The License to Drive Me Crazy—A Day at the DMV

The time has come for me to renew my driver’s license.

And that is where I spent time yesterday. Here is my tale.

About three weeks ago, I received a notice in the mail from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reminding me that it was time to renew my driver’s license.


The PA Department of Transportation was more than kind to send out a reminder–but they wanted their money!

My license expires next month and I’m very obsessive about following any government regulations.  I would be petrified to so much as start my car with an expired license.  Personally, I find this obsession quite odd because half the shit in our pantry and fridge is stamped with dates that have expired quite some time ago. Go figure!

Expired creamcheese and milk

Go figure THAT one out. I won’t drive with an expired license, but I’ll put expired food items into my body. BTW, I tasted this expired milk this morning and it’s fine. The expired cream cheese was never opened until today. It’s also fine!

Bonaparte sent a check to pay the for this renewal fee. The Department of Transportation then sent me another bit of documentation which allowed me to proceed to our local Department of Motor Vehicles location so that I could have my photo taken and an updated license would be issued.

So far the procedure sounds pretty simple. Right?

It should be. But it isn’t.   DMV rules and regulations for a driver’s license vary from state to state.

When I moved from New York to New Jersey, the process of attaining my license was the worst experience I had ever gone through.  I had to take the written test over.

NJ drivers manual

Actually, it was my fault that I had to take the written test over because I was supposed to switch my NY license within 90 days of the move. I waited over a year!

And the stress of actually knowing and comprehending the rules of the road made me physically ill. I despise tests.  After months of practically memorizing the New Jersey manual, I aced the test.  It was time to move on to the vision test.   Obviously by looking at my crossed-eyes it’s obvious that corrective lenses are needed.  When I lived in New York, I was able to be tested wearing my eyeglasses.

I failed the test!

I failed the NJ vision test. Those bastids actually made me take my eyeglasses off to take the test!

Not so in New Jersey.   I failed. The powers that be would NOT give me a license unless I had a note from the eye doctor.  The rest of that day was spent scrambling around town—a town I was new to– trying to find an optometrist who could spare a few moments to see me. Minutes before the DMV office closed, I was able to attain the coveted little piece of plastic that proved my value as a New Jersey driver.   Don’t even—there’s so much more that I can say but I won’t.

When I moved from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, I was almost crippled with stress knowing that I would have to switch my driver’s license yet again.  I believe I had a few Zoloft pills swimming around in the bottom of one of my purses to keep my anxiety at bay.


And might I add relieves stress due to dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles!

Although Pennsylvania’s rules were a bit kinder—there was no testing, the experience was just as stressful and angst-ridden.  I decided to have this switch done at the DMV location closest to where I was working at the time. In Norristown, PA.    My boss told me to “take the rest of the day off” as I left to take this task on.  I believe I left the office at around 10:30 in the morning.  I told my boss that I would be returning to the office after this chore was completed.

When I arrived there was a line out the door and around the building. It never occurred to me that this was normal. I thought something horrible happened.  As I approached the line, I asked someone what was wrong.  He laughed and explained to me that this particular DMV office was always this crowded.


Yes. The line at the Norristown DMV’s License Center was almost as bad as this line at another DMV.

Three-and-a-half hours later, I was back in my car and understood completely why I was told to take the remainder of the day off.  There was no way to function normally after that experience.  I drove home and drank heavily. Looking on the bright side, I didn’t have to suffer through a vision test—and the way many Pennsylvanian’s drive, I would say maybe it’s time for PA to make a vision test a necessity when switching or renewing a driver’s license!


This was pretty much what I looked like after spending half a day at the DMV. The only difference was that I didn’t smoke.

I vowed never to set foot in that particular DMV location again.

Four years later, it was time to renew my Pennsylvania license.  This time I chose a location close to where Bonaparte and I were living at the time.  A little branch of the DMV in a strip mall in Malvern, PA

Since I didn’t want to take advantage of my boss’s good graces by taking another afternoon off, it just seemed more practical to have the renewal done on a Saturday morning. This location was conveniently opened on Saturday.

This really wasn’t the brightest of ideas.  The parking lot was jammed packed with cars—and not for shoppers to the other stores in the strip mall.  I would find that most of the cars had the drivers squished into the DMV—packed like sardines in a small can that smelled of rotting oil.   Yeah. The ventilation in the small building wasn’t that great. And when people get stressed, the effects of their deodorant quickly wear off.  And there were a lot of stressed people.

California DMV

This is a common scene at the DMV on a Saturday. What a way to spend the day.

I had no happy pills either. Bonaparte made sure that they had been flushed down the toilet. At least our plumbing was joyously cheery!

This was no way to spend a warm, sunny early spring Saturday morning.  At least the wait wasn’t as long as the one four years prior had been. THIS was a mere two-and-a-half hours.

So you can see how I wasn’t looking forward to returning to the DMV to complete my license renewal process.  It can literally drive you crazy!!

  • I would rather go through the birthing process again. Three more times. And I gave birth to a ten-pounder! Naturally! Without drugs! OK?
  • I would rather watch paint dry.
  • I would rather go to the dentist and get a cavity filled without receiving an injection of Novocain first.
  • I would rather take a pick and chip at my tooth myself to dig that cavity.
  • I would rather go through the procedure of the night before a colonoscopy
Picture of a dental anesthesia before the treatment

Picture of a dental anesthesia before the treatment

Getting my teeth filled WITHOUG the Novocaine needle would be more pleasant than spending time at the DMV. I’m not kidding either!

Yes. I would rather do all of the above than have to spend hours at the DMV!

I was trying to figure the right time to go about this.  As luck would have it, I had a job interview set for yesterday morning. Late in the morning at 11:00AM.  I figured to kill two birds with one stone.  I made sure that my ensemble businesslike for the interview and my hair and makeup would be camera ready.   Trust me; I’m the queen of lousy license and passport photos.  The photo is never “clicked” at the right time.

Queen of the bad photos

My license and passport photos look very similar to this. Why can’t they just let me take a selfie?

In addition, I made sure my phone was loaded up with juice because it was important to be able to while away the many hours of waiting between gaming and creative commenting on Facebook!

Level 305

I’m on level 305 of Soda Crush. Even if I had to spend the day, I wouldn’t get past this level–it’s difficult!

The interview went ok. It wasn’t the best. It wasn’t the worst. It just was.

But—the good thing is that the office where my interview was held was close to the Malvern location of the DMV. I could do some shopping at the dollar store afterwards—if it was still opened.

My heart skipped a beat as I approached the DMV. In fact, I thought it was closed.  There wasn’t a mob scene.  When I opened the door and entered, there was no scent of sweat and stale body odor.  There were only four people waiting!


Driver License Center

There were no lines. No sign of humanity. I thought it was closed. Do you like the product placement of the Goodwill store sign?  

This was at 11:45 in the morning!   Virtual emptiness!

DMV Empty!

Look at these empty seats!  I thought I was dreaming!

No lines

Can you believe it?  At first I thought I stepped in to an episode of “American Horror Story” and someone would come after me with a knife!

My only issue was the photograph. I had my pose all set.  When I was sitting down, I looked up at the camera so as to give the appearance of a longer neck and smoother jawline. Very coquettish, if you will!

Unfortunately my eyeglasses gave off a glare so I had to look down. The result is a photograph I’m not crazy about. Jowls and puffiness galore.  Who cares?  I was in and out in fifteen minutes!!

LIcense photo

Well, at least I’m an organ donor!  The lighting on that pic is horrific. The DMV needs filters for the photos. Should I write to them requesting this?

One of the workers mentioned that it was an exceptionally slow day.  I almost leapt with joy when I heard that.

What he said made me realize something.  Timing is everything!   My job search had me so discouraged that I almost cancelled the interview.  But—having the interview was the push I needed to get to the nearby DMV to finalize my license renewal. And if I didn’t have that interview at precisely 11:00 AM, the timing of my visit to the DMV would have been slightly off.


It is so true timing IS everything!

And as I exited the DMV, a stream of people entered, validating my thought that timing is everything.

Chances are I won’t be called back for a second interview due to my age. But that’s the norm these days. On the other hand, I feel safer and more relaxed to know that I won’t be driving around any time soon with an expired license.

Life is good.

timing gif

Let’s give a hand or two to celebrate life’s good timing!

Speaking of license photos—Ringo and “Photograph”. You’re welcome. XOXOXOX!!



About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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30 Responses to The License to Drive Me Crazy—A Day at the DMV

  1. spearfruit says:

    LOL, so very funny – but correct! I had mine renewed last year on my birthday and we have a brand new state of the art DMV. I made an appointment online and every so often would receive a text stating how much longer I had to wait (at home). When my number was about 15 minutes out, I received a text and headed for the DMV where I waited maybe 5 minutes. This is the DMV of the future! Thanks Catherine for another great post – have a great day! 🙂

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Terry. I want to move to YOUR state! I swear to god, my life was so much easier when I took the subway. I cannot stand the expense of cars to begin with and this DMV garbage is ten times worse. I’m stressing over the next renewal! XOXOXO!

  2. Paula Fowler aka Gail says:

    Cathe, I’m dying over here! That was fabulous! I’ve learned to pee before I read your posts or else there’s trouble to be had. Thanks again for making us happy! xoxo

    • Catherine says:

      Paula. I’m going to send you a case of Depends. LOL!! It’s always a pleasure to throw some happiness your way!! Even at the expense of the DMV! XOXOXOXO!

  3. Mine was up for renewal last month…did it online…they issued me a new license via the mail…using the same photo…👊

    • Catherine says:

      Oh god. Don’t even get me started with the online process. I “inquired” about it to Bonaparte and he told me that it wasn’t available here in PA. I think it is though. Whatever–at least that awful process is over. How long did it take to get the license online–I mean how long was the process–from when they first notified you until you received the new license? Do tell! XOXOXOXO!!!

  4. Too funny! Great song!!

  5. maidsdayoff says:

    Great post! I’m not sure I agree with you about preferring the festivities of Coloscopy-Eve though! haha! I think I’ll take the DMV over that one. 😉

  6. calensariel says:

    Thank God I don’t live in a big city. I can’t actually remember the last time I had to go IN to the DMV to renew my license. I have to have a paper filled out by my eye doc (I have glaucoma) and my diabetes doc, but I just send ’em in. As long as you don’t get a ticket here it’s pretty easy. I mega stress about even walking into that building, too.

    • Catherine says:

      Lady Calen. I wanna live near you. I’m stressing out because I have four more years until I need to return!!! XOXOXOXO!

      • calensariel says:

        Driving stresses me out period anymore. If I could have someone drive me around all the time, I’d be happy. I have glaucoma and I get such huge rainbows around headlights at night that I just can’t see fer squat this days. I don’t drive much at night. Kind of sucks this early in life.

  7. Too funny! We’ve experienced the same dread when having to go to the DMV, but here in Colorado they’ve gotten a “little” better. 🙂

    • Catherine says:

      LOL. At least Colorado has gotten a “little” better. Do you think its because so many people ski instead of drive?? PA will NEVER get a little better! XOXOXOXXO!

      • No, all of our children were born in PA and we lived there for several years, so we know what you’re talking about. Colorado is just smaller and more laid back.

      • Catherine says:

        My neice goes to U of Colorado and the school has turned her from a loud-mouthed Long Islander to a more subdued young lady! Laid back atmospheres do help. Hmmm. Maybe I should come out to CO!! XOXOXO!

  8. dbkerr says:

    You are a hoot! But my story is worse. I had to get the certificates from each state I was living in when I had a name change. In fact, check out my Weite anything Wednesday blog after I write it. Might as well get some mileage out of it.

    • Catherine says:

      DB. You are kidding me right? You just validated why I will never change my name! I’m going to check out your Wednesday blog now. XOXOXO!

  9. Miss Bougie says:

    Well, you should definitely move to France. We don’t need to renew a driver’s license. Once you get your licence it’s yours until you die or loose the 12 points that come with it. There are ways to get some of the points back or you need to re-take the test. (You get fined 6 points when you drive drunk (when you have more than 0.5g of alcohol per litre of blood), 4 points when you run a red light or a stop sign, 3 points when you drive and telephone, 1 point when you drive less than 20km over the speed limit). Young drivers have only 6 points to their licence for the first three years and they are not allowed to drink any alcohol.
    That said, a new European regulation has somewhat changed that. All new driver’s licenses come in the size of a card form now (the old ones are on pink paper) and are valid for 15 years. Renewal is supposed to be free of charge. All those who have the pink paper version have until 2033 to get the new card version. No eye or doctor exam required; but I’m sure that’s going to change in the future.
    Why do you need to renew your license? Is it only to change the photo?

    • Catherine says:

      Oh Miss B. France does seem like the best place for me to be in for sure! I think the issue here in the States is that our country has state-wide driving regulations rather than federal regulations–which is so ridiculous because there is no consistency from state to state. Add to that, the state governments also MAKE more money by having residents renew their license every four years. There’s a fee. There is a special fee for drivers over 65 years old, but it’s still bullshit because over 65 and you have to renew your license every two years. They stress the photo but I think it’s a coverup because it’s all about the $$$$!!! XOXOXOXO!

  10. LosiLosLoco says:

    DMVs are awful aren’t they? *scoffs* >.> But luckily you didn’t have that horrendous experience! 🙂

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