Friday, August 03, 2007

Going Postal (By Way Of The DMV)

Postal Thing One: I went to the post office in Tennessee before we left and got a "relocation packet" chock full of completely useless crap. It had thirty-seven coupons I didn't want and only one change of address form when it turns out only the most unblended of families can manage with just one. Even though there is a check box you can mark to indicate that you want the address change to apply to the whole family, it doesn't do diddly for you if your family members happens to have different last names. We were three forms short. I had squillions of errands to run and dammit, I had already marked the post office off the list! Grrrrr. I had no idea how to get everything done. I had to get immunization records for all the kids, their school transcripts and report cards, the dog's vet records, the HIPA (are there two P's?) forms to release my medical records, forms to have Havoc's gifted program qualifications transferred, and so on and so forth. Then I was told by some helpful soul that you can change your address with the post office online and have your mail forwarded immediately. Hurray! Or rather, it would have been "Hurray!" if we'd been able to do anything online, but some dipweed at the cable company disconnected our internet two days early. Grrrrr. When we could get online (in East Asheville, halfway through the move), guess what we found out? You CAN change your address online if you have a credit card in each name and are willing to pay a dollar per change. Even if I were willing to pay the stupid dollar fees - I don't have credit cards in my children's names! Duh! And grrrrrr.

What with a house to buy, two ginormous trucks to unload, ceiling high stacks of boxes to unpack, kids to care for, and people to feed in the midst of it all, I will admit that it took me a couple of days to get myself down to my new local post office. I'm such a slacker!! I filled out all the forms and handed them to the nice lady. (Nice here being a euphemism for scowling bitch.) I asked her about the online address change process. It seemed to me that not being able to change your children's addresses is a drawback to the system, so maybe I'd missed something. She explained (while rolling her eyes to indicate what a moron I was) that the credit card requirement prevented terrorism and identity theft. The system protected postal patrons from having strangers submit false address changes. Ok. I then handed her four cards where I had filled out my children's names at the top and then printed and signed my name (which in no way matches that of my children) at the bottom. Did she bat an eye? Did she ask to see my ID or any type of proof that it was my children for whom I was submitting address changes? No and no. Apparently terrorists and identity thieves are totally stymied by the online credit card obstacle and never, ever think to use the paper forms. Being ever so helpful, the nice lady snarled at me for not filling out the other side. Er, other side? There was one long blank with something like "Address of Post Office" written underneath. No explanation. Had I realized I was supposed to have written something there, I still wouldn't have known what to put without asking. Ms. Snarlyface gave a huffy puffy sigh and explained that OBVIOUSLY I had to write the name of the city from which I had moved because my mail was still there, not here. In the four seconds it took me to fill in those blanks, she managed to add, "You know, most people do this BEFORE they move." So pleasant. I wanted to klonk her on the head with the two tons of paperwork I did manage to get done BEFORE I moved.

Postal Thing Two: Our mailbox is attached to our house, not on the street. It came that way. For the first few days after we unpacked, we got mail. Not a lot and mostly junk, but we got mail. Then for a few days we got nothing. Zilch. Those few days happened to coincide with the arrival of our fabulous guests (and their two minivans - which is the relevant piece of information vis a vis the mail although we didn't know it at the time.) I wasn't particularly worried about the lack of mail, but Bet was. She's a very orderly person and the empty mailbox with no explanation was driving her crazy. While the rest of us were entertaining ourselves by inventing strange and unlikely reasons for dearth of mail, Bet marched down to the post office for the official word. The post office was holding our mail. Our pull-through driveway had not been so pull-through due to the five cars in it. At the post office they said that the mailman should have left us a note explaining the situation. And he did. Look. This is the note the mailman left us:

Am I the only one who thinks it is absurd that the official explanation of why we had no mail delivery is a note scrawled upon a piece of mail that the mailman REFUSED TO DELIVER? This piece of mail (from my bank and clearly marked "Time dated material - response required") was mixed in the pile with all the other mail being held. PO can stand for pissed off and for post office. Coincidence? I think not. Be that as it may, the Post Office is the model of convenience and efficiency compared to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Ask me how I know.

DMV Thing One: Linus, The Ninja Princessa, Chaos, Mayhem, Havoc, and I spent three hours at the DMV today. The children needed to get state photo ID's (required for air travel now, even for kids) and Linus and I needed to change our licenses from TN to NC. The idea behind the DMV process is that there is a triage desk at the front where they assign you a number based on what you're there for. Driver's test? Your number is B233. License renewal? Your number is A111. Anybody need a study booklet? Here you go. Bing, bang, boom.

For us? Not so bing, bang. In three hours we only managed to get the kids' cards. Linus and I have to go back in two weeks for ours. We stood in the line to get a number for more than forty minutes before the line even moved. We'd been there about an hour and fifteen minutes before we got to the front. When we did make it to the triage nazi we were told we hadn't brought enough documentation to get our licenses today. Even though Linus and I both had our old licenses, our birth certificates, our passports, our social security cards, the deed to our new house, and our insurance cards - we couldn't get our licenses transferred because we did not have the declarations page from our car insurance packet. Fine, we can come back. The boys, however, are getting on a plane tomorrow morning at 8 am and need their cards today. The DMV woman (definitely kin to the post office matron) went through the paperwork we needed for the kids.
"Birth certificates?"
"Social security cards?"
"Proof of residency?"
"Proof of residency? The deed to our house?"
"Are they listed on it?"
"On the deed to our house?! No. But we're provably their parents and we have our custody papers with us and our names are on the deed."
"No, that's not good enough. We need something with their names on it."
"Like what?"
"Utility bill, credit card statement, that kind of thing."
"For the KIDS?? They don't have credit cards and their names aren't on the utilities!"
"What about the lease? Kids have to be listed on leases."
"We just told you. We moved two weeks ago from Tennesse straight into the house we bought. No leasing."
"You'll have to stand aside until I can get the supervisor to come straighten this mess out."
I didn't move over much. The supervisor happened by.
"What seems to be the problem? No lease? No credit card bills?"
"They're kids between the ages of 8 and 15."
The man cackled, "8 to 15! AH HAH! Then you should have school records!" like he'd caught me out.
"I do have school records. From Tennessee. We just moved here TWO WEEKS AGO and the kids have not been in school yet."
"Bank account statements?" he shot back.
"I haven't had time to open accounts for them and I don't think we'd have statements this soon anyway. Isn't there any way to make this work? The kids are supposed to fly tomorrow. They need these ID's."
No answer. The supervisor walked away, clipboard in hand, to administer a road test. I kid you not. He just walked away! Fortunately for everyone concerned, another DMV worker sauntered over and said we'd have to have affidavits.
"Ok. Where do we get those?"
"Oh we can do them when you get called back. You just have to pay $2 each."
I wanted to scream. We cannot be the first people to ever have just moved to the state with their kids! I couldn't believe it took fifteen minutes of dickering back and forth when the triage nazi could have said in 10 seconds, "There's a small extra charge and a form for you to sign but it's not a problem. Here's your number. Next!"
We took our hard earned numbers and sat down. There were about 15 chairs and about 35 people waiting. The supervisor came through and made everyone who was sitting on the floor stand up. Nice. Random, pointless, and unposted rules for added entertainment value! We were so over our DMV experience. At least we'd had enough foresight to have the kids bring books. They were super as we waited another hour and a half for our numbers to get called.

DMV Thing Two: The triage nazi loudly told incoming people that they'd have to wait for hours. At least two, possibly four. She'd been there 17 years and August was always the very worst month. All these people moving into the area. Clogging up the lines. Many of them associated with the university so they had to get here before school started. So inconvenient of them to all come at the same time. Lots of them furriners whose paperwork took forever to process. I'm thinking sensitivity is not something they screen DMV job applicants for.

Finally our numbers got called. It took under ten minutes to do all four kids. They didn't once look at my license or question if I was the mama even though I signed my legal name now which, again, in no way resembles the name I had on the birth certificates. (I've legally changed my first name and taken my maiden name back.) It mattered not. Silly me for hauling all the divorce, custody, and legal name change paperwork. Who cares about that stuff? The declarations page of the insurance packet, now...everyone knows you can't go anywhere without that!

DMV Things Three and Four: Before it was all said and done, each of the children got to decide whether to be organ donors or not. I ask you - does that make any sense to you?? Yes, it's a good thing to know my children's wishes. Yes, I was pleased that they were all so hypothetically generous with their precious organs, but come on now! God forbid it should ever come to pass that that horrific decision has to be made - but if it does, I should hope that it is an adult who loves my kids and NOT a check box on a form at the DMV that decides the issue. Finally, Havoc (the EIGHT year old!) had to sign a piece of paper saying that he was not a registered sex offender. I have no explanation for this. I did ask if the woman was sure she'd given us the right form. She took it back, looked at it, handed it back and said it was required.
But when we all compared notes afterwards, we realized that none of the other kids had to sign such a form. We were scattered at different desks and passing money back and forth because the $2 affidavit fee had to be paid separately from the ID fees and then the photos were taken way over here and it was a lot of back and forth in a few short minutes. Otherwise I would have asked why the holy hell such a form was required for my cherubic third grader. Profiling? Has there been a rash of unregistered sex offenders of elementary school age?!! Did I miss something?

I'm trying to stay positive about this move. I want very much to invest myself in this community. It's just that today I've begun to wonder what is up with North Carolina. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but I have a feeling that somewhere something is amiss when the state bureaucracy expects children to pay their utility bills with their credit cards and to register their sex offender status. I can only hope that if I keep my children out of the Post Office and away from the DMV that things will be ok.

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