Monday, April 4, 2011

Got My License Today

Government haters (the people who think that the whole thing should just be shut down and everything contracted out) are always ragging on the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). I always wonder why, since I don't really have much contact with them. And neither does anyone else I know. We pay our car registration at the local AAA office. We used to mail it in. It required almost no work on our part. We send in the money. We get the registration and the sticker. Mindless.

Same for driver's licenses, except that you have to go in every 10 years for a new picture and vision test. It's not a big deal. You show up. They fingerprint you. They give you a basic vision test. (I wear glasses, and elected not to try to avoid the "must wear corrective lenses" restriction, as my vision is very, very blurry without glasses.) The personnel were businesslike and efficient. One even laughed when I didn't report an increased weight, claiming that the reported weight was a "goal." (Actually, I'm only about four pounds over, so it worked!) Then I went for my picture. Done. This time, I sent in money. They sent a license.
When I got my license, I discovered that they have really improved picture-taking. It's not the best picture of me, but it's not so bad that clerks do a double-take when checking my identification.

This time I sent in money. They sent me a temporary extension of my present license. The new licenses, which are intended to meet the Real ID requirements for air travel, as well as subvert license forgers, have faced, shall we say, production difficulties. L-1, the company that makes them (as well as 92% of the licenses in the US and US passports) has been doing sloppy work and California's DMV has forced them to re-do a fair number of them. Each license is examined to make sure that the license is up to snuff before being mailed out. That's a good thing for two reasons. The first is that we're paying for them and we have the right to the product we contracted for. The second is that, if you're stopped by the police or trying to use a check in a shop, having a defective license might get you hauled down to the police station where it could take some time to determine that you'd actually procured you license in the legal manner. Meanwhile, you're in a holding cell with "Spike."

And the new licenses are very cool. The signature and birthdate (in two places) are raised. There's a second grey-scale picture, in addition to the pretty decent color picture. There's a state seal overlapping the color picture, a bunch of state bears, a perforated state bear, and other images of California, some of which you have to look very carefully to find. (There ought to be a contest to see how many specific items people can identify.)

And yes, I know that license production is contracted out, which should please the anti-government forces, but they seem to have decided it has something, anything, to do with the DMV, and therefore the DMV is the bad guy.

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