The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles: Stupider Than Church

I recently had my wallet stolen, which sucks.  I also suspect, since I cannot find my social security card, that it never got taken out of my wallet after I brought it into work during my first week.  Balls.

So I have to replace my driver’s license and other documents.  As a hopefully somewhat clever person who places a premium on my time, I called ahead to ask a simple question: my last driver’s license was in MO, will that be an issue?  I was assured that it wouldn’t be.  My boss watched me make that call.  Awesome, so that means I just needed to provide the proper ID.  Better check the state web site to see what qualifies.

Ok, great!  Glad it won’t be difficult.  I had already canceled my debit card with the bank and a new one was in the mail.  I already have my birth certificate so as soon as it came in the mail I would be golden.  Well, yesterday it came, so this morning I got up at the crack of dawn and looked up the closest BMV (DMV for Ohioans).

This is the location the web site gave me as the closest to my house, so I threw on my gay, wintery apparel and set off for 3rd St.  I arrived at 8:05 AM to find an empty shell of a building.  No desks, no people, even the termites looked like they had no use for it.  Thank Science for smartphones.  I looked up the next closest location and set off.

20 minutes later I walked into the new location and immediately saw a sign saying they only accepted cash and checks.  I had $5 on me so I went to the on-location ATM to extract $20.  The ATM charged me $4.50 for the privilege, but I was already going to be late to work so I did it.  When I got up to the counter I saw the price for a replacement license was $27, not $24.50.  So I went back and handed the state another $4.50 it didn’t earn.

When I reached the counter a second time I told the lady I was there for a replacement license.  She asked me if I had a form of ID such as a birth certificate, social security card, credit card, etc.  I told her I had a birth certificate and a credit card.  She told me she only needed to see one of them, so I handed her my card.  She gave me a number and asked me to go wait.

I sat for about a half hour, which I mostly spent tweeting about what unforgivable and austere clusterfuck the BMV was.  When my number was called I reported to stall 13 where a very pleasant woman asked me to fill out a form.  I did so.  She then asked me for my birth certificate and social security card.  I explained to her that I didn’t have a social security card, but that I did have a birth certificate in addition to the debit card she was holding.  She informed me that the debit card wasn’t enough and that I would need to take my birth certificate down to the Social Security Office which was “just down the road”.  There they would give me a print out of my social security info that I could use to get a state ID, which I could then take back to the social security office to get a new social security card.

To repeat, my birth certificate was insufficient to get my a social security card.  I had to go show my birth certificate to someone who would give me a piece of paper that has the same power as a social security card in getting me a state ID, which I could then use to get a social security card.  *head desk*

She then asked me for my social security number and attempted to look me up in her computer.  After a few minutes she scrunched her face into a look of confusion and told me she couldn’t find me.  I told her that my last license was in Missouri and that I had called ahead and was told that wouldn’t be an issue.  Turns out, it is.  This left me with two options.

1.  To take a skills test and get a fresh Ohio driver’s license

2  To call the Missouri DMV and have them fax a copy of my driver’s abstract to the Ohio location

I opted for the latter and the nice lady gave me the number for the Missouri DMV and the fax number for the location I was at.  She also sympathized and told me that when I came back to not bother with taking a number and to just walk up to her stall.  I thanked her for her help and left.

Outside I dialed the number for the Missouri DMV and got an automated voice giving me three options, none of which was anything close to what I needed.  I hit zero, hoping to get a real human being, but instead it repeated the three options.  I waited, hoping I would get a real person that way, but after a minute it began to repeat the three options.  In order to exorcise some frustration I yelled “Fuck off!” into the phone.  The automated voice immediately stopped and hold music began.

Eventually Ron came on the other end.

Ron:  How are you today?

Me:  I’m living the dream, Ron.  Yourself?

Ron:  I’m alright.  What can I help you with today.

Me:  I need you to fax a copy of my driver’s abstract to the Ohio BMV.  I have the fax number when you’re ready for it.

Ron:  Ok, I can’t do that here.  I need you to fill out a form online that needs to be notarized.  After that it will take at least 24 hours to process and there’s a $20 fee on that.

Me:  $20 to send a fax?

Ron:  Yes, sir.

Me:  Thanks Ron, that’s all I need.  Have a good day.

Here’s a quick economics break.  Why does a capitalism/socialism hybrid, like what we see in pretty much every civilized country (including this one) work?  For a lot of reasons, but one of them is because those two schools of thought work for different things.  Capitalism is splendid for non-necessities like, say, milk.  If sellers charge too much for milk, people will just go without it, so sellers have to try and keep the price nice and low.  This doesn’t work for things like, say, insulin.  People will buy roughly the same amount of insulin no matter what the price.  They have to.  So if you have five suppliers selling insulin in a purely capitalist system, what is the smarter thing to do: fight with each other for who can sell a $2 shot of insulin for the lowest price and see who can produce the most of the meager profits or for all of them to charge $100 a shot and everybody gets rich?  Yes, that’s a cartel, but it still happens.

Necessities are where socialism steps in.  By regulating necessities, it keeps people from getting gouged for their insulin.  However, it only works when the regulating body (i.e., the government) has our best interests in mind.  Here we have a case where the government is the sole provider of a service (faxing my driver’s abstract) and instead of regulating it in my best interest has said “Fuck it, charge ‘em $20 and let’s make some scratch for Uncle Sam.”  This makes me yearn for a chance to meet Uncle Sam in a cage match.  I’m damn sure not handing him more money he didn’t do shit to earn.

So fine, I’ll just take the damn skills test and get a new license.  So I set off for the Social Security Administration’s office which was “just down the road”.  After almost a half hour of driving from downtown Columbus I finally arrived at this isolated, but thriving piece of metropolis.

So I went inside and waited another hour, all the while texting my boss and apologizing profusely that I was running so late.  I finally got my print out and decided to call it a day on this project and began the 30 minute drive back into civilization and my job.  Some day next week I’ll get to pick this back up and fight with the bureaucracy some more.  Maybe after long enough I’ll just say fuck it and go live in the wilderness.

I have a prodigious appreciation for science, but all the scientific instrumentation in all the world would be woefully inadequate to measure the breadth of my contempt for the Ohio BMV this morning.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.