Much to my surprise, I was asked for my ID while purchasing wine recently. I was carded?? Maybe the cashier forgot her glasses that day. And I probably should have donned mine when I pulled Zach’s ID card from my wallet instead of my own. I giggled and then gasped.
“You don’t have your ID, miss?” the cashier asked.
“No, I do have it,” I replied. “Here you go.”
She didn’t know what I noticed: Zach’s ID had expired months ago.
I had not given this much thought in the past five years. To be honest, I don’t know what the repercussions would be for an expired identification card. He doesn’t drive. It’s not like someone’s gonna pull us over while we’re on a bike ride and ask for his ID.
But, we would certainly be asked for it when boarding a plane. I figured I did not want to find out the hard way what happens when a state-issued ID card is expired and you need it for a flight.
As I thought about our previous adventures with the good ole DMV, my stomach jumped. Accumulating all the documentation…standing in long lines despite having an appointment…dealing with a hard-faced employee with no sense of humor. Six years ago, it took two such visits and several phone calls to acquire the ID, despite being more than prepared. Dealing with the DMV, for us, here in California, is on our top ten list of things we want to avoid.
Why is it when it comes to government agencies and their websites, nothing is easy? I simply wanted to renew an ID card. I waltzed the website looking for the right menu. I read that if I was not the actual person whose name was on the ID, then I could not renew online. Exactly how would they know?
I’ll skip the part about searching the (*expletive*) website for the easy way to handle this. Bottom line: there isn’t one. When it comes to special needs, disabilities, and so forth, there is no menu or button for the exact need we had. It’s not just a needle-in-a-haystack; they make you think there’s a needle, but you soon discover they never put it there in the first place.
So, I decided to pivot and make an appointment instead. If we had to go in person, we’d go. I’d been there, done that. I was no stranger to difficulty and challenges.
I gave the website another look for the button to make an appointment. There we go! The Online Appointment Scheduler. Easy-peesy for once!
I scrolled and scanned. Hmmm. I was not ready to “Get In Line At My Local DMV Office.” (Why do people think every word needs to be capitalized?) I was not Scheduling A Behind-The-Wheel Drive Test. Those were the two options from which I could choose.
To the right, a box told me “Most DMV services can be completed online without an appointment. Search for what you need using our Service Advisor.” Cool. OK. I will ask the Service Advisor. type type type type. Well, Advisor, you apparently did not understand my keyword choices. type type type some more. Service Advisor came up with Get In Line At My Local DMV Office. I wanted to bop SA on his AI head.
Like a beachcomber with a metal detector, I searched. I could not renew the ID online, and I could not make an appointment through the website! Fantastic. My next step was to call and trot around the phone tree with its 70,000 choices. Eventually, appointment in place.
That same day, while heading to the post office, I spotted a DMV Services office in a strip mall. What have I got to lose? Long story short: they do everything but ID card renewal. Same with AAA. Sigh.
In preparation for the DMV appointment, I gathered necessary documents, making sure I had the birth certificate with the raised seal. I stuffed a folder with all kinds of essential paperwork proving Zach’s identification, citizenship, address, disability status, preference for crispy bacon, and more. Off we went.
I recognized the woman behind the desk where you check in. Same woman as six years ago. I decided to give her a giant smile and a warm greeting. Soon, we were shuffling our way to the next station.
There, we were asked if we filled out the application yet. No, I told them, there’s no option to do that online. Once she learned it was an ID card renewal, she agreed. I “sped” through the 22 pages of check-boxes and clicked Complete. A hidden Service Advisor spit out a receipt.
Prompted to the next station, I un-rubberbanded my documents.
“I have all my papers here…what will I need to show for my son?”
“Oh, nothing,” said the woman. Wait, Nothing??
“The website says to bring the birth certif-“
“Don’t pay attention to the website, ma’am. That’s only when you first apply. For renewals, it’s all in the system now. No papers needed anymore.” Would be nice if Service Advisor was able to tell you that before you ran around your house collecting official documents. I re-rubberbanded.
In exchange for the application receipt, we earned a ticket with a number – F14. Maybe that was a sign we’d be flying through the rest of this visit. “Please take a seat,” instructed the employee. She made no eye contact. We plopped ourselves in plastic chairs.
The clamor of the room, with babies crying and machines whirring and fans rotating, did not seem to rattle Zach. He sat quietly by my side and resisted the urge to straighten all the stacks of forms on the shelves behind us. But I could tell his patience was thin. I administered arm tickles.
Two more window stops, and we arrived at the line for the camera. His photo had to be renewed as well, and that was the sticking point last time. Many individuals with autism cannot produce a smile on command. Think Chandler Bing’s engagement portrait. Last time, they had to retake the photo so many times that they gave up and had us return another day. And then the photo selection people chose a blurred photo from the first day anyway.
As we waited, I cued Zach on what he needed to do. He nodded in understanding.
“Next up!” A tall man in a white t-shirt and a black knit cap beckoned us. His smile was as bright as the crisp shirt. He reminded me of Stephen (tWitch) Boss.
“How y’all doin’ today?” He reached over the counter to offer Zach a fist bump. Zach eagerly bumped. “Niiice one, buddy!” His teeth sparkled.
“Whose picture are we taking today?” The man was so upbeat and happy I couldn’t help but smile. He was also playing some tunes from behind his desk.
“This young man,” I said, and put my arm around Zach’s shoulders. Zach hesitatingly handed me his red headphones. To my surprise, the man took notice of this and reassured Zach that he would be as quick as possible so Zach could put his headphones back on. My heart felt gratitude.
“Let’s get this done!” The man was a DMV cheerleader! He started dancing behind the counter, and this inspired Zach to wiggle and shimmy. It was completely spontaneous and adorable. “My man! That’s what I like to see!” His enthusiasm was contagious, and so were Zach’s moves.
I positioned Zach’s sneakers on the mat, stood up, and touched his chin to center it. When I touched his chin, he moved his feet off the marks. When I moved his feet, he turned his head. Again, the man was savvy and gently coaxed Zach with his smile and dance moves.
“Okay, Zach, my man, we need your face looking at me! Look here…I’m dancing!”
Zach looked and danced.
There was a simultaneous Click!
“We got it!” The man shouted. Seriously? One take? Mid hip wiggle? Extraordinary!
“Oh no wait a sec…no, we don’t. My bad.” Zach had looked away. “Let’s do that again.”
Click! Click! Click!
“We’re gonna get there, buddy, I promise! OK, 1, 2, 3, smile for me!”
I had flashbacks to being asked to return another day because they ran out of clicks. I readjusted Zach’s feet and chin and gave him some arm scratches for sensory stabilization. He was getting irritated. I leaned over the counter and whispered that smiling on demand was not Zach’s thing.
“Ooooh, gotcha. I gotcha.” he said.
“Do we have another chance?”
“Lemme check. Yes. I think one more…the system will let me do one more. We got this.”
I felt that we did too. He gave a thumbs up; his smile and enthusiasm did not fade. We just slowed it down, steadied Zach, and did not tell him to smile. The man lowered the volume of his music. I slowly stretched myself out of view.
The man, and another employee who came over to watch, checked out their screen. I could not tell by his expression if we were wrapping it up successfully or not. Frankly, if we had to come back another day, I was asking him for his work schedule.
“Uhhhh, let’s see. Oh, there. Nope, okay. There. Aahhh no, where’d it go? Where’s the one we just took?” My shoulders sunk.
With a hop and a skip, Zach launched himself off the mat, rescued his ears with his headphones, and sprinted for the door. Twirling, I extended my arm and caught him.
“Can you find it?” The man asked his co-worker. “I can’t find that last one! How’d that happen?”
“Maybe it didn’t have another one left,” chimed the co-worker.
“No! It did, believe me, it did.” He looked up at me with a bright smile. “Hang on just one sec- OH! There it IS! We got it! We got it.”
We all exhaled.
I don’t know who was more excited about this. I thanked him profusely for all his help and patience, for the music and the dance moves.
“Hey, my pleasure, guys. I hope y’all have a GREAT day. Bye Zach!”
With that, Zach’s right arm and my left arm, connected by clasped fingers, sashayed outta there like Fred and Ginger after a big number from Shall We Dance.
Despite all the missteps, the afternoon was choreographed for victory. Things fell into place, and I must admit that my opinion of the DMV was swayed by that experience. They seemed to have all the right moves.