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It is like acronym heaven, all these state and local and federal government buildings in and around DC. What I was looking for was a place to get a new driver's license. Though mine is still "valid," it is from an address I have not officially lived at since 2004. Now, because I was in and out of the country and uncertain of my states-manship I did not renew. Now I have a permanent and temporary address combined in one. Super!

The DMV is called the MAV in Maryland. I can come up with no reason to do this but to confuse people. However, my determination was much stronger than their tactics ... I prevailed and discovered, in my fist internet try, the name. The location was slightly more difficult, because there are only two places (of eight) in a forty mile radius that can actually give me an exchange license (meaning no new test, etc). So I drive to Gaithersburg, about 20 minutes from here.

Besides discovering that 270N has an exit 10 and 270S does NOT, the trip went well. It was more of a detour than getting lost. So I arrive and am astounded by the size of the facility and the jam-packed parking lot. There were easily 100 spaces - pretty much all full. I got inside and got my ticket number - thrilled that I had everything I needed (go internet research) and was set. I sat down. I looked up at the board and realized I was 50 people away from being helped. With about 10 tellers working though, I figured it wouldn't be that bad. In about 5 minutes, I figured out exactly why they changed it to MAV; they want you to think they are more effecient but really they are just tricky. My ticket included a letter, A238. It was A189. Then there were B34 and C78 mixed in there. People with other letters were getting to go ahead of me!!! I was not just 50 people away, I was 50 people and a weird variety of other letters away from being helped!

This is what I was expecting though, and had brought a book, The Stupid History of the Human Race. I think it was an especially pertinent choice. Almost 2 hours later my number popped up. I hurried to the station where they took my picture, did my vision exam, and I handed over my paperwork, stacked neatly with all the supporting documents. Then the hellmouth opened up under my chair and started sending out demons.

Apparently, because my landlord lives in the same building as me, I have a "Boarder" contract instead of a "Residential Rental Contract." I tried to explain and was expeditiously sent away. I thought about crying, regained my senses, and left for the supervisor's station. I was greeted, smilelessly, by someone who repeated the same thing. She left to find someone else to help. This supervisor was significantly more impatient and had something blocking her brain from comprehending. Here was the situation: I share a mailbox, so my contract isn't real. This to me is like equine excrement. She got tired of my well defended armument fairly quickly and called with a code over the loudspeaker (while I was still talking) that sounded an awful lot like a call for a security officer to remove me from the building, "Nasim 363, Nasim 363." Turns out Nasim is the manager.

I explain to him that my unit is different and separate from the home above me. He grasps this and says that it doesn't matter. I show him the form, MAV issued, that says a Residential Rental Contract is a valid proof of residency. He says they didn't mean Boarder contracts. I took a deep breath and just logicked the heck out of them: "You say my apartment does not count because it is part of a residence. The landlord often lives in an apartment building. I have a legally binding contract sitting here. I still pay rent. I am liable for my apartment and must cover it with my own insurance. And this indeed is a rental contract. So, can you please tell me how this does not qualify?" I showed him the form again and said it was ridiculous that they do not mention, with every other possible detail on that paper, that my type of contract doesn't count. I really couldn't tell if he agreed or just thought I wasn't going to leave until he helped me. Either way, he wrote me an override so I could get my license. I needed to go back to the waiting area for just a moment and then a clerk would handle my forms. Thank you Nasim.

Five minutes later, as I watch him hand the override to the clerk, all the other workers stop typing. The system has crashed. They use the loudspeaker to tell everyone that they are rebooting the system and if we stick around, they'll still help us today, even though it is already after hours. Thirty minutes later they come out and say to the crowd of 60+ antsy people, "If you come back tomorrow through Thursday, preferably between 8 and 10am, go to station 36 and tell them you were here today and they'll put you at the front of the line." Not even an "I'm sorry for the inconvenience."

Going back any day that early in the morning is like a death sentence for traffic getting back into the city. Also, as I start classes tomorrow, I'm not really looking forward to the idea of having to drive 17.83 miles one way to get a license I already waited in line and fought for! Oh well. The result is that MAV is actually worse than DMV, and one of my first policies as president will be the nationalization of the driver's license situation. Federalism is wonderful, I love that marble cake. But, I think I want the upper tier taking over this one. Then again, they are in charge of passports, and that seems to take forever too.

All I can say is "Thank goodness!" that I didn't encounter a random situation like this when trying to get my firms filled out in France. I wouldn't have even been able to express my confusion. Here, I can use my poise and wit. Oh, and being relentless certainly helps.

Grocery shopping and then reading for my first class tomorrow (two journal articles and a description of the research/resource system in the library are on the syllabus). I am very excited about school. Oh, and thanks to Garrison for chatting it up with me last night - those two hours made the two hours wasted this afternoon sort of cancel each other out. Life is good friends, life is good.

Love always, ~Heather