My DMV nightmare

My wallet disappeared, but that was nothing compared to the pain of trying to get a new driver’s license.

I quickly cancelled all my bank cards and then went into DMV to get a new driver’s license. My number was 208, they were serving customer #186. Hmmmm. Where else can you go and stand in line with 22 people ahead of you? Once through, DMV would not accept my identification papers for a new license. Favoring reasonable protections I can accept thier decision. I raced home and dug up my birth certificate. Back in DMV my new number was #259 and they were serving customer #241.

This time DMV denied my new license because another person named Jason Williams with the same birthday had traffic tickets in Alabama! Here is where the story gets worse.

All other information (middle name, SSN#, race, eye color, etc.) was not available to the DMV agent, so I was guilty until I proved my innocence. DMV said I had to get a letter clearing my name from the Alabama Public Safety Department and gave me a phone number. I went home and called the number only to get a maze of voicemail options. If I hit zero for an operator I was immediately disconnected. If I waited on the phone for someone to help I was immediately disconnected. I began choosing various voicemail options and found nothing but 10 minute long message machines that gave the addresses of Alabama DMV locations. This was no help to me because even if I wanted to fly to Alabama to clear my name I couldn’t get on a stupid flight because I have no drivers license. After giving 15 different DMV locations for me to visit the voicemail said “hit zero for an operator”. I hit zero and I was disconnected. I did this three separate times! The agency had made it impossible to talk to a real live person.

In desperation, I went to the Alabama website and found a host of local license re-admittance offices. I called the first one and got a dead end where no one answered the phone and with no option to leave a message. I called another city and got the same dead end. Finally, on the third city I got a person who sent me to the Fraud Unit. The Fraud Unit said they acknowledged that I was not the same Jason Williams in trouble in Alabama, but their office could not help me. The Fraud Unit transferred me to the Review Officer. Upon transfer the phone was disconnected. Luckily, I got the number in advance and called back directly. No one answered the phone at the Review Officer office and the line simply disconnected me. I kept calling back to have no one answer until it became 5:00 closing time in Alabama.

After three hours of trying to get my license renewed I am now starting day two. If no one in Alabama will answer the phone, I will be unable to get a drivers license. What a horrible system with a nation of 300 million people and a person with the same first/last name and birthday can invalidate everyone else with the same information without end. Heck, there are many Jason Williams’ in the NBA alone! Imagine all the Dave Smiths and Bob Jones’ who will get trapped in this system.

Having bureaucratic dead end phone systems is not unique to Alabama. When I call the Oregon Department of Revenue or Employment Department I often get disconnections. If I leave a voice message it is a gamble that someone will return my call. My half-day ordeal is just an everyday example of what taxpayers suffer with when they run into a bureaucracy that is not customer friendly, inefficient and hostile to the people they are supposed to serve.