Without fail, my timing is either impeccably perfect or off juuuuust enough to be considered really, really horrendous.
My South Carolina driver’s license, which I got upon moving to the Palmetto State 10 years ago (yeah, insanely long licenses here) expired on my birthday this year.
I’m moving to Tennessee less than a month after my birthday.
Which means I either had to deal with two DMVs within a month or I had to let my license lapse for a couple of weeks and hope my good luck with my lead foot going unnoticed continued.
In the interest of calming TechPapa’s already frazzled nerves, I went today (2 days late, OH THE HORROR) to renew my license. It was fine, actually, since I need the title for my car to get it registered in TN (my SC registration expires May 31 because WHEE) and, well, I’m pretty sure the title has already been packed in a file box. Somewhere. Or else I shredded it in my Great ShredFest of 2014, which is entirely possible. Regardless of the original title’s fate, I needed a duplicate.
Two birds, one stone, boom.
I was braced for the purgatory of the DMV on a Monday at lunch. I was ready for it to be teeming with people, angry and fidgety and unshowered because no one ever showers to go the DMV. I’d mentally prepared myself for having my picture made, had even put on mascara (even if you don’t shower before going to the DMV, you at least put on mascara, sometimes no matter your gender).
I was not prepared for what I found. No wait. No funky odor. No flustered people. I looked back at the door to make sure I was in the right place. Pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Checked my phone to make sure I hadn’t jumped into some alternate reality because if I had, you know my iPhone would have told me.
The lady at the desk, the same one I’ve seen umptebazillion times in the past 10 years, almost smiled at me. “Can I help?”
I told her I needed to renew my license and apply for a lost title. She handed me two forms and a number.
Things were going too well. FAR too well.
My number popped up just as I finished filling out the forms, and I practically skipped to the counter. “I’m a twofer!” I proclaimed. Because I’m also a doofus.
The woman smiled at me, genuinely, and took my paperwork. She typed furiously for a few seconds, then she got that furrow in her brow that never means anything remotely good.
“Hon, I can’t renew a suspended license.”
Um…what the hell? “What?”
“Here,” she turns the screen where I can see it. “Suspended with a surrender order. 2011.”
2011?? My license has been suspended for THREE YEARS and I DID NOT KNOW THIS??
“But I haven’t even had a ticket in over five years!” I remember this clearly because it was in Podunk, TN, and I had a friend in the car with me. I even remember which friend because when I was getting pulled over, I looked at her and asked, “Should I tell him I have my lawyer in the car?” to which she very adamantly replied, “HELL NO!” I also know I paid that ticket because I had to send it to Podunk, TN “C/O The County Seat” because Podunk, TN, doesn’t even have it’s own municipal buildings. I am not fuzzy on these facts.
My chest tightened as her brow furrow got deeper and she clicked around on the screen.
“Mmm-hmm. Lapse of insurance.” She looked at me over her glasses, another move you never want to see at the DMV. “You change insurance companies around that time?”
“No! I’ve been with the same company since I was a fetus!” It’s not that much of a stretch.
After some more digging, she told me it was a lapse on the minivan I traded it in for my current car, strangely (har) right around the time of the insurance lapse. She scribbled on a post-it and handed it to me. “Call the dealership and have them fax me the Bill of Sale. I’ll see what I can do.”
She sounded like there wasn’t much she could do at all.
Frantically, I called the dealership and began convincing people I was insane as I went out to my car. There are a few things I know are ALWAYS in my glove compartment: Car manuals, extra straws, a tire gauge, random condiment packets, and the paperwork on the car from the dealership. It had occurred to me I MIGHT have something in there that would show where I traded the minivan, so I went to scrounging while being handed from person to person.
I found the envelope that holds all of my paperwork. There was all of my warranty information, a couple of service receipts, a rogue spare straw, NOTHING on my current car, and a piece of paper crammed into the bottom of the envelope.
Folks, there are times in life when God shows Himself in the weirdest of ways. The piece of paper in the bottom of the envelope was the Bill of Sale on the minivan – the ONLY piece of paper that had anything to do with any of the sales transactions that day, the same day my insurance on that car had been cancelled.
I hung up on the dealership (sealing my fate as “The Crazy”) and ran back into the DMV waving what I’m pretty sure is the piece of paper the dealership should have sent to the state. The woman who had been helping me had no one at her counter. She clapped as I came at her.
Ten minutes later, I was on my merry way with my duplicate title, an expunged record, and a SC driver’s license that’s valid until 2024 but will be replaced in the next month.
And that, my friends, is the story of how I’ve been on the run from the law for three years and never even knew it.