THE LINE – The people are standing here in the hot Texas sun, some with umbrellas to stave off the burning rays. Others, like me, just stand here on the pavement, waiting in a line that never seems to move. This is a DPS driver license station. You’ve been here, done this, because if you want to drive in Texas you should have a driver license. This is not easy. We all remember our first driving test, the sideswiped barrels, screeching tires, sweating pale face of the DPS trooper in the passenger’s seat. (That must be one of the worst jobs in Texas.) From then on, we could renew our license by mail, then by online, carrier pigeon or smoke signals. So I thought. A letter was sent to me from the DPS saying I needed to show up in person. “You are receiving this notice because you are not eligible to renew online.” Maybe they didn’t like my mug shot, or just wanted to see me, or it could be about those four DUIs.
So here I am, stuck in this line. About a year ago my wallet was stolen, and I had to get a new license. There used to be a DPS station not far from me, so I drove there. The station was closed.
This made me go to a Mega-Center which had all sorts of facilities to help drivers get a license, pay fines, call Uber – and the Mega-Center had a Mega-Line. This time, before I headed there, I checked to make sure it was in business. Glad I did, because that place was closed for reconstruction. It seems some genius at the DPS decided Texas had too many stations and the lines were not long enough, so the agency consolidated, creating Mega-Centers. “Let’s do away with those smaller and more convenient stations and create some big ones. This will save rent money and electric bills. If it causes long lines and lost time, tough.” Eventually there will be one DPS driver license station in Pampa and one in McAllen, but they will be really, really big stations.
If you are a liberal, you should be appalled at this situation because it causes hardships on the poor and minorities, even though there is no VIP line, or Express Lane for six earned figures or more. If you are a conservative, you should be outraged at the lost productivity. Look, none of these people wants to be here. This is not “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I suspect virtually every single one of these driving-aged adults, in the middle of the day in the middle of the workweek, would rather be back at their jobs. These long non-productive time-outs are costing the Texas economy millions of dollars in lost productivity, i.e., money, taxes. Our state legislature should briefly stop spending hours and days debating transgender school bathrooms and spend maybe 15 minutes allocating more state funds for DPS driver license stations, so we Texans can go in and out, obtain our license and get back to work, making Texas great again.
Some items to ponder while waiting: In 1937 the state licensing of drivers was added to the tasks of the Department of Public Safety, as was the first narcotics section. We’re being lumped in with the druggies. In 1929, Hempstead resident Lillie E. Drennan became the first woman to obtain a truck driver license in Texas. There are 15,879,876 (as of last counting, but it’s early in the day) Texans with a driver license. Wyoming is last among the states with 421,098, but that doesn’t include mule skinners. The official title for the permit in question is not driver’s license or drivers license or licensed to kill. It says right there on your card, “driver license,” singular, not possessive. There are scams involved. Bogus websites such as drivers-licenses.org. Looking very official, for a price, they will obtain your license and mail it to you. And a strange one: there are rumors the phone number on your license will get you free towing and back on the road again.
There is no free launch. That number will help you find a tow, that’s all.
Now here is something else we should consider: The DPS has just announced that it added 100 more personnel (including Texas troopers) beginning August 9 to the highest-volume driver license offices. Initially they will have a specific duty: To help identify customers who can immediately get out of line and conduct their transaction online, by phone or by mail. This effort may be expanded to other offices as needed. These will not be immediate hires due to the extensive background checks required. This is important to all of us because: “The majority of customers who come into Texas driver license offices (for example, 3.6 million people in Fiscal Year 2017) don’t have to.” This would cut the number of in-office transactions by an average 44 percent. Customers can actually conduct their transaction online, by phone or by mail.” Call 1-866-DL-RENEW (1-886-357-3639).
At last the line moves enough to get me indoors and to a seat. I am given a number to be called for my time to renew. It is number 1,009. They just called number 7. A few tips to help: In many offices, you can schedule a drive test – DRIVE test — online three months in advance. “Customers are urged to plan ahead and not delay scheduling a drive appointment.” Ha. Forget that. My daughter and her daughter – to get her first license – called up and made an appointment. They still had to wait two hours. You can renew up to two years in advance, and renewing early does not impact the expiration date. Mondays and Fridays tend to be the busiest days, as well as after holidays. Overall, summer is the busiest time of the year. Finally, bring something to read. I brought along “War and Peace.” I got through War and halfway through Peace.
Ashby is waiting at email@example.com