DMV TIP ONE:If you're moving to a new state, check out your driver's license expiration date before you leave. Setting up residency in a new location is no easy task. I waited too long to pull out the license and check the date only to find I had less than two weeks before my New York license expired. Not a good thing when you're sitting in Madison and the New York DMV is more than a thousand miles away.
DMV TIP TWO:If you're moving to New York City rather than out of it, the driver license thing is no big deal. Take the subway. If you are moving out of the city to a place like, say, Madison, Wisconsin where the nearest Trader Joe's is a thirty minute ride in off-hour traffic or a midnight snack requires keys and gas, living without your own transportation is not an option and we haven't even gotten to what getting around in winter is going to be like.
DMV TIP THREE:Call ahead and see what is required: What do you need to bring with you? Will you have to take a driving test? How long will it take? Then expect most of the information you garnered will be incorrect.
I called. This is what happened after I made it through all of the prompts.
"Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles. How can I help you?" This was delivered in a serious monotone.
"I've just moved to Madison and discovered my New York driver's license is expiring tomorrow. What do I need to do to get a Wisconsin license?"
"You'll need a certified copy of your birth certificate, an original utility bill with your name on it, a copy of your mortgage payment with a Wisconsin address, or a local bank statement more than thirty days old showing local purchases and deposits from your Wisconsin employer."
"We just moved here to take care of my ailing mother so I don't have any of those things. I can't live here without a driver's license. Isn't there anything I can do?"
"You could go back to New York and get a temporary extension on your current driver's license." This was said in all seriousness but it cracked me up.
"Do you think there are any direct round-trip flights today?"
DMV TIP FOUR:Never, and I mean never, joke with the DMV
I gave up on the phone route, called my sister for a recent utility bill (My mom kept all of her bills in my dad's name even though he died in 1985. Fortunately, we have the exact same names.), and headed on over to the DMV. What the heck, I thought it was worth a shot. I even managed to think far enough ahead to bring a bottle of water (illegal in the waiting room), a pen and pencil and the daily crossword puzzle. I knew the wait wasn't going to be pretty.
DMV TIP FIVE:Smile at the hefty ladies behind the counter. A little flirtation can go a long way, even at my age.
I went straight to the information desk where you get a number placing you in the queue for confrontation with the person who holds your fate. The lady behind the counter kept her thin lips in a straight line, it was neither a smile nor a frown. She went through the same itinerary as the woman on the phone but seeing my smile she added, "Have you ever held a Wisconsin license before?"
"Sure, but that was a long time ago."
"Well, let me look it up. Oh, here it is, but it says you were born in 1909."
"No, that would be my dad. I haven't sent my info off to Willard Scott quit yet."
"Sorry, here you are. As long as you don't need a commercial license we can put you right through, you're eligible for a renewal."
I didn't even need the bogus utility bill. I sat and waited my turn.
An hour later, "C212 - window 3." I walked up and handed Wanda my paperwork. She looked through it, fiddled with the computer, and wrote her signature on the bottom line of my form. "Thirty-four dollars"
WHAT! No one mentioned it was going to cost money and the eight dollars in my wallet wasn't going to cut it. No checks, no cash, a sign behind Wanda saying no credit or debit cards accepted, I was back out the door plotting my life as an illegal driver until I could find another twenty-six bucks.
DMV TIP SIX:Never expect anything to go the way you planned when dealing with bureaucracy.