Changing My Name, Part II

31 Dec

The California Department of Motor Vehicles

This is the second part of my two part series about legally changing my name now that I am married. For the first part, see “Changing My Name, Part I” when I visited the Pasadena office of the Social Security Administration to request a new SSN card with my married name.

Over Thanksgiving break, I received my new SSN card. The next part of my journey entailed going to the Pasadena DMV to get a new driver’s license with my new name. Once that was complete, the state of Oregon, the federal government, and the state of California would be aware of my new name, and I would be legally “Larissa Church.” However, I had been told that the Glendale DMV was closed, and I should get an appointment at the Pasadena one. The earliest appointment I was able to get–remember, this is back in late November–was December 28 at 4 p.m. So I waited for my appointment, patiently, but anxiously.

I’m not sure if you have seen it, but for the past 10 years, I have had the worst driver’s license photo of anyone I know (with the exception of Steven Bowen, who had a full beard by 8th grade and looks like a terrorist in his driver’s license photo). As I mentioned in “Little Known Facts About Me” I had a hair-dyeing addiction in high school. My addiction eventually ended in mishap and for a time, I had hideous hair–orange-y red blonde at the bottom, and dark brown roots. I had vowed never to dye my hair again (which I have kept thus far), so my roots were bad, very bad. This meant I wore beanies often, which I unfortunately chose to do when I went in to the Napa DMV to take the test to get my permit. No one had warned me that they also take your photo for your driver’s license that day. To my horror, I was forced to take off my beanie, expose my tainted hair, and take my license photo. The result? I look like my hair is painted on my head like a Ken doll. It’s been truly wonderful to show the photo to airport personnel, merchants, bouncers at clubs, and the like. About 95% of the time I am asked if the photo is really me. Unfortunately, it is. So you can understand why I was anticipating my December 28 appointment. This time, I would not be caught unawares. This time, I would look incredible.

At my new job, if you need to leave early for an appointment, you are required to come in early. Since my appointment was at 4 p.m., and I wanted to leave at 3 p.m. to allow for traffic/accidents/natural disasters, I clocked in at 6:49 a.m. I spent my morning drinking several cups of coffee, as you can imagine I was tired. When 3 p.m. came, I was ready–I brought my makeup bag with me, and covered those dark circles! I made sure I looked fabulous. I brought a sparkly headband, and I was wearing a red cardigan so my photo would have some color. Per a few friends’ advice, I opted not to wear my new favorite scarf, because as one of them put it, I didn’t want to look like I didn’t have a neck for the next 10 years. (Very good point!) I was ready! After 10 years of waiting, the day had come for me to take a new driver’s license photo!

I encountered a bit of construction and traffic on my trip to the Pasadena DMV, but I wasn’t too worried–I had left myself plenty of time. However, when I arrived, I saw that I wasn’t in the slightest prepared.

The first thing I noticed was that there was a line of people out the door that wrapped around the parking lot. The line was at least 100 people long. I started to get nervous. I circled the parking lot several times, but there weren’t any spaces available. There was even a tow truck towing a car that had parked illegally. I realized I would need to park someplace else, so I went to the Staples lot next door. There were signs plastered everywhere that warned motorists their vehicle would be towed if they weren’t a customer–usually, this is an empty threat, but there was another tow truck towing a car. I started panicking. I eventually found parking half a mile away, on the street, and in 1 hour parking.

When I walked into the DMV, it was pandemonium. I noticed a sign on the wall that said the maximum capacity was 495–I guarantee you there were more than 495 people there. There were several security guards directing people into different lines. I felt like a refugee waiting to get food. I tried to ask a guard where I needed to go, but he just glared at me. I found a table full of papers and forms, found the one I needed, squeezed myself onto a deck, and began filling the form out as quickly as I could. I managed to find a line that had a sign noting it was for people who had an appointment. I waited at least 20 minutes before the lady at the desk handed me a number. I was F168, or something like that.

I looked in the waiting room, and it was overflowing with people. There were screaming children, children running around, crazy people, old people… too many people. I decided to stand outside of the waiting room and watch the television so I could see when they called my number–I could barely hear the computerized woman announcing numbers. At this point, I began to regret my intake of copious amounts of coffee, and my heart was racing. I overheard several conversations of people saying they had been waiting since noon or 1 p.m. It was hands down one of the most chaotic situations I have ever been in.

There were 26 windows that were rotating people out as fast as they could. My eyes were glued to the screen. I had brought a book, but I could see that had been a useless formality. When I was finally called to window 14 after waiting another 20 minutes or so, I practically had to punch my way through the crowds to get to it. Thankfully, in stark contrast to every other DMV employee I have encountered, the man was extremely nice. We chatted some, and I asked him if it was always this insane. He laughed, and said yes. Apparently it’s been like that for months, since the Glendale and the West Covina DMV offices are closed. I have never been more grateful not to work at a DMV than I was at that moment.

After I signed my form, and showed him a certified copy of my marriage license and my new SSN card, I was directed to another line to take my new  driver’s license photo. I nervously glanced at the clock and saw I had about 15 minutes until my parking meter ran out. I tapped my foot impatiently, the caffeine screaming in my veins. As I waited, I debated leaving, because I was terrified my car would be towed and I would be stranded. But no–I had come this far, I never wanted to come back. I waited.

I noticed a sign that warned people attacking a federal employee would result in heavy fines and possible jail times, and I wondered if the glass partition that separated the DMV employees from the rest of us was bulletproof. I could see someone losing it.

Finally, it was my turn, and after they scanned my thumb print (Is that new? I don’t remember doing that at Napa. Or is it an LA thing?) I took my new photo. The lady behind the counter exclaimed that it was a wonderful photo, and thought I would be very happy with it. I told her my previous photo was wretched, and she assured me the new one was great. However, I think she was on drugs, because she seemed a little too happy for someone working in such an insane work environment.

In 4-6 weeks I will receive my new driver’s license photo, and I can only hope the photo is an improvement over the last. If nothing else, I am happy that I am now in every legal sense Larissa Church, just in time for 2011!

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One Response to “Changing My Name, Part II”

  1. The Suze December 31, 2010 at 6:42 PM #

    Good that you’ve officially dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” in matrimony during 2010. Mazel tov!

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