If you drive and have never moved to a different state, there’s one thing you probably take for granted.
Your drivers license.
When you live in the same state, you simply renew your license and plates mail. When you move, it’s a different story.
Growing up in Minnesota in the 90’s, earning our drivers licenses was kind of an ordeal; just as any process involving 15-year olds operating motor vehicles probably should be. This meant spending weeks at a run-down driving school in Lakeville where we studied for the written test every night for three-hours (or so it seemed). After we passed our written tests, we drove with instructors. They arrived at our house in cars equipped with two sets of brakes. One creepy instructor kept grabbing and pinching my bare arm. I wanted to jump out of the car, but I also wanted my license.
When I turned 16, I immediately failed my first driving test when I turned into the wrong lane from a one-way street. I still had to complete it, anyway. Then, I tried again. In my nervousness, I almost missed a stop sign and had to slam on my brakes as a car whizzed by. “Well, I suppose you didn’t really put our lives in danger,” my examiner stated and gave me a pass. This long process of earning my driver’s license was quickly forgotten. All of the classes and lessons and practicing with a learner’s permit simply wove itself into that time period where I didn’t have any responsibilities beyond going to school and practicing piano 30-minutes a day.
One of the first things you’re supposed to do when you move to a different state is get your driver’s license and plates. The first time we moved, I thought it would be as easy as wandering into a DMV and exchanging my license and plates. In North Dakota, it basically was. In Iowa, I scrambled to find my original adoption paperwork after I forgot to renew my passport with my married name, and, in Missouri, no one really seemed to know what I needed to bring. Employees sent me back multiple times to grab paperwork that the person before didn’t mention. Plus, everyone in St. Louis has to physically procure a special tax form from their county government office and pay for a safety/emissions test.
And then there’s Minnesota. This time, I brought an entire folder of documents of things I needed in ND, Iowa, and Missouri to the license bureau above the Sears in St. Paul. The scene was chaos. I waited in one line, only to be told that I was actually supposed to wait in the other line. Once I made a full circle, the manager took pity on me and helped me get my plates.
“You have to take the knowledge test,” he said, directing me to a completely different facility. I studied and passed, thanks to helpful people on Twitter who informed me the test would include very specific questions involving numbers of feet, snow plows, and bikes. They were right. As I reached for my checkbook to pay for my license, the DMV employee stopped me. “Since you had a name change before you moved, we will need to see your original marriage certificate.” I would have to return.
“We’ll hold on to your paperwork and test results. All you need to do is bring the certificate in!” she said encouragingly.
The next morning, I returned to her desk, marriage certificate in hand. She looked confused. “But where is your application?” she asked. “Well, I thought you had it,” I replied. She looked skeptical. “I need to see your test results, too,” she stated. “I really don’t remember leaving with anything,” I replied. She raised her eyebrow. Finally, she found my paperwork and issued my license.
I felt like I had accomplished something much more significant than I really had, like run a marathon or find a golden ticket in my candy bar. As I pushed on the big glass doors that open onto Minnesota Street, I felt like Nancy from Stranger Things emerging back into this reality from the Upside-Down, through that portal in the tree.
For all I know, maybe I had!
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