Honestly people, all I wanted to do was officially become an Illlinoisian. Illinoiser? Illinoisan? Whatever. I wanted to officially be from Illinois. That is, get Illinois plates for Alistair and an Illinois driver’s license for me. Well, let me tell you something kids: you better fucking be from here in the first place because they don't take kindly to foreigners in these parts.
Since I have a social phobia regarding any situation I haven't previously encountered involving other people, I checked first with my good friends out at the Liz to get the low down on what to expect. Their utter amusement did nothing to allay my fears.
"Do you have your old registration and proof of insurance? Your old driver's license and some proof of residency, like a utility bill? You should have everything you need then. And don't worry, if you don't, they're very kind and understanding," said Klug.
"Oh, and by the way, don't tell them you've lived here an entire year," JoE advised. "You're supposed to get an Illinois license within 10 days of moving here. Although, you can tell them how long you've really been here if you want. I’m sure they'll be very kind and understanding."
"Don't worry about where you need to go or anything," Fish assured me. "There's a guard at the door now. You tell him what you need to do, and he'll tell you what line to get in. He's very kind and understanding."
I suspected they were mocking me.
The guy at the door was a little Mexican guy in a very official looking outfit that implied if I said anything stupid, he had the authority to shoot me. He looked neither kind nor understanding, and I would come to find out that my first impression was correct. But he did know where to send me. Driver's license first. Line 2.
Line 2 was very short, although the area just beyond Line 2 looked like Ellis Island circa 1907. To get an Illinois license you need the following items: your old out of state license, proof of birth, proof of Social Security number, and proof of residency. I had on me the following items: my Ohio driver's license (with my Social Security number included), my birth certificate, and a bill from People's Energy.
"Where's your Social Security card?" asked the Line 2 attendant.
"I don't have it."
"Well, you need proof of your Social Security number to get an Illinois license, so you won't be able to get that today."
"Um, but it's printed right there on my Ohio license," I said. Because it seemed to me that if my Social Security number was ON MY OLD LICENSE that it should qualify as "proof" that this was MY Social Security number. Putting your SS# on your license is optional in Ohio, but as far as I know, you don't have the option of putting just anyone's number on there. It has to actually be yours.
"That's not on the document list," he said, handing me a sheet of paper and circling Section C, "Proof of Social Security". Sure enough the items on the list included a U.S. Military ID, a State of Illinois ID card, a letter from the Social Security people officially stating your SS#, or your Social Security card. Out of state driver's license, whether you number was printed right on it or not, was not included. "Come back with your Social Security card. Also you'll have to take a written exam and a vision test." He shoved all the paperwork back at me, indicating that I was dismissed.
"Can I still get plates though?" I asked him. This was the more pressing issue, as my driver's license won't expire until next year, but my Ohio tags expired last week. He said I could, and also permitted me to just unhook the rope and get in Line 1.
Now I was in line 1, and for this exercise I had ready: my Ohio registration, my loan agreement, and my insurance card. I would not need any of these immediately. The woman behind the counter began rapid firing her automated list of questions at me and pulling out forms as I answered them. Because I bought the car outside of Illinois, new, from a dealer, still owed money on it, and used it outside of Illinois for a specified period of time, I was handed a stack of approximately 87 forms to fill out before I could receive my two metal rectangles indicating that my car lives here. I headed off to the long table in order to accomplish this.
As I was working, a surly employee made his way down the table peering over everyone's shoulder, deeming each of us stupid in turn, and sending us off to the auditors for "help" filling out our small forest's worth of forms. I was doing pretty well, I thought, but not well enough for the Form Enforcer. "Ma'am," he said in an exasperated tone as if I was just too dumb to understand (though I hadn't said anything to him at this point), "you need to go over to the Auditors and have them help you fill this out right now. We'd like to get out of here some time today." I'd been standing there for maybe three minutes when he said this and was already halfway done, due to my diligence with Having Things Ready. But this wasn't good enough, so I headed over to the Dummy line.
Turns out I belonged in the Dummy line. I handed all my documents and papers to the older gentleman assisting me, and of course the first thing he asks me for is the exact mileage on my car. That particular nugget being the one piece of information I did not have. I told him this and he looked around tiredly. "Doesn't look like the doors are locked yet," he said. "Better go out and get the mileage off your car." So chastened, I ran out to my car and diligently wrote down "14,242" on my forms before heading back inside.
I walked in and immediately headed back to the Auditor lime. But before I could take three steps the little Mexican man (hereafter, "the Mexi-nazi") stopped me with an authoritative bark. "Ma'am," he said sharply, "what's your business here?"
"Um, I was just here, remember? I need to get plates? I just had to get something out of my car."
"Line 1," said the Mexi-nazi coldly.
I thanked him stupidly, then ignored him and went straight back to the Auditors. At least he didn't shoot me.
I got a different auditor this time. She took my registration and loan agreement away and made copies of them (no one ever asked me for proof of insurance. WTF?), stapled them to my paperwork, signed and stamped a dozen things, and sent me off to stand in another line so I could give them my money. I stood in the line and glanced around, as you do. And in so glancing, I noticed a sign on the wall. "We accept, cash, personal check, money order, and Discover Card."
So rarely have I been in a place that accepts Discover but not Mastercard or Visa that I had to read it twice. And instantly I wished I had read it before going to take down my mileage, because in my purse I had no cash, no money order, and no Discover card (since I carry Mastercard like a normal person). I did have a checkbook....in my car. The Form Enforcer was nearby, so I went to him and timidly said, "Um, can I please run out to my car? I left my checkbook there by accident." He approved my trip and I went out to the car a second time.
I was gone, oh, 45 seconds, tops. When I got back, I discovered the front door was locked. So I did what any other rational adult who had been granted permission to get her checkbook from her car would do: I went in through the exit door.
A small but strong hand gripped my shoulder as I stepped inside, and I turned around and came face to face with the Mexi-nazi. "You can't come in Ma'am," he announced.
I heard a whiney little kid speaking and realized it was me. "But I was just here. The man told me I could go out and get my checkbook." I looked around for the Form Enforcer only to discover that he'd vanished into the ether. Instead I sheepishly held out my finished paperwork.
Mexi-nazi tightened his grip on my arm and shook his head at me. "You can't come in. We're closed." He steered me back toward the doors. It was clear that I would not be granted the privilege of giving the state of Illinois $143 that day.
Defeated, I let myself be escorted off the premises without obtaining an Illinois driver’s license or Illinois plates. When I got to my car, I immediately called Fish to complain. When he answered I announced I was moving back to Ohio because everyone here was mean and then promptly burst into tears.
Fish was very kind and understanding.