Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Papers, Please

I just got back from the DMV where I got my new Oregon driver's license. I read about the new identification requirements (proof of citizenship, proof of social security number, proof of residence) and came prepared.

I thought.
  • Proof of citizenship? Check: I had my passport.
  • Proof of SSN? Check: I had my social security card.
  • Proof of residence? Check: I had my "welcome" letter from Pacific Power.
What I wasn't expecting was to take the written test. I mean, duh, I should have expected it but my blind spots continue to surprise me. Nice lady at the counter said she had a couple of tips. "Know the blood alcohol level, and when you change snow tires. And if you don't know the answer to a question, skip it; it'll come back at the end if you need it to pass, and you'll have a better chance of getting it right if you don't answer right away."

I thanked her and grabbed a copy of the driver manual and sat down between a kid and a rough-looking fellow.

"This thing got an index?" I asked aloud while flipping through it, looking for the snow tire or alcohol sections. Apparently not.

The RLF said that getting an Oregon driving license was real tough. Said this was his third time trying to pass the test.

"They don't tell you, but if you don't pass you can ask them to review the test with a video."

I pictured a tiny darkened room in the back with a single chair and a 12-inch color TV and a VCR. One of those plastic seats molded roughly in the shape of a seated human's backside, with cigarette burns in the laminated writing surface mounted to it. Janitor's mop bucket in the corner. The smell of desperation and sweat.

"And, if you ask them, they have to show you what pages in the manual has the questions you missed." He showed me a sheet of paper from his last test. There was a list of the pages he needed to review before his next test. A long list.

This guy was working hard to get his license.

"Where do they tell you about the snow tires?" I said.

A woman a few seats away said, "November 1 to April 1. We know because he," she indicated the boy next to me with a tilt of her head, "needed to know that for this time."

For this time? Cripes. How hard is this thing, I wondered.

I spent a few more minutes desultorily flipping through pages. Found the blood alcohol limit (0.08 or greater) and figured that it was now or never: if I couldn't pass the test based on my 42 years of driving and some common sense, I'd just have to take the darn book home and study it.

So I told the test supervisor I was ready to take the test, and he seated me with my back to the RLF who was already in the process of taking his test for the fourth time. Just as I finished the sample question (a slow child could have passed that one), the fellow suddenly stood up, knocking my chair from behind.

"Sorry, boss -- I just passed!"

"Congratulations, man." I said, and began my test. I skipped three questions that each had two or three equally sensible answers, stabbed at them at the end, and passed with an 80%. Sweet.

The nice lady took my picture and gave me my temporary permit, and asked if I was going to register my car.

"That's the main reason I wanted to get my license," I said. "Once the California plates are off then people won't tease me any more."

"Oh, we'll keep teasing you Californians."

Okay, well at least no one will egg Mellow Yellow for the plates. If I drive like an asshole then I deserve it.

"Is your car here?"

"No, I rode my bike."

"Here's an all-day pass." She handed me a green slip with some numbers on it. "If you come back today you won't have to wait in line. Bring your title and your car and your permit and we'll get your car registered."

So I rode home, grabbed the title and drove back to the DMV and, in 15 minutes, walked out with a shiny new pair of Crater Lake plates.

So if you see a yellow-ish ("Ivory") colored Vanagon Westfalia with front and rear trailer hitches and CL plates driving around Bend, that'd be us.


  1. Just a follow up question to make sure you got all your bases covered:

    Did you chuck your Bob Baker VW plate frames?

  2. @ News Junkie: No. Or wait, yes. ...Hey! This is a "and have you stopped beating your wife?" kind of question, isn't it? Mellow Yellow ain't never had no stupid Bob Baker plate frames.

    The bases are covered, except for that oval CBD (Carlsbad) sticker on the rear window, but who's to know that someone from Oregon didn't pick that up on some surfing vacation to the southland?

  3. Jack: Just curious, since you mentioned it, if she does, how often does Mrs. Elliott feel beat by you?


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