(May 6, 2019) Hear the audio version

Is your driver license expiring this year? Or are you eager to make your license a Real ID, which Homeland Security is requiring by October 2020 for air travel without a passport? Well, fellow Californian, listen up and get in line. Because in order to be issued a Real ID, you have to show up at the DMV in person. Be prepared to wait.

I began at dmv.ca.gov more than three months before my license was set to expire at the end of April. I was offered an appointment early in the month at a near(ish) DMV, so I grabbed it. I was feeling rather smug to have a Saturday slot, as rumor had it that’s the best day of the week to show up, appointment or not. Unfortunately, I neglected to take care of the second step, an electronic application—filling out details such as my hair color, eye color, height, weight, fun stuff like that which goes on the license. So when I arrived at the DMV and made it to the front of the appointment line, I had to admit to the greeter I did not have a confirmation number. Oops. Forty-five minutes later her coworker sent me to wait for a terminal to complete my application. This I could have done from home.

I was more successful assembling the paperwork needed for a Real ID: proper birth identification; Social Security card (or W-2); and TWO proofs of residency. I also brought my checkbook, as I knew the DMV does not accept credit cards. This was news to the young woman I bonded with in line. I wrote a check for her Real ID as well so she wouldn’t have to return. I got back in the terminal queue to pass an online driver test, required because I’d had several renewals by mail.

More Californians interact with the DMV than with any other state office. The “reinvention” Governor Newsom promised should include upgrading technology. Accepting modern forms of payment. Hiring more staff and giving them a raise. How about re-opening some offices? And please, hire a permanent director who will make the DMV the efficient service we Californians deserve.

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.