be an extra-challenge – especially when you live in a country that runs on your second language. Even if English was my first language, it would not have made a difference whatsoever in this case. I am currently attempting to receive my California Driver’s License. It’s time!

As a “proper” German as some may say, obeying instructions and making plans, I double and triple checked the website of my local DMV. I originally obtained my driver’s license in Connecticut as a teenager, after overcoming my fear of driving in general next to my nervous mother and impatient, yet most loving stepfather. I then did my German driving test (written and behind-the-wheel), once Germany did not accept my CT license. Now I’m in CA and it’s time to be more Cali.

So, I was checking the website of my local DMV. Of course there was no option that specifically indicated “previously attained license in different state, exchanged for license in different country, now back”. It advised me to obtain an “original driver license”. Ok, I can do that. Not my first choice, but whatever. In order to get an “original driver license”, my DMV writes the following boxed in a pretty red color to underling its importance: “If you are making an appointment to visit a DMV field office to obtain a California driver license, please select Field Office Visit Appointment below in order to schedule your appointment.”

Sounds easy enough. “Appointments are required for all original driver license applications.” Got it, ok. I absolutely HAVE to make an appointment. I got to the according “make your appointment” page (calling the DMV is not an option since it usually results in more question marks, so I figured, I’ll just do it online), and enter my name. The next available appointment for my purpose is April 21st (that’s about 2 months from now). Hmmm… I try a different DMV, maybe it’s just my city… the next available appointment there is May 22nd (we’re not getting any closer).

Then I read this: “However, same day service is available at driver license processing centers (DLPC) without an appointment.” Ooooh, excitement. Great! I can just stop by one of those DLPC’s if I get there early enough. The next office is about an hour away from me. So, I decide to rent a car for the weekend and hope for the best. Besides, I rent a car with my German license about once a month, so if I just get in the written part this weekend, and the driving part another time, it’s totally fine. Waste of money, but totally fine.

My Spanish friend, going against all my German warning signs, responds to me after I desperately asked her if she would accompany me on this driving test adventure, and says she would love to. I get another message from her, asking if I can’t just go to my local DMV and ask for a driver’s license. I had planned everything so carefully, for a day and a half, I had read every sentence on that website and understood it. I had used the hyperlinks on the website; I had gathered all my papers. I can’t just go to the DMV and show up – what are the appointments for? In my head, I smirked, thinking “she hasn’t read all the information – I read everything at least twice; I have all the information the DMV is giving me and I don’t want to waste my time waiting in line for nothing”.

As you can imagine, that smirk quickly turned around and bit me in my organized, German, little butt. Turns out, nobody goes to the website, phone calls are answered by a machine, and probably half of those queuing at the DMV don’t even speak English.

I didn’t understand at all.

So, they give you precise instructions on what to do, how to do it, and when to do it… And then they turn around and say “ooooorrrrrr, you can NOT do everything we just told you – and just stop by”.

Proper me, nervously shifting my weight from one leg to the other, stood in line at the  DMV, no appointment, and panicked because I spotted EVERYONE else carrying filled-out applications. THERE WERE NO APPLICATIONS ONLINE – WHAT THE F*** AM I SUPPOSED TO DO? It took us about 20 minutes in line until it was my turn, the lady gave me an application to fill out, a number that shall appear on the screen and I waited my turn.

Deny thy father and refuse thy name. Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer…

Anyway… I walked out of the stone cold brick DMV building 30 minutes later with a piece of paper with my name and mug shot on it, preparing for the written test the next day.

I should’ve known. For now, I’m just glad I didn’t spend money on a rental car and an early morning on a freeway to go somewhere I don’t need to be. How Californian of me.

(#My500Words Day 10)


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