Driver’s License Stories
For most people getting a driver’s license is a pretty mundane task. Oh, the first one is usually special. If you are a teen, eager to get through a rite of passage, but usually after a move is one of the first tasks is to get a driver’s license as it is usually necessary to have a current i.d. to sign up for utilities or cable, etc. For several different reasons I have had to take tests 10 different times in 7 states. I speak from experience.
My first test was shortly after my 16th birthday. I was agog at the prospect of driving the family car once in a while. I had practiced behind the wheel and studied for the written test. The Missouri driving test was supervised by a State Trooper; a tall scary man wearing a Smoky the Bear hat. After surprising him that I could easily parallel park, he said “Let’s go see what is happening with the flood.” There had been a lot of rain that week and the creeks were coming up. Off we went to the highway bridge where we could observe the muddy water overtopping the creek banks. I passed the test.
It was several years before I had to take another test. This time it was in Iowa City where my new husband and I were attending the University of Iowa. It went pretty smoothly although I recall that as a new driver of a stick shift car, the hills were a challenge.
Back to Missouri so my husband could take a job with a State Health Department regional office. New baby in tow, we set off for a new life. There was some drama when our much driven Falcon started sputtering on our way to our new home. We limped into town and promptly went shopping for a new car as responsible parents had to have responsible transportation. We decided we could afford a new car now that we would have an income to make the payments. A sporty new blue Mustang was our choice, but to our chagrin we found we had no credit rating. We had taken great pride that we had both got our college degrees without debt. We found out that it wasn’t an asset in the real world. “Go charge the baby a pair of shoes at Sears.” was the advice given by the salesman. “Get a credit history.” He sold us the car anyway.
Next was Minnesota. My husband had a new job with the U.S. Public Health Service and was sent to liaison with the state Health Department to implement their growing immunization program. Polio vaccine was newly available. Jerry got his license handily. When it was my turn, I drove to the testing site as I had to take both a written and a driving test on a special short course that required quicker reaction times than ordinary streets. I checked in with the clerk, who said
“Do you have a current driver’s license?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“May I see it?”
I handed over my Missouri license. She took a pair of scissors and cut it up. Almost immediately after I began the driving test, I turned left into the far lane. “Pull over, the tester barked. You just flunked the test. It is Minnesota law to turn into the nearest lane. You will have to come back tomorrow and try again.”
Back to the clerk. “What am I to do? I need to get home.”
“I don’t know” she said callously “You don’t have a license.”
I called my husband and he and his brand new boss had to come rescue me. I lived in Minnesota for 12 years. An average sentence, I thought.
Back to my home town where I could attend the nearby University and earn a PhD. Only the written test was required. No big deal.
My next move was to Illinois (Again, only a written test. Easy peasy.) I got one speeding ticket while living there, but learned that if you go to court and ask for court supervision, after three months the charge is expunged. I went for that.
I took a job in Kansas. My Illinois automobile license expired one day before the move and I decided to not renew it for one day; what were the chances of getting caught? Of course, I got stopped by a policeman whose eagle eyes spotted that my license was out of date. I pled my case that I was moving to Kansas as we spoke and after looking over my packed car, he observed “I believe you because you have plants in the back seat.” Replacing my license in my wallet, I gratefully drove away to another beginning.
When I arrived at the Kansas DMV I discovered that my Illinois driver’s license was missing. “No problem, “said the clerk. If you will pay for the call, we will contact Illinois and verify that you have a valid license.” It worked.
After taking the written test, I went to pay for my new license. The woman ahead of me in line stepped up to the clerk.
“How long have you lived in Kansas? "
“About a year.”
Without missing a beat, the clerk said “In Kansas there is a substantial financial penalty if you apply for a license after 6 months. Now, how long have you lived in Kansas?”
‘Three months.” The woman promptly replied.
“Fine” said the clerk said. Just pay the fee.”
About six months later, I found my Illinois license hiding in a wallet slot I seldom used. Kansas will always be my favorite state for welcoming a newcomer.
I then got a job with the Campbell Soup Company in New Jersey. It was relatively easy to pass the written test. A car is a luxury in the east. Public transportation is available – scheduled frequently and convenient to use. Parking a car is a nuisance in a major city and my second husband hadn’t had a car or a driver’s license in years. After arriving at the DMV we were told that as our new Thunderbird had a console, we would have to come back with a car designed to make it possible for the Officer to reach the brake. We rented a car and he and I got our licenses.
We moved to Pennsylvania and encountered a new problem. Computers were relatively new in 1989, and the test was computerized. I am one of those people who takes tests by answering the easy questions first and then go back for the puzzlers. Not possible with the new system. I flunked the test. I think it was because I didn’t know the difference between twilight and sundown when it came to turning on my lights. Of course, I couldn’t take it again that day. I had to come back the next.
Upon my husband’s retirement I moved Missouri for the third time. I had it down pat .Studied the manual and took a written test. No problem.
Then fate determined that we move again to Minnesota as we lost our home in a flash flood and had no place to live. If you recall, Minnesota was a difficult experience the first time. It hadn’t changed. Still difficult, but different circumstances. Because we had lost our vital papers in the flood we found that we had to present birth certificates, marriage licenses and my divorce papers to prove my name. This took three months to acquire for both of us as incorrect prices cited and staff cuts in various states slowed the processes. Meanwhile we had to return to the DMV every 30 days to keep our applications “alive”.
What have I learned from all this? Most states do not recognize the importance of using the License Bureau as a marvelous opportunity in public relations. This early introduction into a new home can be a pleasant one or a big pain. It can be one more onerous task required by a move, or it could be a warm welcome with information about the new state and community and would make the transition much easier.
It is my understanding that I will not need a license when I cross over to the other side, so I don’t have to worry about that problem anymore. It wouldn’t be a problem if it were required. In my next move, I will be too old to drive.
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