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How to get a Virginia Driver's License

Update: This post was originally set to publish on January 8th. Needless to say, I got caught up in the day's events and just haven't pushed the publish button till now. To put this post into perspective, I decided I couldn't put off legally changing my name on my identification card thanks to my November ER visit and the procedures all of my doctors were starting to talk about. The week before my temporary permit expired was the week I started googling brain surgery because my doctor called me (not her nurse or her assistant) and asked me to go to a place where I could talk to her.

Also, late on January 8th - My Virginia Driver's License arrived. It was the only happy moment of the day.

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Well, I guess I need to change that title because that would mean I actually possessed a driver's license. Let me back up a few months:

One lovely day in March, I decided to get married. My new husband really wanted me to change my name, so many months and many business trips later, I finally had the time to make the switch. I thoroughly researched everything I needed to do to change my name. Based on blog posts I had read, I thought the Social Security Administration was going to be a pain. Walked in and 10 minutes later, I walked out. The new card arrived in the mail 3 days later. Score! Same with my banks. Super easy! The guy at my bank even gave me new checks for free as a wedding present. I'll take it for the 12 rent checks I write a year.

Then, November 24, 2010 I went in to change my driver's license. It took 10 minutes at the DMV to update my record, show them my marriage license and new fresh-off-the-presses social (not required for Virginia, but I had it just to be safe). But, instead of being handed a new license, I was given a printed temporary permit. Virginia now mails you your license via USPS. The paper permit is good for 30 days from the stamped date. In my case, my temp expires on December 24th, 2010 - Christmas Eve.

Thanksgiving passes and we are now into December; still, without a valid driver's license. I start investigating the poorly designed DMV site. It said I had to wait two weeks from your renewal date to call. Since I went in right before Thanksgiving, I gave them two extra days. I was being nice.

I called the main DMV number that their website gives you on December 13th wanting to see where the hold up was. My license was returned to the DMV and they didn't know why. I was told, by the DMV staff, to call the USPS main office and make sure they had my new name on file in their database.

The DMV didn't know which number to call.

Google told me.

I called the help line for the USPS to only be LAUGHED at. I was told there is no such database. I've never felt more like an idiot.

I called the DMV back. I should mention that each call takes about 10-15 minutes to be connected to a live person, on top of the time they spend putting you on hold while they check their computers. I explained to the DMV that their instructions regarding the USPS database are incorrect and that I was just laughed at. The DMV employee's attitude toward this was uncaring.] DMV says they will put my license back in the mail. I wait a few more days but my license never showed up in the mail. Now, we have to leave to visit our families for the holidays. We drove to visit our parents; I've been looking forward to being home for months. Thank goodness we didn't book flights and instead decided to drive. It would have taken me HOURS to get through security without a valid picture ID. We drove from Alexandria, VA to Smith Mountain Lake, VA (5 hours - Joel's parents were cat sitting for us) then to Lafayette, IN (11 hours). Basically, we spent 16 hours in the car to get to Indiana.

Yay! It's Christmas! But, my temporary permit is EXPIRED now. I can no longer legally drive and we are in Indiana, 11 hours away from Virginia. So, my husband has to drive the entire 11 hour trip back to Southern Virginia and then, a few days later, drive us to Alexandria which is 5 hours away. The entire time, I am hoping my driver's license has made it to my mailbox.

It is now 2011! But, no New Years parties for me because I didn't bring my passport with me. Sadness. Thank goodness my wine club sends shipments regardless of my current license status so we still had a bottle of bubbly. See, not only can I not drive, but I also can't purchase any alcohol because my old license has a big invalid stamp going right through it. I have to bring my passport to prove my age.

The first Monday of the year was January 3rd; I promptly called the DMV 10 times. Why 10 times? Because the telephone system HUNG UP on me 9 times. On the 10th time, I finally got to talk to Misty. She works at the DMV. She is the only nice person I actually ever got to speak with. She listened to my 40+ day saga of attempting to get my license. She checked on my license, it turns out they NEVER put it back in the mail after my first call! At this point, I am beyond frustrated. Misty offered to call me back after she could confirm my license has been put in the mail. Misty did leave me a voice mail on my work phone and said it would be sent by mail on January 4th.

So, you were hoping for a happy ending right? I wish I could give you that. Instead, my passport and I are going to a birthday dinner on King Street tonight. As of today, Jan 8th, I am now on day 45 without my driver's license. I've given up hope on ever getting it. I'm starting to think we need to move into DC. I would rather spend all day in line and have a license than have to continue to deal with the Virginia DMV.

In my double-digit years of driving, I have had one ticket. (Plus a few parking tickets for parking in the professor's lot at my undergraduate university) All of which have been paid on time. I've never let my driver's license expire. I've always followed what I am suppose to do. So, I don't understand why I don't have my license. Why is this SO hard to get? I've asked for it to be sent via another method, but the DMV refuses. I can get a social security card, a passport, bank cards, credit cards, checks, updated voter registration and legal documents sent to me at my address but not a driver's license. We live in an apartment building with a staffed front desk that can sign for packages, confirm that I live here, and has a record of my name change. Can someone please explain why I don't have a license?

To make this even sweeter, I spoke to our mail man. He says he doesn't even check the names on mail he delivers. As long as the address matches, that is all he cares about.

Virginia: I give up.