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Memento DMV

This morning I spent 40 minutes in the appointment line at the Santa Rosa DMV to get my license renewed and converted to REAL ID, but was told I was “too early” to renew my license, which expires in September, so I have to return after I receive my renewal notice. I could have converted to REAL ID today, but I would still need to return to renew my license, at least as it was explained to me, and I do hope that was correct.

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But–speaking as a librarian, and therefore from a profession steeped in resource management–I predict chaos in 2020 if DMV doesn’t rethink their workflow. We’re 18 months out from October 2020, the point at which people will not be able to board domestic flights if they don’t have a REAL ID or a valid passport, or another (and far less common) substitute.

Then again, California DMV is already in chaos. Their longtime leader retired, the replacement lasted 32 days, and their new leader has been there ca. 60 days. Last year featured the license renewal debacle, which I suspect impacted the man standing behind me. He said he was there to apply for his license again because he never received the one he applied for last fall. And California DMV is one of 10 states that still needs a REAL ID extension because it didn’t have it together on time.

Indeed, I was on the appointment line, and nearly everyone in that line was on their second visit to DMV for the task they were trying to accomplish, and not for lack of preparation on their part. Some of that was due to various DMV crises, and some of it is baked into DMV processes. Based on how their current policies were explained to me today at Window 13, I should never have been on that line in the first place; somewhere, in the online appointment process, the DMV should have prevented me from completing that task. I needlessly took up staff time at DMV.

But the bigger problem is a system that gets in its own way, like libraries that lock book drops during the day to force users to enter the libraries to return books. With me standing there at Window 13 with my online appointment, my license, and my four types of ID, the smart thing to do would be to complete the process and get me out of the pipeline of REAL ID applicants–or any other DMV activity. But that didn’t happen. And I suspect I’m just one drop in a big, and overflowing, bucket.

I suppose an adroit side move is to ensure your passport is current, but I hope we don’t reach the point where we need a passport to travel in our own country.

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