To ID or Not to ID

When I rolled up to the Division of Motor Vehicles this morning, I didn’t encounter any illicit ticket selling. No one induced me to reach the front of the line for a mere $50 -- a practice, I’d heard, that has become increasingly common along the DMV’s unbearable wait times. So I settled at the back of the sidewalk queue. It was 7:15 a.m. and the line was already fifteen people deep and quickly snaking around the side of the building, where someone had propped two mattresses and a grill for the taking -- a shoddy consolation prize.

At 8 a.m., with fifty people gathered outside its massive glass doors, the DMV opened for business. Today didn’t feel much different than my visit last week, in which I waited three hours for a Colorado license to replace my old Utah ID, only to be turned away empty-handed. But today was different, I’d been told. It was Wednesday, August 1, the day the Colorado Department of Revenue’s new regulations would allow me and thousands of others (including ex-cons, the homeless and the elderly) to get the magic plastic we’d been waiting for.

After an hour of wait time, during which I turned down an invitation to join three men at their neighborhood drinking hole, my number was called. I presented my Utah driver’s license and a Social Security card to a bewildered clerk, who told me that the documents just weren’t enough in Colorado. The problem? This state doesn’t trust a Utah license on its own, and since only my middle initial appeared on the Social Security card -- not my full given name – it wasn’t suitable back-up.

I desperately name-dropped Roni White, the director of the state’s drivers-license operation, who’d told me over the phone last week that my Social Security card would be legit come August 1. The clerk flipped frantically through a fat, stapled booklet and then walked toward her manager. The two pow-wowed for a few moments and then gave me the go-ahead. Finally, I would have my Colorado ID.

After three photo attempts (“Move your hair out of your eyes!” yelled the clerk), we got a decent shot and I was issued a paper voucher to stand in place of my new driver’s license, which they promised would come in the mail this month. My Utah license, that bugger that was never enough on its own to prove my “lawful presence” in Colorado, was handed back to me with a hole punched in it. I think I’ll put it on a necklace as a battle memento. -- Naomi Zeveloff

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun