Going through hell to get a license to drive in Hell

If you’re going to have a Web site that lists inaccurate and incomplete information, why have one at all? That question can easily be directed to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission after what should have been a simple (albeit long overdue) trip to exchange my New York driver’s license for a New Jersey driver’s license turned into three trips, one-and-a-half wasted days, and a keg of aggravation.


According to the wonderful state of New Jersey, there is a six-point ID verification process for obtaining a driver’s license. I completely understand this and have zero objections. Running the risk of granting official credentials to a terrorist would be foolhardy. However, people consult this list so that they bring the proper documents to the Motor Vehicle Commission and make the trip only once, so shouldn’t the list be accurate and specific?

More and more people are switching to electronic billing to pay for their utilities. It’s more efficient, and it helps the environment by not creating unnecessary paper documents. If you choose not to accept electronic bills as proof of residence, shouldn’t you mention that somewhere on your Web site? I don’t have a problem with the policy. I have a problem with not having a clue, despite consulting the Web site, and being turned away after showing up with a document that satisfied the published criteria. The woman I spoke with said, “It happens all the time.” Well, there’s a reason for that. There is not one word on the Web site that indicated that electronic bills are unacceptable. Thanks for wasting my Friday afternoon.

On Saturday, my landlord was kind enough to meet me at his office, prior to leaving for vacation, to print out a copy of the lease for our apartment. A lease is also on the list of one-point documents that satisfy the proof-of-residence requirement. However, as I found out Tuesday, on my second trip to the Jersey City office of the Motor Vehicle Commission, if the lease was signed more than 60 days ago, it doesn’t qualify. Again, there is not a single word about this restriction anywhere on the Web site. I wouldn’t have even attempted to use the lease had I known it wouldn’t be accepted. This marked my second wasted trip to Jersey City.

Fortunately, the supervisor I spoke with was very helpful and made some suggestions that would enable me to complete the torturous task of getting a driver’s license on that day, rather than wasting time on another day. I was able to get PSE&G to print out my bill, along with an official stamp, and I was also able to locate some tax-related documents that were sent to my address, so on trip No. 3, I emerged with a New Jersey driver’s license. But it should not have taken three trips. As I said at the start of this blog, if you’re going to have a Web site that lists inaccurate and incomplete information, why have one at all?

Then again, based on how useful the road signs in New Jersey tend to be, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that the Motor Vehicle Commission’s site was equally useful (read: useless).

On a humorous side note, the helpful supervisor (in a rare occurrence, no sarcasm from me whatsoever — he truly was helpful) suggested PSE&G and directed me to its office in the Journal Square transportation complex. What a freaking nightmare. It was packed when I walked in, and I took a ticket with No. 11 on it, only to look up at the screen and see that No. 54 was being served. When 10 minutes had passed and No. 56 was being served, I got the hell out of there and went several blocks out of my way to PSEG’s Hoboken office, where I was in and out in three minutes. When I finally left the Motor Vehicle Commission with my driver’s license, about three-and-a-half hours after leaving the Journal Square PSE&G location, I peeked in out of curiosity to see what number they were up to and saw No. 24. I would have spent about three hours sitting there. Word of advice: Never, ever go to the Journal Square PSE&G office. Wow.

Anyway, after three trips and almost 10 hours of time spent, my story finally reached a happy ending (not THAT kind, you pervs!). I am now the proud (OK, probably not so proud) owner of a New Jersey driver’s license. As a result, I immediately forgot how to parallel park and use my turn signals, but I was suddenly enlightened as to the mystical ways of negotiating a traffic circle, a roundabout, a jughandle, or whatever you want to call those atrocities. Yay, me!

4 comments on “Going through hell to get a license to drive in Hell

  1. Hat Girl says:

    Yikes! I’m old school and still get paper copies of my bank statements and bills. I know it creates a lot of garbage, but did come in handy for hubby’s drivers license change of address….

  2. Liz says:

    When I moved back to NY from Florida, I decided to keep my Florida license for insurance purposes. I figured I would need some local ID to cash check, go to the bar, etc. so I went to the NYSDMV with the handy 6 points and crap only to be told that I “don’t have valid proof of birth.” Apparently, my DL wasn’t enough and I needed to show a birth certificate or a passport. My passport expired years earlier so I made a trip downtown to Vital Records, picked up a birth certificate and went back to the DMV.

    A few years later, I decided to give up my Florida DL (insurance differential wasn’t to great by then) so I went back to the DMV with my NYS ID, Florida DL and other points of stuff and those clowns still wanted a birth certificate.

    Recently, my husband had to replace his ID and he had to scramble to get six point of stuff.

  3. Deb says:

    This is why I went to the office in Bayonne for a non-driver’s license renewal. Have also been to Lodi, I think, or some other similar sounding city/town in New Jersey for fingerprinting (job, 2005). My aim was/is to simply stay the hell away from the Jersey City DMV and other government offices. My husband warned me in advance about this stuff. He said one can wait at the J.C. DMV all day, surrounded by seemingly intoxicated nincompoops, and wind up home with nothing accomplished.

    So frustrating.

    The DMV, overall, is one hell of a maddening place. It’s a good idea to bring along crossword puzzle books, that book you’ve been meaning to read all year, an iPod to shut the noise out with, and a pen or two (never forget writing utensils– we actually had to step out of a DMV once to buy a brand new pack of pens).

  4. Jane says:

    Thanks – this is funny. I stumbled upon it while trying to figure out how to prove residency for my son, 17, who has a bank account with electronic statements only, and report cards don’t include an address. I guess I’ll have to get a letter notarized but I only have today to do that – and do I then have to submit proof of MY residency? I get e-statements too!

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