As it turns out, on a random March evening in 2016, a man with my very same name (first, middle, last) and nearly the same birthday (two days after, but several years before) was pulled over by one SC State Trooper M.S. Greene and given a ticket for a seatbelt violation. This Mr. Robert S Morrison got lost in the ether, and, as it turns out, I got dragged into the whole ordeal due to a clerical error.
I found all this out today while attempting to obtain–for the third time in a week–my South Carolina driver’s license, and the nice woman who helped me informed me that I couldn’t get what I wanted because I had a suspension on my license (I previously held a DL in the state, but the last time was in late 2011). This began a chain events that included me driving all the way to York to visit the magistrate’s office; paying the $25 fine to get it off my record; returning to the DMV office in Fort Mill; finding out that I would then have to pay a $100 reinstatement fee; the ladies at the DMV attempting to have that dismissed since it was clearly not my ticket; finally being told they couldn’t dismiss the fee; then being told that the magistrate had gone ahead and realized what they should have realized when I was there and informing me I would get a refund on the $25 fee, but that it wouldn’t clear for a day or two, so I STILL wouldn’t be able to walk away with my driver’s license after all this. To top it off, obtaining my license was only step one in my plan for my last weekday-off before I go back to work, as I needed to pay my car tax and get my registration and SC plates to get all that out of the way.
I dropped little L off with my mom around 10 AM; it’s nearly 3 PM now, and I almost literally have nothing to show for it, minus a hold being taken off my account and–for now–$25 fewer in my bank account. You could argue that removing the suspension is a good thing, and I’d say that’s fair, but that it wasn’t my fault that the ticket was there, and in a year and a half it should have become clear to someone in the magistrate’s office that there was an issue. Barring all that, I find myself frustrated with the entire process. I understand caution in light of the nature of our society these days, and that technology has made it easier for people to create false identities or steal them from others, but I find myself caught in a whirlwind of problems that I didn’t even create. I try to remember that I am dealing with human beings, and that clerical errors are a true sign of this fact, but it feels like an excuse, even if it is true.
Over the ten years since I first moved down to the Carolinas from Virginia, I have now had the opportunity to see how much processes like this have changed. When I first went to get a SC license in 2007, I swear I gave them my birth certificate and my old Virginia license, signed some papers and all was well. Moving from South to North Carolina was relatively easy, minus the fact that I had to go back twice because I failed the written exam the first time (confounded farming signage!), but the required paperwork part didn’t faze me in the least. This time around, I went twice before I even got through the vetting process with completed paperwork, each time after standing in a line for 20+ minutes prior to being sent home due to that improper paperwork. In short, the increased security, or at least what I perceive to be so, has complicated the process, stealing my time and my patience.
The point here isn’t to rail on the SCDMV, even though in general I still find the idea of a state-wide department for drivers to be a hotbed for insanity, but to merely point out that I believe this process has reminded me that we are all flawed, all often incapable in spite of our best efforts. As I’ve said, the people who helped me today were wildly helpful, especially upon my return to the DMV, where they allowed me to avoid standing in line the second time and dealt with me directly, and with a promise that once this is all clear, they’ll do the same when I return. But the biggest lesson is this: no matter how much people try to organize or streamline an operation, there will always be complications, always be setbacks, always be human error to contend with. And the thing is, those things always win out in the end, so it stands to reason that I’d be better off tabling my frustration in favor of grace and optimism. My wife will tell you that she tells me this all the time, and she’s right about that; but sometimes it takes a run-in with a lot of things you can’t do anything about for the words to really hit home.