If you haven’t made time to obtain your Star ID driver’s license yet, you are heading for an encounter straight out of the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Remember the ticket agent at the airport? The lady who says she doesn’t care for how Neal is speaking to her right before he tells her he threw away his car rental agreement? If not, there will be plenty of reruns over the holidays to refresh your memory.
This sign is an indication of the frustration you are destined to encounter when you go for your Star ID driver’s license, which you will need by 2015 in order to fly domestic (without a passport), among other things. Clearly, more than a few people have reached their limit and cut a fool at the License office in Pelham, where this sign is displayed. I figure if you need to threaten me with arrest even before I open my mouth, this experience is not likely to be pleasant.
Having taken a child for a driver’s permit (an epic saga too discouraging to describe), I can assure you that the Star ID experience can also be a long spell of Sit and Wait. Accounts from people who have visited DMV offices at Bankhead Highway (better known as the DMV office near Finley & Arkadephia), outposts in Inverness and Pelham, and the Shelby County office in Columbiana all have reported lengthy waits. For example, a line begins to form at the Pelham license office beginning at 7 a.m., a full hour before the office opens. In all locations, you take a number and then take a seat among the other mildly disgruntled, in-a-hurry people and start the game of “How long have you been here? What is the last number they called?”
You may as well be prepared for what is to come. Don’t think that you will run in on a lunch break or just before work and get your license updated. Realize that the staff has to take a lunch just like you do, so things run slower as employees rotate on and off for their lunch breaks. Commiserating with others who are waiting may foster a certain amount of esprit de corps, but it also magnifies your discontent. Also, there is a fascinating cross section of fellow citizens to observe (shout out to the guy who shared with the fellow sitting across from him that he had just gotten out of prison…that’ll teach the rest of us to ask questions when we really don’t want to know the answer. Cue an awkward silence for remaining numbers 36 and higher.).
Everybody wants to pile on about the inefficiency and ineptness of government offices, but I don’t blame a group of employees that is perpetually under resourced given the demands placed upon them. You can’t mandate a new type of license and not expect a corresponding spike in processing at the license office. Collectively, we citizens have decided that waiting is preferable to an increase in taxes to speed up service. Thus, the only thing to do is make sure you have all of the documentation you need, are well fed and hydrated, and have a book/knitting/plenty of phone battery to occupy your mind.
Otherwise, you’re … (as the ticketing agent said).