Saturday, July 16, 2005

Time to Californicate the Beaver State

Somehow before I left Salem I had the presence of mind to think there might be an opportunity to go to DMV during my day off and finish my dealing with them. So, I brought my checkbook and the documents I needed to prove I live where I live with me on my little journey to Eastern Oregon.

Today (Friday) I drove up to Pendleton to stop by one of the places I used to work about 13 years ago or so and see if anyone was still around I knew. I had a nice chat with a few of the folks who were still there from my days, including the new head honcho in my old department. And he caught me up on some of the gossip related to some of the personnel shifts that have been taking place. It's always fun to talk insider baseball.

And for an old displaced desert rat, the weather could not have been more perfect in Eastern Oregon today. It was sunny and hot, or what my friends back in Palm Springs would call warm. Hot is the 120 they got the other day. Here, it barely breached the triple-digits. According to one of the reader signs on one of the banks I passed in Pendleton, it was about 101 during the hottest part of the day, if the sign is to be believed. It didn't really feel that hot, except when I got in my truck after it had been parked for a while, and the stearing wheel was hovering somewhere in that state of matter between a solid and a liquid. And I think my nose may be branded from putting my sunglasses on after leaving their case unshaded in the front seat.

While I was in Pendleton, I decided to swing by the DMV office and see if I would have time to take my test for my Oregon license. I wasn't real optimistic, since it was about 3:30, and if you don't start taking the test by 4 p.m. they won't let you test in Oregon DMV offices.

But the office looked pretty quiet. I grabbed my little paper tab number from the dispenser and looked at it. Number 62. Then I looked overhead at the "now serving" sign, and it was on 58. Things were looking pretty good, unlike my last DMV experience in Salem.

In a matter of a few minutes, one of the DMV clerks handed two driver's licenses (or ID cards) to two partrons. They appeared to be moving right along. But after a several more minutes, hope began to fade. The two clerks serving patrons seemed to be in their own little DMV hell. A young couple, new to the area, was trying to get Oregon licenses. They were obviously together because they kept handing this young infant in its little car-seat carrier thing back and forth to one another, along with a diaper bag and other assorted infant paraphernalia. One clerk was helping each of them.

They young woman, who was about 19, had apparently had a complex life. Her birth certificate had one last name, but she either changed or started using another. And I speculated that she have recently changed her name again as part of this whole coupling situation.

The young man had no problem proving who he was to the clerk, but he was having major problems proving where he lived. He kept running out to the parking lot to retrieve one document or another out of his vehicle. DMV will accept mail addressed to you at an address as proof of residency, so the guy brought in a piece of mail. But he didn't have to envelope, which would prove that it had actually been mailed and would also have the postmark to establish a timeline.

So as this saga is playing out, I'm checking my watch every few minutes, then looking at the clock on the wall, then back to my watch, and wondering if I'm going to make the 4 p.m. cut off time. Not that it mattered too much, but I'd rather not it in a DMV office if I wasn't going to accomplish anything.

And after a few more attempts to straighten out this young couple's identity woes, two other clerks emerge from on office. One is obviously the manager. And the other a low level clerk who obviously doesn't want to do much more actual work so close to her quitting time.

In the end, the couple was turned away without getting what they came for, and the clerks start calling numbers. And my number is quickly called, a few minutes before 4 p.m. I swagger up to the counter because I brought not one, but three pieces of mail with my address on it, as well as my California driver's license and my social security card to prove I am who I am and live where I live.

So, I hand the clerk half a sawbuck and he takes me over to a computer terminal to take my test. I'm feeling a little cocky, because I aced my online practice test with not one wrong answer. And I'm whipping through the test pretty good and receiving immediate gratification with each "correct" flashed on the screen.

But then something goes wrong. I miss a question, something like how many feet before an intersection do you signal your turn. I'm off by 25 feet. Then I miss another question on the standing speed limit in a business district if there is not speed marked. I miss that one by 5 mph.

The number questions are tripping me up. I can feel the panic start to set in. I hate failing a test. Not that it would really matter. I would still have a valid driver's license, and I could study some more and take the test again. But it's a pride thing.

So, I trudge forward, and start getting a flurry of "correct" answers again. But then I miss a few more. Then suddenly I reach the end of the test. And I hold my breath as I wait for the results to come up. I passed, but barely. You have to get at least 80 percent to get a license, and I got an 82. Missing one or two more questions probably would have sacked me. I'm not proud of my score, but I accept it graciously.

I then get shuffled to another clerk this time. And after acting a little suspicious that I was a Californian who moved to Salem but came to Pendleton to take his test for his license. I explain that I'm in the area visiting family. I get a funny look, but I'm passed off to the clerk who seemed more interested in standing around that doing any actual work so she can give me my eye exam. Then it's back to clerk No. 2, who takes my California license, and more money, and sends me back to Lazy Chick, who then takes my picture.

Being the less than photogenic guy I am, she has to take two. The first one had some problem (probably largely because I was the guy in the frame, but she blames it on glare on my glasses). So she snaps another photo, and a few minutes later hands me my license.

So, I am officially an Oregonian again. The only major citizenship chore to complete now is voter registration, and then I can Californicate Oregon with my driving and my politics. Did you know in California, you don't have to be in the farthest right hand lane to make a right turn on a red light? Can't do that shit in Oregon. And in California, when you turn, right or left, at a light, you don't have to turn into the nearest lane (unless there are multiple turn lanes). Can't do that shit in Oregon either. I remembered that for my test, probably contributing to my now licensed status, but I sure hope I remember it while I'm on the road. I'd hate to have my license pulled before its schedule expiration in 2013.

Can you believe that? 2013? Eight years on a license. Eat your heart out Californians! I'm an Oregonian now! DMV says so!

So, the key to avoiding long waits at DMV is to go to some stagnating town in Eastern Oregon to get your license. I recommend Pendleton. It may be the county seat of Umatilla County, but it's dying on the vine, so you shouldn't have much of a wait for service. It may not be worth the 4-hour drive from Portland to get there, but if you happen to be passing through, bring your paperwork along.

OK, this post is getting long and it's late. But don't let me forget to tell you about the rest of the day's events, like running barelegged through a wheat field during harvest. I might even tell you about the bloody mess I found in my parent's garage and why I ended up having to dispose of the deceased and wash blood out of the back of my truck. That might have to wait until after I make my getaway out of Eastern Oregon though.


OldHorsetailSnake said...

"Dying on the vine"? What happened to the pea harvest?

The G-man said...

Pea harvest is apparently done. I think they are harvesting watermelon now. Do you want me to bring you a Hermiston watermelon backk to Salem Hoss?

Weary Hag said...

What a great post. I love DMV stories because they usually contain more suspense and horror than any Stephen King novel.
Also love the little cliffhanger you left us at the end!

The G-man said...

I haven't quite delivered on that cliff hanger yet have I? Well, like in TV news, the real story may not deliver on the promise of the teaser, but I thought it served it's purpose. I may get around to telling the other part of that story one of these days. Just haven't had the right inspiration yet.

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