I posted today an update on my trek to get a driver’s license in this country.  Then a friend sent me what was a front page article in USA Today on not being able to get a drivers license and the new ID Act.  This article is not just about me, it is about all of us and our country and enlightens me to why I am up against a brick wall.  Please read and pass it on.  It affects all of us.  Maya

Real ID Act blocks some Americans from driver’s

licenses

By Oren Dorell, USA TODAY

Strict federal rules aimed at keeping terrorists off planes are blocking some Americans from renewing their driver’s licenses or getting other state-issued IDs.

  • Charles Lust, 46, of West Palm Beach, Fla., found out his name was changed without his knowledge when he tried to renew his driver's license in February 2010.By Eliot J. Schechter, for USA TODAYCharles Lust, 46, of West Palm Beach, Fla., found out his name was changed without his knowledge when he tried to renew his driver’s license in February 2010.

By Eliot J. Schechter, for USA TODAY

Charles Lust, 46, of West Palm Beach, Fla., found out his name was changed without his knowledge when he tried to renew his driver’s license in February 2010.

The consequences can be staggering. Without an ID, people cannot change jobs, drive legally, collect Social Security or Medicare, get through airport security or open a bank account.

It’s “a persistent problem across the country,” says Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The problems stem from the Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2006 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when terrorists used easily obtained driver’s licenses to carry out their plans.

The law says that by 2013, only IDs from states that require applicants to present proof of citizenship or legal residency will be accepted to board an airplane or enter a federal building. In most states that have begun to comply, that proof means a birth certificate or immigration papers.

The ACLU and others predicted that the law’s documentation requirements would be a burden to many Americans, and the issue becomes more pressing as the deadline nears.

Sometimes birth certificates are incomplete, inaccurate, missing or were never recorded.

When corrections officer Charles Lust, 46, of West Palm Beach, Fla., tried to renew his driver’s license in February 2010, he was shocked to discover his birth certificate said his name was Bell. A court, establishing paternity when he was 14, changed his name from Lust, his mother’s name, to Bell, his father’s name.

After his driver’s license expired, he couldn’t open a bank account, cash a check or change jobs. He had to make special arrangements to pick up his kids from school because the school requires ID.

“It kind of put my life on hold,” Lust says. He finally got his license in September after the Florida governor’s office granted an exception.

Bonnie Cohen, a paralegal at the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County who helped Lust, says her office has handled more than a dozen similar cases this year, most of them elderly minorities born in rural parts of Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Their records were lost or damaged in natural disasters, birth certificates were never issued or they were issued with errors, and some people were raised under a different name than what’s on the birth certificate.

Sixteen states have passed laws opposing compliance with Real ID, according to theNational Conference of State Legislatures. The Department of Homeland Security, acknowledging that the law’s documentation requirements are burdensome and cause privacy concerns, has several times delayed the deadline for states to comply.

The National Governors Association calls the Real ID Act “unworkable” in its current form. The National Conference of State Legislatures has lobbied for its repeal.

Repeal “is not going to happen,” says Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who authored the law and chairs a Homeland Security subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.

Proving a person’s identity without a valid birth certificate can mean digging up alternate documentation, such as school records, going to court for a name change and sometimes fingerprinting to avoid fraud, says Monica Vigues-Pitan, advocacy director at Legal Services of Greater Miami. She has had 15 cases this year.

Bonnie Sarkar of Colorado Legal Services has helped 20 clients obtain IDs this year and has 10 cases pending, most of them involving elderly and poor people. “Elderly people often have this weird sense of shame about it because they don’t want people to know,” she says.

Tom Theisen of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego has a homeless client in poor health who has a Texas birth certificate and school records from the 1940s, but he cannot remember his Social Security number. He’s stuck in a Catch-22: California law requires a Social Security number to issue an ID, and the Social Security Administration requires a state-issued picture ID before disclosing the number. That means the man cannot claim Medicare, cannot get health care and is unable to collect $845 a month due him from Social Security.

“I understand the concern about undocumented people in this country,” Theisen says. “I think there’s been an overreaction.”

Punch Lines!!

Traffic sign alerting drivers for Amish Buggie...

Image via Wikipedia

As the Saga unfolds I have heard from many some amazing ideas for the punchline to the Joke…”What is a Gypsy without a car?”  (See post for Oct. 17th)  I wanted to include some of what has been sent to me for all our consideration.  Thanks to everyone for your support and humor.

1.      “What does a gypsy without a car do? Hitchhike.”
2.      “What do you call a gypsy without a car? Homeless”
3        “Have you ever considered being an outlaw gypsy and just driving anyway?”
4.       “What’s a gypsy without a car”–someone who is discovering the joys of cycling, walking and/or being chauffeured.
5.        “Have you looked into an Amish carriage (surely one doesn’t need a license to drive a buggy…?) and have you traveled by train lately???  My family and I used to take the train between southern California and Louisiana at least twice
each year…always an adventure, always so enlightening.

A Gypsy Joke

One of my friends and I were staring at each other in bewilderment over a steaming cup of tea while sitting in a nearby cafe as she burst out laughing. “Ok, there is a joke in this!”, She said. “What is a gypsy without a car?”.  We both howled.

So, what IS a gypsy without a car in our 21st century?  Well, I am finding out the myriad of answers to that odd question since at this moment the Universe has orchestrated a challenge for me of not having a valid drivers license which does curtail ones travel plans.

Let me back up briefly.  Gypsies are nomadic and mobile at heart.  They need to pack up and relocate or wander at any given moment and carry with them simple and transportable belongings.   They need to be ready to go the direction the wind is calling.

In another century, if someone came into a Gypsy camp and said, “Well, we are not only taking your gypsy wagons away from you, but we are taking your horses too!”, I think there would have been a mild uprising at the very least.  So, in this moment of history, not having a driver’s license, when everything I have packed for travel is in my car is, at the very least, is just a tad inconvenient.

In short, here is how it happened and much like Julie, in the movie “Julie and Julia” who had to confess to her public when one of her recipes simply failed or she could not dress a proper chicken, there is a twinge of embarrassment.  But, it is just part of the journey.  My oddly difficult driver’s license renewal sage to date goes like this:

I moved my few things to North Carolina.  I needed a new drivers license.  I stood in lines forever.  I was first asked if I wanted to donate vital organs after a car crash and then they checked whether I do in fact have hazel eyes and am 5’5”, which I had to correct since it seems as I am shrinking and am now 5’4”.  And then they asked a question that 10 years ago I was not asked:  “What is your social security number?”  Happily I gave it to them.  Instantly, they said I could not have a driver’s license since somehow my name on my social security card did not match my current license.  Really?  Can you explain that please?

So, I started on the road to OZ, winding my way through what has become the most convoluted justice system I could ever have imagined.  First, there were small-minded people who did not know answers and did not know who had the answers and then I got lost down the rabbit hole of our Social Security system.  I didn’t think I was going to get out of the building alive and for a split second I thought I was on this year’s new TV series The Walking Dead.

The glitch seems to be one that no one in either civil or national governing positions has the answer to solving.  It was even suggested that I just become 16 years young again and start over….after 40 years of driving…and take a written driving test and then a physical driving test so I could get my PERMIT and drive with some “responsible” 21 year old in the car of choice.  So while I was in Colorado, the state my last official driver’s license was from, I did just that.

I went to get in line to be given the written test.  I picked a number and the ocean of difference between the number I was given and the number flashing on the wall was….three hours worth of unhappy people.  I sat.  I waited.  And then I thought I could go shopping for the next two hours and not sit here.  So, I stepped outside.  Across the street I saw “A-1 Driving School”.

I went in and shared my plight and they said that they gave written drivers tests and I could take one with them for $20.  Then I could take it back over to the DMV and get in the front of the line.  That was a no brainer.  But, the wonderful woman took one look at me and asked me when the last time I took a test was, sensing that I might be just a wee bit behind on knowing driving laws or information, which of course, every pimply faced new driver has to know.  Like is it a right or a privilege or an honor to drive a car?  Now that is certainly debatable in my mind.

I was seated in an empty drivers education classroom right next to the woman’s eight-year-old daughter doing homework on her laptop and…5 rescue dogs.  Fabulous dogs, each suffering from some unadoptable malady; One leg, one eye, too old, no fur.  They were precious and each sat at my feet while I discovered what I was up against on the test.  By the third question I was in trouble.  When was the last time I even thought that I needed to treat a motorcyclist who is merging onto the interstate from an on-ramp any differently than any other moving vehicle?

I flunked.  The woman was sad for me.

She said I could take the test again and mentioned some cautions and some of the new air bag regulations that she whispered in my ear just before going back in the room with the dogs.  By the third question I was in trouble again.  So, I broke out my secret weapon, my pendulum, just in case the testing rule of “when in doubt it is always choice “C”, did not seem just right.

So, here I am with a child asking me if I had ever driven a car before since I so obviously knew nothing about driving, with the one-legged pointer named Brownie licking my toes through my sandals and me knowing that they might be calling my number over at the DMV and I would loose my place in line.  I stared at the last question.  “How many feet back from the crosswalk at a stop sign do you need to stop your car with or without any people in it?”  Ugh!

I did not flunk.  I thanked the pendulum, grabbed my test that had “passed” on it and ran back to get to the front of the line at the DMV.  Same questions about my organs, but looking good again and then the assistants face dropped.  “It seems you need to deal with the Social Security problem you have miss.  May I suggest you get a lawyer?”   Sigh.  I felt like Brownie the one legged dog.

I drove back to my friend’s house in her car, certain that every cop on the road knew who I was and would then be throwing me in the Poky.

So, I am now back in Asheville, looking online for a good Social Security lawyer and allowing my 28-year-old daughter to chauffeur me, which I must admit, is not so bad really.  But, what is the lesson here?  Lessons abound every day, but THE BIG LESSON is forming itself over time.  I have had ample opportunity to practice a new kind of patience, with a bureaucratic process that is like holding a difficult yoga posture with people who don’t like their jobs and are short, befuddled and down right rude.  I imagine I will be Gandhi by the end of this legal process.

I get to practice being happy while standing in line for hours only to be told I need slightly different paperwork and a new set of fingerprints since I could be a uni-bomber. I close my eyes often while in the waiting places and find gratitude that I was not in the salon when the angry father shot and killed eight people this week, but simply acknowledge that I am only waiting for the “privilege” to drive a car in the United States.  Then the entire process becomes easy.

But, I have learned the most about patience and understanding with myself.  Self love in the midst of floods of thoughts about how I could have known this before or done a dozen things differently.  I become happy for the simple truth that I do my best and sometimes there are surprises in life that give me the opportunity to align just a little more with the truth of who I am…with or without a driver’s license…with or without a car.

I am certain this will be solved by Christmas and I will have the choice to be back on the road.  I now have the creative opportunity to drive with friends, maybe find a traveling companion who wants to explore my next stops with me, stay put and write, which is a great idea or fly where I need to go, which is most likely not going to be my choice.  I know that whatever changes I need to make to accommodate this tiny inconvenience will be part of the flow too and will lead to something I had not expected; a new friend, or a surprise that could not have happened unless I had had this little bump in my road.

So, I will let you know my creative solutions as the story unfolds. And I will share the punch line to “What does a Gypsy do without a car?”  Any ideas?