I pulled it out yesterday. Twice, in fact. I don't like doing it, but I had reached my limit and realized that I simply had no more patience for what should be a simple task. More to the point, my entire situation and inability to get anything resolved was due to Peter's unaccompanied tour, plain and simple. So, I did it.
I wrote a long, cordial letter that explained the entire chain of events from start to not-quite-finished. And I used my least favorite four letter word...twice. I don't know if the word was truly the trump card, but I do know that after nearly 4 weeks of misery and worrying, I have the stamp of approval from the DMV and will receive a new, very official-looking Virginia driver's license in the mail within the next two weeks. What, pray tell, happened?
Four weeks ago tomorrow, Nicholas, Kelsey and I headed to the zoo to meet another FS family for a playdate. It was a gorgeous day, if not a bit hot, and in anticipation of free parking for a year, I joined FONZ the morning of our trip. I was warned to have my license handy, as well as my receipt, in order to get the parking fees waived that day. In hindsight, they could have written, "Have them ready when you LEAVE the parking lot." Who knows what it was (likely sleep deprivation), but I had everything ready to go when I entered the parking lot, figuring I would get a special pass or ticket.
Instead the parking lot attendant just handed me a ticket and I rapidly withdrew the receipt and my license...or so I thought. I put the receipt in the console, headed to a parking space and reached in to grab my license...and found nothing. We were a few minutes behind, but still relatively timely given the traffic, so I figured I would take a minute to find my license and then we would get going. Surely it had just fallen on the floor.
Twenty minutes later I had scoured the car three times and there was not so much as a hint of that little card that meant so much. I was freaking out and now we were quite late. I realized if we didn't get going, the day would be that much more of a loss, so we packed up our stuff, got out of the car and headed out of the lot and into the zoo. I stopped to check with the attendant in the hopes that the license had simply fallen on the ground. Perhaps it was safely sitting in her drawer at that moment....nope, no such luck.
We had a great morning and afternoon regardless of the license situation. I had forgotten just how big the zoo had grown (not exactly the same as the uber-kid friendly Oakland zoo) and just getting around was much more of a hike than I rememberd (well, the memories came back once we were trekking up the hillier portions). I got a good bit of exercise, though, the kids loved it (especially the indoor areas) and despite not having as much time with friends, we still felt like we saw enough to make the trip more than worth it. However, the license issue still niggled at me the entire time. I realized if nothing else that it was a sign I needed to get to the DMV ASAP.
After we returned home, I loooked online at their site and gathered very piece of information I thought I could need. I employed a local sitter, set off for the Tysons office and didn't make it further than the front desk.
I explained the situation and was immediately told that unless I found my CA driver's license (HA!) or obtained a copy of my driving record, I would not only have to retake the test, but essentially have to start all over again. You know, as though I had never had a license IN MY LIFE. The woman refused to listen to me when I tried to tell her that I had a VA license in the past and simply said, "You will have to start all over again and that will include having a learner's permit for a month IF you pass the test." Yes, the idea of a learner's permit at my age scared the bejeezus out of me. Who the heck was supposed to be my co-pilot, Caitlin? Without mentioning my current situation, I simply said thank you and went home to scour the CA DMV site to see if it might be of any help.
Almost immediately, I found the option to purchase one's driving record. I could print out an on-line copy or mail in the form for a certified copy. I decided to go for the easiest option first, and then hit a wall: in order to access said copy, I needed my DL number, date of issue and date of expiration. I combed through two computers worth of documents and couldn't find a scanned copy of my license anywhere, though I know we had scanned them at some point. Finally I searched my email for attachments and found a note from our lender with regard to need our DL information for the closing documents. I wrote to my lender (who is also our very nice neighbor), explained the situation and within two hours he emailed me the information....everything I needed to gain access to MY information.
I printed out the non-certified driving record from CA, filled out the application for a driver's license in VA and went back to the DMV the next morning. After two hours of waiting, I was able to see a clerk. All was going well from the vision test to the picture-taking. No questions about my driving record or anything else for that matter. I could see my license being printed out as she grasped my credit card and swiped it through the machine. Then it happened....
What? Oops? There was nothing wrong with the credit card, how could there be an oops? The driver's license within my grasp suddenly sprouted wings and flew off before I could say a word. The clerk then mentioned that the "oops" happened because the system suddenly noted that I was still a licensed driver in VA. I explained how I had taken the (God awful, extremely difficult, never want to take again) test in CA and turned in my VA license at the time...two years ago.
She remarked that she understood, but that the CA DMV had a habit of forgetting to turn licenses over to the issuing state...as they had in my case. She went on to mention that it should only take one quick phone call to DMV in Richmond and we could likely get it squared away. She dialed the number only to learn that they had closed 20 minutes earlier. I would have to come back the following week with a new application. The good news? The phone call to DMV would likely resolve everything and I would be on my way with a new license once the phone call was wrapped up.
The following Tuesday, I went back to the DMV and spent two more hours waiting (extremely patiently, I might add), assuming I would do nothing more than re-submit my application and walk out a few minutes later with a VA license....oh, was the joke on me. I was so confident that because I was a licensed VA driver that the CA license would no longer be an issue and/or that the clear statement of my driving record (with proof of receipt) from the DMV site would suffice. Again, I was wrong. The clerk assisting me called DMV in Richmond who insisted I would need a "certified copy" of my driving record. Since I doubt they had magically received my CA license within those few days, I was befuddled as to what had happened or why the fact that I was still a valid driver (according to their own system) in VA suddenly didn't matter.
Whatever. I was tired, I was stressed and I was sick of the issue. I very nicely thanked them, headed home, printed out the certified copy business and mailed it off with a check. Foolishly, I figured it would show up in a week or two, I would go back to DMV and it would all be resolved...again, not so much. After two weeks and two days of agonizing waiting, I tried to call the CA DMV (are you laughing yet?). I realized it was likely futile, and hung up after 10 minutes of trying to get an actual human on the line.
I decided I would simply try again. I printed out the document again, filled it out...again, enclosed another check and took it to the post office. I sent it off by Priority Mail and by yesterday had heard? Absolutely nothing. No checks had been cashed and nothing even remotely official from the CA DMV had been placed in our mail box. I was at my wits' end and simply couldn't take the stress of the situation any more. I decided it was time to pull out the big guns, so to speak, and plucked the name of an FS DMV contact from an email I had received a while back.
The name was of someone who was purportedly able to help those of us in the Foreign Service, should we have issues with DMV, particularly with regard to driver's licenses. I realized that when I added it all up, I would not be in this situation if not for Peter's current assignment. I opened the email, composed a thoughtful and cordial letter explaining the situation and clicked send. I hoped for the best, expected the worst and...
16 hours later I was leaving the Tysons DMV with an official driving permit in hand. The license is a super-duper fancy-schmancy piece of i.d. now, designed much like the CA licenses. It takes time to make it 'just right' and I have about a two week wait before it shows up in my mailbox.
The entire process (once I reached the front desk) took maybe 15 minutes. Given the circumstances, I bypassed the regular 'waiting in the chairs' bit. I still needed all of my other documentation, but the CA/old VA license issue was no longer a problem. Quite honestly, I don't know what happened regarding that, I just know that I only needed to prove who I was (passport and expired "Overseas Only" military i.d. were perfect), that I had a SSN (a 2001 Social Security statement sufficed) and that I was indeed a resident of Virginia (water bill). A flurry of typing, picture-taking and credit-card swiping later and I was on my way.
I have profusely thanked the two people who assisted me with this endeavour and can only hope they truly understand how grateful I am. However, I should add, lest it look as though I was trying to curry favor or use our unfortunate situation (Peter's tour of duty) to our advantage, please remember:
- Peter's not in a happy, cheery place right now...there's a very good reason he's receiving danger and hardship pay.
- I have three kids to care for, a house to deal with and many other things going on...and I am doing it 110% on my own...and that would not be the case if not for the current assignment
- I did everything, and I mean everything by the book. I didn't try to slip anything by anyone (the clerk hadn't indicated a non-certified copy of my record wouldn't work) and I had almost every piece of documentation possible at each visit.
- I didn't write to the contact the minute I couldn't get things resolved. I did everything I could to get this completed on my own. However, after this long, I simply couldn't justify not trying another way to get this issue out of the way.
- I was nice as nice could be. I never raised my voice or remotely looked like I might go postal while at the DMV. While internally I was raging (primarily due to the craziness of the situation), I knew that if I lost it at the counter, it would only make things more difficult (in fact, I watched a woman go postal on my second visit...it was horrid to have to witness, and it got her absolutely nowhere). Oh, and in my letter, I simply asked for words of wisdom...I had no idea the issue would actually be resolved or so quickly.
And now? A huge sigh of relief on my part...and a few long overdue photos from our fun zoo day. I might also I add that I hope no one ever has to go through the above situation...but if you do, know that there is hope and most definitely a likely solution. Thank you, thank you, kind DMV contact, you rock!