Whew! Finished! Mission accomplished!
But I’m tired.
All I wanted to do was renew my driver’s license. I had done so a billion times before (estimated) with absolutely no problem.
Not this time.
I got my first warning in a personal letter I received from the Department of Public Safety. I soon discovered that things have changed dramatically since my last renewal.
“You are receiving this notice because you are not eligible to renew online,” the DPS letter said.
“Our records indicate you (Jimbo) must present the following document(s) in order to renew your DL or ID,” the letter continued, listing “proof of social security number” or “proof of citizenship or lawful presence.”
I had no idea what “lawful presence” meant, or how to supply proof that my Social Security number was legit. Thusly, a long ordeal began.
Let me pause here to inform you that I got my first driver’s license at age 14. That’s not a misprint. Fourteen!
Centuries ago, Driver’s Education was part of the school curriculum. You actually got grade-credit for taking, and passing, the course.
Our teacher was a man named Jack Crawley, who was also the Sweeny Bulldogs’ basketball coach. Coach Crawley’s hoopsters won Sweeny’s first state championship in 1954.
We learned to drive in a slick baby blue Studebaker.
(NON-EDITOR’S NOTE: The Bulldogs have won nine state titles over the years in six different sports. This has nothing to do with driver’s licenses, but it’s my column and I’m allowed to brag if I want to, something I rarely do.)
But back to the tiring pursuit of license renewal.
Not wanting to be arrested for “(un)lawful presence,” I called DPS at the number provided. All I got was voice mail.
Wife Margie knew something was wrong when she heard me scream, “LET ME TALK TO A REAL HUMAN!” No such luck. (Good thing I wasn’t calling to give the Texas Rangers the location of a wanted terrorist.)
Now frustrated, I drove to the DPS headquarters off Decker Drive. The place was packed, but I managed to talk to a courteous official who told me a birth certificate would work, and if I didn’t have my original one (yeah, right), I could get one at the Harris County Courthouse annex here.
So off I went to the Clinton F. Greenwood annex and to the District Clerk’s office. With the help of a really nice woman named Mary, I got my birth certificate.
A day or so later I returned to the DPS office, but again it was filled to the rafters, if indeed that building has rafters. I didn’t want to wait.
I tried again after a week, but same story – a sellout crowd, or it would’ve been if it were a football game or an opera performance. (I prefer opera myself.)
I went back one more time and could barely get inside. I told an official I’d come back the next day. She handed me some paperwork and I went home.
It had now been three weeks, and no new driver’s license.
Since the office opens at 8 a.m., and since I’m far advanced intellectually compared to other humanoids, I put a plan into action. I’d beat everyone by showing up at 7:30.
For once I was outsmarted. When I pulled up, the line outside was extremely long. So I went to the back of the line.
Naturally, it was hot. The humidity made it even worse. And I had to stand while waiting 30 minutes for the doors to open.
Finally we got inside. The service was outstanding.
Soon I was with an agent renewing my license. Of course, that didn’t go totally easy, either.
She tried about four times to get my fingerprints before she made the machine work. Yes, you must now submit your fingerprints.
I worried she might think I’m a crook and had erased my fingerprints with acid. But she finally got them, and after three mentally draining weeks, it was over.
Jim Finley is a retired managing editor of The Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Attention: Jim Finley.