Way back last July, I got a notice from the state that my driver’s license was going to expire on my birthday, which wasn’t until late September. Smashing all previous personal records, I got right on it. This is not my normal operating procedure. I was kind of proud of myself.
SOL at the DMV
What with one thing and a virus, they said I needed to make an appointment at the DMV rather than just walk in. So I popped online to do that. Eighteen screens later they had a calendar of available time slots to pick from. Every hour of every day was booked for two months out. But sometimes, they said, slots opened up and those would be posted Monday evenings.
The next Monday evening I popped online and eighteen screens later they had a calendar of available time slots to pick from and there was nothing for two months out. I sensed a pattern here. And I booked for the eighth of October, at which point my license would have been expired two weeks. If I’d waited until the week before my birthday, of course, I’d be looking at sometime in 2022.
This time I was going to get a Real ID. It was about time, since that fake ID is over fifty years old now. The Real ID is a much more strenuous assertion of your existence than the previous versions. At some point, they promise, you won’t be able to fly without it, although of course I can barely get off the ground now.
Quite a set of digital rabbit holes later, I was able to determine what current ID I needed to get the Real ID. It was serious business. They don’t just take your word for it that you’re a citizen in good standing, even if you’re white. I would need either a passport or a birth certificate, both of which were in my safe deposit box, which I visit once a decade just to stamp myself as a grownup.
In order to get into my safe deposit box I needed my driver’s license. I presented my driver’s license. The teller squinted at me. “Are you aware your license has expired?” Yes I was. That’s why I need to get into my safe deposit box. To get my birth certificate, without which I can’t prove I ever hit air. The teller wasn’t sure he could let me through the big iron gate with an expired license.
Are you serious? I said.
He wasn’t sure if he was. He had to check with somebody.
How about if you let me in there for now and I get my birth certificate and drive over to the DMV and get my new temporary license and come right back here with that and we’ll put it back in the box all legit-like?
He told me I really shouldn’t drive without a license.
I drove over here, I said. His face was unreadable but not reassuring. He also said I didn’t look like my driver’s license photo. I said Thank you.
I see what’s happening here. I’m Charlie on the MTA. I can’t get my license without my birth certificate and I can’t get my birth certificate without my license. I’m in the lobby of the Wells Fargo on Sandy Boulevard, people–somebody heave in a sandwich!
I don’t know how to prove I exist. But I am hungry. Therefore, I think I am.