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Licensed to Drive

Indio, California: My Oregon driving license was expiring at the end of October 2019, so I went to the Oregon DMV to have it renewed before we headed south. No problem. Ten minutes to go through the process and my new license would arrive in the mail in the next few weeks, but meanwhile I was given a temporary paper license. Except my renewed license did not arrive in the mail before we moved out of our house. I didn't worry because we had arranged for our mail to be forwarded to us in Indio. Except, a driving license can't be forwarded.

Rat farts.

So I put on my big girl pants, went drove over to the DMV in Indio, and applied for a license to drive in the Great State of California. I've only had an Oregon license (and for a short time, a license to drive in Taiwan, because I had a scooter). California now issues REAL ID, which is more than a license to drive, but shows you have proved who you are (birth certificate, passport, social security card, etc.) thus allowing the holder to board domestic flights. In just a few years, a license to drive will not be considered "identification" - so y'all had better be getting your paperwork organized.

I "took a number" and was called to a desk in less than one minute! My paperwork was complete, I had my birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, social security card, property tax (for our site in Indio) statement, and - for good measure - an electric bill, proving I lived in California. I passed the written (actually a touch screen) test, missing two of 36 questions, had my photo taken, and paid the $40 fee.

Then came the part I always fail: the vision test. My right eye - even without correction - can pass the test, meaning I can read the teeniest 20/20 line. I'm blind in my left eye - 20/800 legally. In Oregon it legal to drive with only one eye. Not in California. California requires a note from a doctor.

The clerks were so helpful and simply gave me a form for my doctor to fill-in and sign. I told them I would be back in an hour, and drove to my retina specialist in La Quinta. Except the doctor's office was closed. Not for the day, closed. Gone. Someone walking by the building told me they had just moved, and pointed me in the right direction - whew. When I reached the new location, the doctor said it had been over a year since he had seen me, so wanted to see me again before signing the papers... appointments were available in about a month... but when I told him I had just seen my doctor in Portland a few weeks prior, he happily faxed the papers up to her. She quickly signed the form and faxed it back to his office. So nice!

Not so nice, though, as when I returned the signed form to the DMV, I was informed the signing doctor must be a CALIFORNIA doctor.

Rat farts.

The DMV issued a temporary driving license (to a possibly blind person?) and sent me on my way.

Fast forward to Lisa getting me in to her friendly ophthalmologist in Los Angeles, (CALIFORNIA), who saw me right away, signed the form, and I went back to the DMV, prepared to walk out as a licensed California driver.

Didn't happen.

I had to take an actual driving test. You know, the one you take when you are 16 and first getting a license? The kind where you drive and a total stranger sits in the passenger seat judging your every move ensuring you are a safe and capable driver? An appointment for the test was not available for nearly 6 weeks. I made the appointment for January 29th, and they extended my temporary driving license until then.

I arrived to the DMV 15 minutes early for the scheduled test. This time they needed the registration of my car and proof of insurance. There was some stapling, and then I was asked to move my car to a designated spot and wait - about ten minutes - until an "evaluater" arrived for my test. I waited as told, only to be greeted by the same clerk who checked me in, with these dreaded words: I'm sorry, but your test needs to be rescheduled. The man scheduled for my test had just received news of a death in his family, and had gone home.

I won't say rat farts here. It was his grandpa, and I felt terrible for him, and they scheduled me for an appointment in one week. Looking back, January 29th may have been a terrible day for a driving test anyway, as the winds were gale-force (gusts to 47 mph are gale-force, peeps!), and power was out to traffic lights in the area... not to mention the test requires a little freeway merging and the I-10 in Indio is like being in a wind tunnel on a blustery day.

So this morning at ten o'clock you could have seen me arrive to the DMV, only to be told my name was not on the schedule. This is when I started looking for hidden cameras, assuming someone was punking me. How was this possible? Then I saw the clerk who had come out to my car last week to inform me my test had been cancelled and she did, indeed, remember. My name suddenly appeared on the schedule and ten minutes later I was driving around Indio with a stranger in my car.

It was the usual test: driving straight, left turn, right turn, changing lanes, pulling over to a stop at a curb, backing up, and then a merge onto the interstate. Fun times, but I passed the test. My tester gave me a few tips on how to improve my driving, and informed me I was sitting too close to the steering wheel (air bag danger). His instructions were very helpful to me, and since he has been testing drivers for 25 years, assumed he knew his stuff.

After passing my exam, I had to go back into the DMV to receive - guess what??? - ANOTHER temporary license. The amount of paperwork required to get one woman a license to drive is staggering. The actual physical license will arrive to our mailbox here in Indio within three weeks.

Until my next update, I remain, your "sitting by the mailbox" correspondent.

3 replies on “Licensed to Drive”

  1. What kind of advice did he give you for not sitting close to the wheel. I’m vertically challenged and sit close to the steering wheel and often wonder about that airbag.

    1. Kelly: he said a driver should be ONE FOOT away from the steering wheel to avoid airbag injuries. (I pushed my seat back, but could not reach the gas or brake pedals, but I was able to get about 10 inches away.) He also said I was making a mistake by keeping my hands at the “10 & 2” position on the steering wheels. To avoid injury if the airbag explodes, keep your hands at the “9 & 3” positions. CHECK WITH YOUR DMV.

  2. Welcome to California (Please empty your wallet at the border)!

    You are luckier than most, as it took us three (3) months go get our Real ID appointment, but then they decided our Social Security card (issued decades ago – around birth) was “too old” (!!!) and we needed a new one. Another 3 months! Finally got processed, and thank goodness it wasn’t a renewal, so no driving test. Glad to hear go got it all worked out ~ test and all!

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