By Russ and Tiña De Maris
In this day and age of identity theft, nearly all of us quail at the thought of someone lifting our wallet and running off with our credit cards! Wise ones are said to keep a list of their cards (even better, photocopies of them) stashed away in the rig. Armed with phone numbers, we can quickly report the loss, and limit our damages. “Don’t lose your head over something simple,” the constant wise-guy in my mind nags me.
But how many of us consider the loss of that little rectangle of plastic? That thing so coveted by teenagers? I speak of your driver’s license. I KNOW I had mine one fine spring evening when I checked in at Zion National Park. It was the next morning that that slippery devil had gone AWOL. I still had my wallet, but that cursed license was nowhere to be found. We “turned” the tow vehicle and RV over. We checked with Zion’s “lost and found.” We called park security. Grilled entrance booth attendants. No dice. I became fearful that in addition to a lost license, I would shortly lose my head.
Just call the DMV?
“Oh well,” I cheered myself, “it could be worse. Could have been your credit cards! Just call back to the home state DMV and ask them what to do.” Silly man. Lose your driver’s license? Be prepared for more gut-wrenching than the last time you dared the all-you-can-eat at Pepino’s Mexican, just on the other side of the U.S. border – when you risked drinking the water.
Don’t lose your head, huh? First it was the “automated help system.” As everyone knows, they’re simply a ploy to frustrate you so much, you’ll give up without bothering office staffers. I redialed, hoping to find a “live body” to speak with. Eventually I did find an attending government clerk.
“I’m afraid you’ll need to make your replacement request by mail,” said the lady in Driver Services. “How long might that take?” is the obvious next question. My mind was roiling with thoughts of mail forwarding and a nebulous RV travel schedule.
“Just five to ten days!” Five-to-ten – in addition to the mail trying to reach the home state to make the request in the first place. Five-to-ten – sounded more to me like a sentence that some humorless judge might hand down from the bench.
To the “slumber room”
“Is there any other way I can do this?” I explained our unknown future address situation. After a considerable period spent in the “slumber room” with “muzak on hold,” my guide returned. “Good news!” she chortled. “You can request a replacement license via our internet site. You’ll only need a credit card, and your license will be sent to your address of record, which is ….” And she then rattled off our literal street address.
But we don’t receive our mail at our street address. I pointed that factoid out. While it was truly our “home base,” our mail was only delivered to a forwarding facility, which did a dandy job of getting it to us while we were on the road. Mail sent to our street address was promptly bounced off Jupiter – and returned to sender – address unknown. Please, Elvis, don’t lose your head.
Talk about a dumbfounded bureaucrat. More time spent in the slumber room. Finally word came down from a higher authority. Yes, the license could be mailed to our “registered mailing address,” but nowhere else. Fortunately, the state recognized our mail drop as our “registered address.”
“Deputy Dawg” from Podunk
Next dumb question: “How long will this take?” “Anywhere from five to 45 days.” Huh? “Well, most people receive their licenses in less than 45 days, but it could take that long.”
I had visions of myself driving around the country. Traveling through who-knew-what Podunk jurisdictions, driver’s license-less. It didn’t look good. Forty-five days to get to the mail-forwarding drop, then out to wherever we might be at the time. I had visions of explaining the situation to “Deputy Dawg,” who’d pulled me over for that proverbial “tail light out.” Hauled off to a dank jail cell. Fed reconstituted Walmart stew. Allowed a single phone call to the lawyer who was probably out somewhere trying to hook catfish. It was a living nightmare.
I surrendered my credit card number to the internet god of the DMV the next time I had connectivity.
Don’t leave home without it
Happily, I had thought to keep one of my old, expired licenses and squirreled it away in the rig. I dug through my bathroom countertop basket, a catchall of coins, receipts, chewing gum, and keys I couldn’t figure out what locks they belonged to. There in the bottom of the basket was my image. OK, it was an image from 13 years ago. It still looked like me. OK, sort of. The hair color was darker. The face was a bit thinner. But, hey, it was me, testified to by a store clerk the next day. She’d asked to see my ID on a credit card transaction. “That’s you!” she said. Shame on me. I didn’t even think to tip her for the compliment.
I still recall Karl Malden, ages ago, intoning the famous line: “American Express. Don’t leave home without it.” Before you pull out for a lengthy road trip, you might think about what not to leave home without. Check with your state’s DMV about their policy on replacing lost driver licenses – as in, while you’re out of state. You might keep a recent (?) expired license with you.
While I never did have to show my expired license to a police officer, I was ready. I had a little speech all planned out. I hoped that that speech, along with handing over that plastic card with the handsome dude’s face on it, would have kept me out of hot water. Or being turned over to a place where I might lose my head, along with my license.