Beaurocratic inanity
May 08, 2007

In Barack Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, he uses the DMV (or whatever local variant he said) as an example of why people generally feel that the government isn't really working for them. Today has left me inclined to agree with him. Today Jessi and I headed over to the Massachusetts RMV to (finally) get around to changing our license over to Massachusetts ones. A process that I'm sure you know was loads of fun. The first obstacle to converting our California and Illinois licenses to Massachusetts ones was one of location. There is no RMV office in Somerville. The closest one is in Cambridge, annoyingly enough at the Cambridgeside Galleria which is on the Green Line, not the Red Line. Of course, that doesn't really matter, because that location doesn't let you convert an out of state license. So we had to go into the Boston location, which is on the Orange Line at the Chinatown stop. Once we got there, which took 30-45 minutes, we headed inside and found ourselves at the 'Greeter Desk'. This isn't something that I've encountered during my previous experiences with the California DMV, but I think it's actually a pretty good idea. Rather than forcing us to figure out which part of the building we need to go to and which line we need to stand in and which form we need to fill out, we simply told the greeter what we were there for, she handed us the appropriate forms, gave us each a number for the appropriate line, and directed us to the third floor. It was at this point that we realized we had forgotten to bring any of the documentation needed: a passport or social security card, proof of date of birth, proof of signature, and proof of Massachusetts registry. We didn't have anywhere to be just then, so we got back on the T, came home, got the documents, went back to the RMV, got new numbers, and got back in line. At this point it was about 2:30. Jessi had a 3:30 appointment, which fortunately was nearby. So we waited in line. And waited. And waited. And then Jessi had to go to her appointment before her number got called. So I stayed, and 15 minutes later my number was called. I went up and gave the woman behind the desk my form. Had my picture taken. Then gave her my supporting documentation. Only to discover that I didn't have all the supporting documentation needed. I had my passport, I had my old license, and I had a bank statement. By any reasonable standard, this should be enough. The passport proves that I am who I say I am. It proves my birth date. It proves my signature. My old license also proves my birth date and my signature. And my bank statement proves my Massachusetts residency. But no, that's not good enough. Apparently each document can only be used for a single purpose. You need separate documents for each of: passport (why?), date of birth, signature, and residency. This is just completely ridiculous. Why is my passport, a federally issued document intended to prove my US citizenship, identity, date of birth, and signature, not count as proving my date of birth and signature to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? And why can a single document not prove more than one thing, especially when it's specifically designed by the federal government—and recognized by state governments in other capacities I might add—to prove those very things?
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