Tuesday, January 9, 2007

License Renewal After 9/11

In New Jersey, the Motor Vehicle Commission, has been under fire since 9/11 because two of the Sept 11 hijackers were reported to have had counterfeit New Jersey driver's licenses. Therefore, the rules have changed. Now applicants must present three of four forms of identification, up from one, a Social Security card. Citizens must provide two forms of approved identification, such as a birth certificate and student ID, as well as a copy of a current bill, such as an electric bill, to prove residence.

This was my month to renew so I gathered together a pile of documents to take with me. The picture shows everything I took with me.

It was nippy as I drove my old 1994 Chrysler to the agency. Since it was still early in the month and a Tuesday morning, I was hopeful that I wouldn't have to stand in a long line. Also, I had never obtained a digital driver's license with my picture on it before so I expected the worst.

I took a deep breath as I approached the front door to the agency, grabbed the door handle with authority and pulled the door open. I was lucky. Not too crowded.

There was a greeter there who herded me to the far right table for my first encounter with MVC personnel. They had a long table setup with four women seated facing you. In front of each woman was a line. The idea was to go to the far right person who checked your application. After she scratched something on it, she said, "Get in line at the next station." I felt like I was in the "Soup Nazi's" restaurant on the Seinfeld TV show. I didn't see any bread though.

So I moved to the left into a short line in front of the second woman. When I got to the front, she checked my birth certificate and compared it to the other documents including my expired passport. (Expired passports are OK if not expired more than three years.) Then I learned something that had never occurred to me before.

The woman said, "Did you know that your name on your birth certificate is different from your name on your other documents?" Well, my Dad and I had the same name so he was called Sr. while I was called Jr. I had always used a Jr. after my name. She continued, "Your legal name on the birth certificate doesn't have a Jr. in it. Do you want me to strike the Jr. from your driver's license?" Big pause.

"Well, I guess that would be a good idea," I said.

This whole subject of my name is an even longer story which wouldn't even come close to fitting in this blog entry so I'll leave it for another time. If you see me, ask me.

When I finally was shifted to the last station, all the papers were in order. The objective of this identification game is to get at least six points where points are assigned to each form of identification. I already had at least eight points after they approved my birth certificate. They then motioned for me to go to the cashier's station. That took me away from the table.

At the cashier's station, the woman noticed that I would soon have a birthday on the 11th. She also asked, "Are you still riding motorcycles?" She was referring to the "M" endorsement on my old license.

"Oh yeah," I said. "What good is a license if it doesn't allow you to ride a motorcycle." She wasn't amused.

"Sign your name on this electronic tablet," she said.

I almost forgot and put a Jr. on it. She flashed the signature up on a computer monitor and said, "How's that?"

"Looks good to me," I replied.

"Now, stand back a couple of feet. I want to take your picture," she said.

I took off my coat, stood as tall as I could, and flashed a smile as the camera's flash went off.

"How's that?" she said as she pointed to the monitor again.

"Looks good to me," I repeated.

She had me sit for a couple of minutes as she processed all the components onto the license and then called me over and handed me the nice shiny digitized, holographic license guaranteed to be a perfect license for the next four years.

"You know, you'll have to go through this same process in four years," she cautioned. "Except the new license is good for four points itself so you won't need as many forms of ID next time. Of course, no telling what laws may be passed in the meantime to make the next renewal even harder than this one."

Well, I got through this whole process in about 20 minutes, much shorter than I had expected. I didn't get any soup but I did get a plastic card that will enable me to keep riding my motorcycle for four more years. Now if only my arthritis will cooperate.

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