I had two experiences with the California Division of Motor Vehicles today. Somewhat conveniently and somewhat inconveniently, my vehicle registration as well as my Alaska driver’s liscence expire within a few days of each other. Yes, it’s true, I’ve been bumming around the State of California with an Alaska Driver’s license for months longer than I should have. I went to the smog check place, which was a positive experience. Like Alaska, in California, the smog checkers are privately operated garages or lube shops around town, so you don’t need to go to a central DEQ station and wait in a long line of barely-going-to-pass-cars like I became accustomed to in Oregon. What’s also nice about these garages, is that generally the person who’s testing your vehicle is either a mechanic or a mechanic’s apprentice and they could tell you exactly what you would need to do if your car doesn’t pass. Luckily, I timed my visit right to where I was in and out in about 15 minutes with a passing test. Off to the DMV.
I walked in and told the guy that I was there to do two things, I needed to renew my vehicle registration and take my test to get my California Driver’s Liscense. He shook his head at me. The first thing he did was pointed to a sign next to the reception counter that said that ON TIME vehicle registration needed to be done by mail or by internet, meaning that only if you have let your plates expire and are a slacker, you can fill out a form and pay them money. A few months ago, I got a letter from the DMV with instructions on how to renew online or mail in a check, but I had no idea where that letter would be. I went to the website and it required a 6-digit number that was on the renewal notice and required in order to renew. So I figured I would take a form and fill everything out on it and have to mail a check to Sacto to get lost in a stack of papers somewhere…
So I figured I’d take my test, get an ugly picture taken and be on my way with a license. He shook his head again. He asked me if I had a birth certificate or a passport. To which I replied that I didn’t and I figured he must have misunderstood me, so I took out my Alaska license and said that I have a license and only need to get a California license. He said that I needed to have a birth certificate or passport, regardless. This was much different from my experience moving to Alaska. When I moved to Alaska, I knew the first two things I needed to do were to register to vote and get a driver’s license. Establishing residency in Alaska is a much bigger deal that you might imagine. When I wanted an Alaska driver’s license, they grabbed my Oregon license out of my hand and had me take a 10 question test (I may be exaggerating on the number of questions, but I couldn’t exagerate on the simplicity of the process) and I was on my way with an ugly picture.
So I ordered a birth certificate from the State of Oregon ($15 + $5 shipping) and it will get here in somewhere around 10-14 days. I guess that might be the difference in a border state that borders Mexico rather than a border state that borders Canada. The woman who supervises my department at my assignment said that I probably wouldn’t have any problem if I were blonde with blue eyes. I don’t know about that, but I know I wasn’t happy with the hassle.
I dug through some boxes at home and managed to find the letter from the DMV, it was in a box of Windows XP/Dell CD’s from when my hard drive crapped out. I went to the website and entered the magic 6-digit number and it couldn’t have been easier. The smog check shop electronically sends a record of my vehicle passing, so it was already there that my emissions had been checked so all I had to do was pay them the $50 fee and they’ll send me stickers within 5 days. How cool is that?
So I take the good, I take the bad, I take them both and there you have…the facts of the DMV.