Thursday, March 19, 2015

California DMV

I've been a little preoccupied lately, so I apologize in advance for the lack of excitement in this post.

Recently I was tasked with obtaining a California Driver's License.  Yes, please insert, with your imagination, all of the terrors of enduring the DMV here.

In the state of California you have 10 days to obtain a driver's license once you move here.  Crazy I know.  Who is thinking of driver's licenses in those first 10 days after moving?  The drivers manual alone, is long enough that it will take more than 10 days to read and study it.  Which is why I was way past that 10 day mark in getting mine.

For anyone who has just moved to California from another state I'm going to give you the breakdown of how to make your time at the DMV less stressful. At least at the Glendale, CA DMV office.

#1. Read the manual.  Review the information that maybe seems like it won't be on a test because it seems like common knowledge.
#2. Go to and complete the practice tests for drivers licenses.  You may or may not see the same questions once you get to the DMV.
#3. Schedule an appointment online.  You won't get to pick your date, it just randomly generates one about 10 days from the day you schedule it. So in all actuality this could be #1, it just depends on how much time you will need for studying.
#4. Arrive at the DMV at least an hour before your scheduled appointment.  It will take you roughly 15 to 20 minutes just to find parking.  Then it will take at least 15 minutes if not longer to wait in the appointments line. 
#5. Obtain a number and proceed to the colorful and exciting people-watching, cattle call area.  This part reminded me a bit of the waiting that took place at The Price Is Right...only this was much less waiting, and much more entertaining in a completely different way.
#6. When your number is announced, proceed to the window instructed. Promptly.  Be patient.  Be Courteous.  You will be treated like a number; like an idiot; like a criminal; like they don't really care.  It's how it is.  They have a thankless job at the DMV.  Sure, there are probably a few bad apples that enjoy pissing people off, but it's very rarely their fault if you fail the test.
     a. You will have to submit a thumb print.  It's very easy, you place your thumb on a piece of technology and it scans your thumb. 
     b. You will have to provide them with proof of ID, using something other than an out of state driver's license...I used my Birth Certificate (original, no copies); you can also submit your passport.  But if you have an out of state driver's license you will also have to submit it to them here.
     c. This is where they will administer the vision test.  Unless you have really poor eyesight everyone should be fine here.  If you need glasses to drive, then for heaven's sake, wear them here.
#7. Once you verify all of your information at the previous window, they will send you to have your picture taken (still in the same building, just a different window).  You will have to submit another thumb print at this point and then have your picture taken.  They'll print out a black and white copy of what your photo looks like and staple it to the stack of papers that are in your hands from the previous window.  My lovely smile did not come across for my picture, so I looked like a serial killer.  This should be a super awesome adventure if I get pulled over in the future.
#8. You go wait in another line, that is right next to the picture taking line, to take the dreaded written test.  Once called up, the person at the counter does some typing, tells you which station to go stand at to take the test.  The test is on a computer; 36 multiple choice questions on a touch screen.  If you read the manual and retained any information, or have been driving like a decent human being while being licensed in another state, the test should be fairly easy.  I personally still remembered most of the traffic laws from my time in Wisconsin, thankfully.  The laws are very similar in CA.
#9. Once your computer screen says "Congratulations, you passed!", don't forget to read the rest of the instructions.  You don't have a license yet (don't leave like the poor sap next to me...even if you fail you have two more chances that day, but you have to return to the previous window for it to count).  You have to go back to the person who told you which computer to go to, where they will do some more typing; punch a hole in your out of state driver's license; attach a sticker to the back that indicates it's only for identification purposes now, and then she will hand you back your stack of paper (minus your black and white mug shot), and instructs you to carry that piece of paper and your out of state license with you in order to legally drive in CA.
#10.  In 2-3 weeks you will receive your driver's license in the mail. Although the person told me it could take up to 60 days, but it was highly unlikely.  Once that has happened, you can exit the building and go home and get as far away from the ill mannered Californian's that are at the DMV, as humanly possible.

Here's how the whole thing went for me.  My appointment was at 2:15 on a Tuesday.  I arrived at 1:05pm to find parking.  Obtained parking by 1:15 (after observing 2 cars nearly being rear-ended in the parking lot; one person becoming impatient with people waiting for spaces to open and nearly side swiping an entire aisle, just to go down another row, and one person driving the wrong direction).  Went inside the DMV (ignoring the massive line that extended outside the building- please do yourselves a favor and make an appointment!), to find the appointments only line to wait in.  There were about 6 other people in front of me.  By 1:30 got to the first window to get my assigned number.  By 1:55 my number was called.  By 2:34 I was done.

What I don't understand with driver's licenses is this: What is the point of reading the driving manual, then taking a 36 question test if, once the fine folks in California receive their licenses, they drive like completely insane people?
I believe in the state of Wisconsin, if you are a returning resident, you do not have to take a new test, you just have to provide them with your previously held driver's license number.  Although, for the sake of the sane, normal people there, I highly encourage people to revisit the WI state drivers manual- because they are nice, decent people- your honking and tail gating is not appreciated.  If you're out of state coming to WI, you have to take a test, I'm just not sure of the details.
In Texas, if you are coming from another state, the only thing that is required from you, is to register your car with the state first, then apply for a new license.  Show them your out of state license, then bam! You'll get your Texas license in the mail (it's strange to me how decent the people in Texas drive if nothing is really required of them to be a legal driver in that state). 
Having read the California drivers manual, cover to cover, I can assure you most people in California forgot everything they read- or simply don't care.  The honking, the tailgating, the general lack of courtesy everywhere is maddening.

Anyway.  I passed my test the first time.  Now to register my car...  

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