Long post, over 3,700 words, 11 fotos.
I have been to the "DMV" — which is now called the MVC (Motor Vehicle Commission), tho the Frelinghuysen Avenue station has a sign that harkens back to yet another name, MVA, "Motor Vehicle Agency" — three times this week. On Thursday, I pulled into a nearly empty parking lot at 6:05pm and learned, thru a helpful (black) gent still there, who was probably almost my age (tho it's not always easy to tell, because, you know, "black don't crack"), that the station closed at 6:00, even tho the notice enclosed with my license-renewal application said it should have been open till 7:30.
He said that one of the people in the group nearby was an employee of the DMV (or whatever!), but she was talking to people, so I waited to ask about the next day's (Friday's) hours. Meanwhile, a younger black gent who had pulled into the lot after me asked about hours the next day and I said I wasn't sure, but was going to ask, myself. I then asked him how I'd get onto I-78 West. He told me to go up Frelinghuysen to a traffic lite and make two rights. (But when I did that, I was taken to a loop around to I-78 East. I'll have to check MapQuest for this, unless I missed some turnoff, which I don't think I did.)
The DMV employee walked toward her car, and I asked her about hours the next day. She said the station closes at 5:00 (not 4:30, as on the notice). I showed her the notice I had received, and she said I must have gotten that two months ago, because Christie's cutbacks altered the hours after that. (But of course the DMV did not send out a corrected notice to people who had not yet renewed their license.) I asked if we still needed to pay by check, and she said no, you can now use a debit/credit card — except Discover. She asked if I work days, and when I said I'm retired, she said I should try to get there much before closing time, because there would be a long line otherwise. Then she took pity on me and said I could cut ahead by going to the front door and saying I was there to see my girlfriend (and she gave me her name), and they would let me in. She is black, I am white, but that's not that big a deal now. At least she was a mature woman, not a teenybopper. Of course, I would never cut in line, but I appreciated the offer anyway, and as I drove away, I said, "Goodnite, girlfriend!", which comes off sounding much as a black woman (e.g., Wendy Williams) or drag queen might talk. This "girlfriend" thing has gotten out of hand, and people start to say it without thinking, to men. But it's cute and harmless.
On Friday, I drove back to the DMV, arriving just before 4:15, and getting to the door at 4:17pm. The place was again desolate. The guard at the door said that the station closes at 4:30 (not 5:00, as my 'girlfriend' had advised), but that I couldn't go in (at, I repeat, 4:17) because they have to count the money, close out everything and be out the door at 4:30. That is not the general rule as regards announced closing times. At a bank, if you are in the door before closing time, the staff will take care of you even if that means they have to leave a bit late. I imagine management adjusts for that, so that the shift actually ends a half hour or so after the announced closing time. Not with the New Jersey DMV / MVC / MVA. Worse, the hours shown on the website are either wrong or changed again, because they show Wednesday-Friday closing as 5:30! What is going on?
I remember when Jim McGreevey, our skinny "Gay American" Governor, was in office, the DMV ran smooth as clockwork, very efficiently. Not now.
In any case, as with Thursday, when I left the DMV Friday I drove thru unfamiliar areas, taking fotos when I saw something interesting.
The guard told me yesterday that the hours Saturday are 8:00am-1:00pm only, but I would have to get there very early to be sure to be seen. In that my license was to expire on July 31st, I had to get this done Saturday the 30th, since the 31st is a Sunday, and they're not open at all Sundays — tho that would be a good time for the DMV to be open, as regards the convenience of the taxpaying public, most members of which work weekdays. So I calculated backwards to how early I would have to get up (to get ready, dress, and drive there), then set my alarm and got to sleep as early as I could last nite, which was not early. Still, I figured that if I were sleepy, I would be more patient.
This morning, I arrived by 8:05, to the scene above: a long, long line extending all the way to the back of the building and a short distance left into the parking lot!
There were absolutely no open spaces in the parking lot, but there was this empty area that could have accommodated additional cars. I think, but am not certain, that it is a parallel-parking area for the driver's test when the streets are not available, as due to snow. But why wasn't it available for parking on a brite summer day? No one was being tested there.
I drove up Frelinghuysen Avenue a couple of parked-solid blocks, past the Father & Son warehouse, then made a U-ey, parked on the west side of the avenue, and walked back a couple of blocks to join the long line.
It's hard to see from this foto, but the pole on the left supports a solar panel for the lite above and to the left.
Over time, those of us in the immediate vicinity talked a bit with each other. Two young women ahead of me weren't sure they had the right ID. I pulled out the required-ID printed brochure, titled "6 point ID Verification Program".
They consulted the brochure and thought they should be OK. Frankly, I hadn't understood this 6-point thing, but just made sure I had lots of ID mentioned on the list. When they talked about 4-point ID's and 2-point ID's, I paid attention and realized that my passport counted more than my expiring license or ATM card. The brochure does not contain any introductory, explanatory language such as:
These young women understood that. I had not. But I had everything it seemed to me I needed, based not on points but on "Primary Documents" and "Secondary Documents", shown as separate headings in that brochure. My passport, a primary document, was worth 4 of the required 6 points. I also had several secondary documents, including driver's license, Social Security card, ATM card, Medicare card, and real-estate salesperson's license wallet card, as well as my current PSE&G bill to prove current address. (Hm. I haven't received my new r-e wallet card. I must follow up on that.)
In any case, the woman immediately ahead of me was Korean and pregnant, so needed to get out of the sun into the shade of the building, so the woman ahead of her and I, behind her, held her place. The Korean lady had a slite accent. I hadn't known she was Korean until she said she was — she had freckles on her face! on slitely sallow skin, a far cry from the Irish freckles I am more familiar with. The (white) woman ahead of her, none. The (black) man behind me had what sounded like a West Indian accent, but he was actually from Haiti, and needed a form for a commercial driver's license. I remarked to him, when we had been on line (yes, that's "on" line, in this region, an accepted alternative to "in" line, standard in other areas) for over a half hour, that it was a good thing the weather was beautiful, because standing in line in the middle of winter, or the rain, would be a misery.
"Different forms of identification carry different weight for Motor Vehicle purposes. You need to have a minimum of 6 points worth of identifying documents. The breakdown below shows how many points each type of ID is worth."
After a bit more than an hour, we finally got indoors. The guard had us form two lines at the reception desk, even tho there was only one woman on duty at Reception. I guess he just wanted us to be clear of the door behind us. The two ladies and I all had to renew our license, so were directed to line (station?) A, and I held the pregnant Korean lady's place again so she could sit down in the adjacent waiting area. The Haitian gent went another direction.
The other young woman somehow got several places ahead of me in the twisty-turny line between velvet ropes. As we came close across the velvet rope, I asked if the green booklet she was holding was a passport. U.S. passports have a blue cover. Yes, hers was Brazilian. I asked where she was from, expecting to hear Rio or São Paulo, but I think she said southern Brazil, which is near Argentina and, I thought, Florianopolis, so I asked "Florianopolis?". I knew of that city because when I was in my 20s, I saw an ad for Americans to teach English in Florianopolis, and I very seriously thought about doing that, tho in the end I opted not to apply. I didn't know Portuguese at the time (I can read it now, but need a dictionary), and wasn't at all sure I'd like being surrounded by Portuguese 24 hours a day, 5,000 miles from home. It might have been a good thing to do, tho, because I'd have learned Portuguese as well as taught English, so would have become fluently bilingual, which might have been economically advantageous for the rest of my life — tho Portuguese fluency is much less in demand in the U.S. than is Spanish. Going abroad for a year is something young people just out of college, or even high school, might consider doing for their own long-term success, especially if it would as well provide gainful, if modest, employment while the Great Recession plays itself out. Peace Corps experience could do a young person's career a world of good. I'd like to form a nonprofit organization called "English Everywhere", which would send Americans with very good English to non-English-speaking countries to provide English-language materials everywhere, in the form of translations of street signs, plaques in museums, etc., so that people from all over the planet could find comprehensible materials to guide them in tourism and investment. They could also teach English to locals. I have a program for that, which would employ my Fanetik spelling system to cut thru all the confusion of multitudinous different spellings for the same 42 sounds. English is simple in sound but appallingly — and needlessly — complicated in spelling.
For some reason, there were lites on, on the side of the DMV building. Why? Altho some lites in that area are powered by solar panels, I didn't see any associated with this lite. Surely this is one type of waste of taxpayer money we can easily dispense with thru a lite-sensing switch.
She said she was from the next state down from Florianopolis. (Brazil is a federal union of 26 states, plus a Federal District, like the District of Columbia, for the capital, Brasilia.) Northern Brazil is racially very mixed, and largely black. Southern Brazil is largely white, being approximately as white as the United States overall, about 79%, including a lot of people whose ancestors came from Germany and Italy. So if you saw this young woman, you would not likely think her Brazilian. Even if you heard her speak, you wouldn't think her Brazilian. But she was.
I mentioned to her my one six-day trip to Brazil in about 1984 (to Rio, Niteroi, Petropolis, Brasilia, and São Paulo), and the street crime I saw in Rio, even as a tourist (an armed robbery of a car stopped in rush-hour traffic just ahead of our tourbus, and a purse-snatching). She seemed horrified, and assured me that things aren't that bad anymore. I wondered, but did not ask, why she was here if things were so good in Brazil. The U.S. does, of course, still attract some of "the best and the britest" from everywhere, who could do very well in their own country but want to be here. (Did you pick up on the fact that the four people in sequence on line in my vicinity were born in Brazil, South Korea, NJ, and Haiti? Newark has a long history of diversity from immigration.)
This picture shows lites on, for no reason, in the parking lot too. The bump on the right lite is a seagull. We sometimes forget that Newark is a seaport, and that Newark Bay is an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. I occasionally see gulls in the parking lot of the Bergen Street Pathmark and the Home Depot on Springfield Avenue at Bergen Street, but I don't know that I've ever seen any in my area, a couple of miles farther inland.
The line moved on, and the young woman from Rio Grande do Sul and I were no longer facing each other, so did not continue to converse. I lost track of her, and the Korean lady came back into the line before we reached the front point of departure to separate rooms. As we chatted, I discovered that she and her husband live in Newark. He works in Manhattan. She works in food service at McGuire Air Force Base, which she said is near Trenton. I later checked online and found that McGuire is something like 20 miles from Trenton. During the workweek, she stays with a relative (sister?) in that area, while her husband stays in Newark. I didn't think to ask where her other child/ren stay, because the one she is carrying is not her only child. Both she and her husband were born in South Korea, and he served in the SK military. They get together only on weekends — which simplifies the task of figuring how far along her pregnancy is. She asked if I had any children, and I said no. (That's the only bad thing about being homosexual). She asked if I had any children, and I said no. I wanted to mention something about my youth, but she pursued the issue of why I didn't have children. I copped out. Instead of saying, "I'm gay", which I thought might shock her and others around, I just moved to the point I wanted to make, namely that the first place I lived was Palisades Park, in Bergen County. When I lived there, on Broad Avenue, Palisades Park was a typical North Jersey, dominantly white town. No longer.
So I thought this was an interesting connection between us. She mentioned that she has in fact been to Palisades Park for some event.
Palisades Park boasts the highest percentage (44%) of Korean Americans of any municipality in the United States. Broad Avenue in Palisades Park's Koreatown has been characterized as a major epicenter of Korean American life.
Still, my action in diverting the conversation from why I did not have children (and probably grandchildren, by now) speaks to the difficulty gay men have in being open about their lives — which in turn makes it difficult for others to be open too. My profile, at the top right of this blog, explicitly mentions that I am the guy who in 1970 offered the term "Gay Pride" as it is now used. But even I recognize that it can be touchy to mention this topic to straight people in the ordinary course of conversation. As regards the issue of reproduction, homosexuality is not, in this day and age, a bar. Ricky Martin has two sons, and Neil Patrick Harris and his partner have fraternal twins, a boy and a girl. So artificial insemination and surrogate mothers make reproduction possible for rich gay men. I am not rich, so I have no children. More's the pity, because I was one of six children, and would love to have six sons.
In any case, the line at the DMV moved on, and my Korean line-mate departed ahead of me, to stop at a table where ID was examined. Shortly thereafter, I followed, then was sent to a room off to the left side, where I had to present the ID I had just shown to a lady at the table outside. Then I was told to sit in the waiting area. A few minutes later, I was called up and the same documents were examined, for no apparent reason.
After perhaps another half hour (during which some people talked on their cellfone, even tho a handwritten sign — why not a neatly printed notice in large type? — said that cellfone use was forbidden in that area), I was called out to a nearby counter, and the woman there showed me my current picture and asked if I wanted to keep that or take a new one. Huh? I thought the reason we were required to renew in person was so a new foto would be taken, and possibly so our eyesight could be checked. No eye test was administered, and I could have opted to keep my 4-year-old foto. That makes no sense whatsoever to me. I opted for a new foto. A former co-worker advised that when you go to the DMV for a license foto, you should dress in jacket and tie, because police will likely respond to you better if they see you in jacket and tie in your license foto. I didn't bother and, as it happens, my new foto shows me from the neck up, showing very little of the clothing alongside my neck. Still, it does sound like a good idea, just in case the camera takes in what you're wearing, no?
My old (left) and new driver's license fotos, 2007 and 2011. I think the DMV should always require a new foto, because people can change over 4 years. Who cares if the older foto is more flattering/less grotesk? These are ID fotos, not Glamour Shots.
I was told to sit a bit until the license was printed and laminated, and who should be in the only other chair there, but the young Brazilian lady. We chatted only very briefly, long enuf for me to establish that she lives not in the Ironbound, as one might expect, but in Kearny. Then my license was ready, ahead of hers, even tho she was sitting there a moment longer than I. We checked the time. The total elapsed time since I arrived at the DMV until I got my license was 3½ hours. I think you can spend less time on the process if you come mid-month and mid-week, but didn't manage to do that. Of course, I don't know that that would really have made a huge difference, do I? Still, it's something for you to keep in mind as your own license-renewal date approaches.
I walked back to my car and opened a door and the hatchback to let out the heat that had accumulated as the car baked in the sun. The steering wheel was too hot to touch. I should have used the reflective sun barrier for the windshield that I carry in the trunk, but I had never before had to use it even once. While I waited for the car to cool, I took this foto of an abandoned factory being reclaimed by nature, on one of that area's red-brick roads. If Newark were to create a pedestrian walkway Downtown, it should rip up the asphalt and put in a yellow-brick road. "Newark, OZ 07102".
I do not recall my license renewal ever taking so long before. Did Christie cut staffing as well as hours? How do Republicans get elected in New Jersey, when they provide such crappy services to the public? Even rich people, who presumably have to appear in person to renew their license, suffer this kind of insane imposition. You'd think they'd be up in arms and demand that things be done better. I will say one kind word for Christie (Calm down, Gaetano! It's only one kind comment.): he hasn't (yet) raised the fee for a driver's license. It's still $24 for four years. That's a bargain, especially in these times.
Not all factory buildings in Newark are abandoned. We still have some manufacturing, scattered around the city, not centralized in one district. Here's a steel fabrication company near the DMV.