In the state of California, you are supposed to apply for a new driver’s license within ten days of your arrival.
I arrived 151 days ago.
Every time I would drive past a police officer, I would flinch. Every time I’d see a California Highway Patrol officer on a motorcycle, I would yell, “ERIK ESTRADA!” And then I’d flinch.
I was so afraid I’d be stopped and they’d ask for identification and I’d have to hand over my Washington driver’s license and then I’d be arrested and land in the jail just to make an example of me for all over recent California residents.
My husband told me I should make an appointment at the DMV to take the driving test. I agreed. And then I failed to make an appointment time and time again.
Last week, though, I went online and scheduled an appointment for Monday morning. Yesterday morning.
I arrived at the DMV at the appointed hour to find a line of people outside of the building. What? It was like Target the night before Black Friday.
Once inside the building I was able to go to the front of the line marked, “LINE FOR APPOINTMENTS.” I had my Washington license with me along with a folder of documents: birth certificate, HOA bill (proving residency), proof of insurance, car registration.
I filled out a form. Waited a bit. Then I went to another window when my number was called. The woman asked for my documents. She glanced at them, flipped my birth certificate over and said, “Do you have your marriage certificate showing your name?”
I waved my HOA statement showing my name at her. I showed my driver’s license. I immediately became fed up when she told me I would have to come back again. I wanted to fall to the floor in a tantrum like a two year old. I wanted to spit.
After working until 1 a.m., I had studied the driver’s handbook until 2 a.m. I woke up early, took a shower, carefully styled my hair, applied my make-up with more care than usual–all because I knew I’d be getting a new driver’s license photo. And now she was telling me I’d have to do it all over again. (Yes, I’m so vain.)
But to my surprise, I was shuffled through the lines. I had my picture taken, I took the test (I only missed one!) and then I was issued a temporary license with my maiden name on it. I was told to return the next morning at 9:20 a.m. with my driver’s license.
So I did. I went to the DMV two days in a row. This morning I hurried to get dressed. I barely dried my hair and I certainly did not wear lip-liner. I had to stand in a line behind nine people. But finally, finally, finally, I was at the final window where I presented my marriage certificate.
Then the man behind the desk told me that although I’d been photographed the day before, the computer wasn’t cooperative and I needed to get my photo taken again.
“I was a lot cuter yesterday,” I told him. And I was. I really, really was. Yesterday I had lips and no crazy hair.
I’ll try again to look more presentable in five years when I do it over again, hopefully in one visit.