Kafkaesque, almost

A friend of mine well north of 60 years old — like me– needed to renew his driver’s license. Now my friend is reasonably computer adept — like me — despite all the commercials showing he and I and everyone else in our demographic as hopelessly befuddled by them there new fangled whatchamacallit Yoonivacs (despite the fact that my demographic INVENTED them new fangled whatchamacallits) and so logged on to the DMV site for the routine license renewal we’ve all  been doing the past 4 decades or more. Except, being north of sixty, he suffers from a common ailment of our demographic called forgetfulness, and he put in the wrong answer to one of his security questions and was immediately locked out.

So begins our epic.

The helpful DMV robot directed my friend to call an operator to get his account unlocked, so he did…over the next five days. Busy signal mostly, then on hold for two or three hours and then disconnected, busy, hold, disconnect, wash, repeat, until, Holy Mother of God, he actually reached a living, breathing human being. Said human advised the account could only be unlocked at an actual DMV office. “But,” my friend pointed out, ‘they’re closed for COVID.” “That’s alright, sir, we will make you an appointment…three months from today. Be sure to bring your ID.”

“But, my license expires next week.”

“Then try not to get stopped, sir. See you in three months.”

So three months rolls around and my furtively driving friend, wise in the way of bureaucracy, not only brings his old license but also his military ID, his birth certificate, and three separate utility bills, all dated within the last 30 days. Masked and social distanced, he is admitted into the DMV and approaches the counter and explains his purpose.

“Fine, sir. Do you have your passport?”

“Uh, no. I wasn’t planning on leaving the country.”

“Sir, are you being funny?”

“No, Ma’am. I do have my birth certificate. It’s from Pennsylvania so proves I am a US citizen.”

The DMVr takes the birth certificate and examines it with the scrutiny of a crime scene expert then throws it back. “I’m sorry, sir, this is not acceptable.”

“Pardon? Why not?”

“Because you parents didn’t sign it.”

Apparently there is a block on the back of PA birth certificates which parents sign acknowledging ownership of a professed child. “Okay,” my friend said, “what do I do?”

“You have to get your parents to sign it.”

“But they’re dead.”


‘Can I just go get my passport and bring it back to you?”

“Certainly sir. Call the same number through which you booked this appointment and we’ll set you up again. The next available date is three months from now. Have a nice day. Now get out.”

My friend, somewhat bewildered, leaves and goes home and examines the birth certificate and discovers parent signatures are only required if there is an error on the birth certificate, such as the wrong name or wrong date or wrong parent. Since everything documented on the certificate was accurate, no signatures needed.

My friend, wise in the way of bureaucracy, realized this explanation would fall on uncomprehending ears, decided to get a certified and notarized copy of his birth certificate to take back to DMV in 3 months, along with his passport because Heaven knows what new requirements will be in place by then, maybe even a DNA sample, so he called the PA Registrar’s office.

“Oh, sure, sir!” some eagerly helpful clerk gushed, “We can do that, no problem. And it will be as valid as the original.”

“Without signatures?”

“No signatures needed, sir. Unless there is something wrong with the certificate, then your parents need to sign.”

“No no, everything’s fine. So what do I do?”

“Send us a self addressed stamped envelope, a $5.00 money order………….

….and a copy of your valid, unexpired driver’s license.”

My friend has decided to simply take his chances with furtive driving.

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