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My Four Hours at the DMV

May 9, 2011

As the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles was putting the final touches on its list of 150 problems, I was sitting in the DMV compiling my own.  

Yes, I moved here from North Carolina about eight months ago. And yes, the reason it took so long was that I was terrified of the DMV.

It wasn’t that bad.

My husband and I went to the new branch in Middletown. It’s in a strip mall with a parking lot so tight that getting in and out should qualify as the driving test. The room is small with long, wooden pews that are great for spreading out every piece of documentation you have ever possessed.

While we were over prepared, there were those who seemed a bit underprepared – more than a few people asked to borrow a pen. And then there was the very nice man who chatted with me for about a half-hour on how ready he was only to return shortly after his number was called muttering, “dag. I was supposed to fill out a form.”

As for our adventure, I got everything I needed without a snag … unless you consider the horribleness of my license photo (I look like I’m having an allergic reaction). My husband’s adventure was more bumpy. There was some round and round about a VIN check that involved begging his bank to send multiple faxes and then driving back and forth to the Middletown Police Department.

In four hours we both walked out with our tags and licenses.  

If I were to craft my own list of problems at the DMV, here’s where I’d start:

The temporary paper licenses. I’ve had a license from five different states and this is the first time I’ve been handed a piece of paper. If the Sam’s Club in Anywhere, USA can laminate a member card on the spot, then the Rhode Island DMV can hand you a driver’s license.

No warning about the VIN check. Here’s the deal: if the bank owns your car, you’ll need them to fax you a copy of your title. You will need to take the title to a police station where someone checks it against your VIN and then fills out a piece of paper while you pay $10. Do this before you go to the DMV.

Don’t hide the forms for new arrivals. The lady behind the counter had to hand them to us, meaning we had to step out of line and fill out forms for transferring from other states and taxes.

Partner with a coffee shop. When four hours gets you high-fives for good time at the DMV, then food and drink should be available during the wait. That’s a long time to sit on those hard pews without a coffee and baked good.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Charles Williams permalink
    May 10, 2011 12:46 am

    Catherine, like you, I’ve had licenses from other states, including Washington, DC, and this was the first time I’ve been handed a temporary, paper license. Ten years ago, when I moved to Missouri from DC, I walked away with a real photo license. When I was handed a piece of paper from the RI DMV five years ago, I was perplexed.
    Like you, I just don’t get it. It’s like a trip way back in time.
    And, they don’t take credit/debit cards!
    Tradition is one thing, obsoletism another.

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