Monday, February 27, 2006

I'm official!

Today I officially became a North Carolina resident! I got my driver's license, registered to vote, and got my license plate. I had been putting this off for months; you're supposed to do it within 60 days but I became excellent at hemming and hawing. The DMV has never been my favorite place, for more than the average person's complaints about long wait times. Suffice it to say, I didn't do so well on my first (or second!) behind-the-wheel exams back when I was 16. It's a memory that haunts me to this day; I was an excellent student, accustomed to things coming easy to me, and then to fail this twice, it was like a slap in the face. I've had anxiety about the DMV ever since.

I knew it was not likely that I would have to take a behind-the-wheel exam here in NC. According to the DMV, the three things required of new residents licensed in another state are 1) a knowledge test, 2) a vision test, and 3) a traffic sign test. The behind-the-wheel exam is "at the discretion of the tester," and no one I knew who'd relocated had ever had to take it. But I also was afraid I'd screw up the knowledge test. I knew this was an irrational fear. Thousands of people who haven't even graduated high school take this exam and pass it every year; I'm college educated and have always been a good tester.

Well, thankfully, all my fears were for naught. The knowledge test was super easy. It was administered on a touch-screen computer and each question only had three choices. So right there, you've got a 33% chance of guessing the right one. As long as you read the handbook, you'd have to be retarded not to know most of the answers. For example: "When driving in snow, it is best to A) hit the brakes a lot, b) drive slowly, c) speed up." Come on, people! One made me laugh. "Studies have shown that a large number of accidents are caused by which of the following: A) Middle aged drivers, B) Women drivers, C) Slow drivers." I wonder how many people put B.

One awesome thing about taking the exam electronically is that you get immediate feedback as to whether you got each question right. You have to get 20 out of 25 questions right to pass. Once you hit 20 correct, though, the test ends...I only answered 21 questions. I got one wrong: "When approaching a right turn, the best thing to do is: A) Honk your horn (or some such ridiculous answer), B) Move slightly to the left in your lane to avoid hitting the curb when turning, C) slow down and stay to the right." I chose B, because that is what I do. But the answer was C. Oh well. No matter.

First thing when you walk in the office, you have to pick a line. It wasn't terribly crowded when I arrived, but while I stood there the line grew to almost out the door. I was later informed that Mondays and Fridays are their busiest days. There were only three windows open, and each one was for different types of transactions. When I got to the window, I sat down and handed over my documents. Social Security card, CA driver's license, proof of insurance, and proof of residency (water bill). The guy spent five minutes typing in all my info. He asked if I wanted to register to vote. I went ahead and did it, hoping I wouldn't get called for jury duty any time soon. He had me look into this little binocular-type thing for the vision test, which apparently I passed (I was nervous about that too, since I've been squinting a lot lately). I also had to identify all the types of traffic signs. They were all really easy, because I had reviewed them in the handbook. Then he had me go take the test. When I was done, I waited for a different window to be open. One neat thing in this state is you get to pick the background of your license. You have four choices: silhouette of North Carolina, a lighthouse, the Great Seal of North Carolina, or the ubiquitous airplane. Shouldn't be a monumental decision, but I did have to think about it for a while (luckily I overheard another customer being presented the options ahead of time). I ultimately chose the lighthouse. I wrote out a check for a whopping $16 and was told my license would expire in 2010. Sounds like the distant future!! Surely we'll have flying vehicles by then... Next I walked over to the photo lady, and waited (yet again) to be called. I got my picture taken (turned out pretty good) and then a few minutes later my card was printed. The whole process took about an hour.

Then I drove over to the license plate office a few miles away. Why this can't all be done in the same place is beyond me. The line at the second office seemed quite long but it moved pretty quickly. I forked over my newly acquired license, and the title to my car. I'd gone online ahead of time and printed and filled out the necessary form, so she just entered my info from that. I decided to splurge on a personalized plate: M CUBED. (My initials are MMM.) It's only an extra $30 per year and I've never had one before. I got a temporary plate for now (although it is just like a permanent one) and the other one should arrive in the mail in about 3 weeks. I had to pay $5 in cash for a notary fee, and the rest I paid via check. I now have 10 days to get my car inspected, which should be a simple process. They check your headlights, windshield wipers, etc. Just another way for the state to collect a fee, I suppose.

The rest of my day was equally busy. Stopped at the library to provide proof of residency since I had it now. Went to Target for six things, two of which they didn't have (4" x 6" unruled index cards and flavored bubbly water). Browsed in the dollar section, which always has fun little stuff. Got these adorable little candle holders:

They are solid metal and I could totally see them at Pier 1 for $9.99 each. Also got a bunch of magnets. Have I shared my magnet addiction with you? Used to be just a few magnets from places I traveled. But now I've got magnets of all shapes and sizes. They cover my fridge. Finding a bunch of neat-o ones for a buck at Target does not help the situation...


  1. $16 for a license? Bargain! And I've got a metal front door so I've got that magnetic poetry all over it :-)

  2. Congrats on getting your license. I know it's a big deal. After relocating to several states, that's the part I dread most. Now I only move to states where you only have to take a vision test. :)

  3. The driving test is the least of my worries! I have lived in the SW for almost all of my life and can't stand the lack of lack of rain, the lack of "the early American outlook and history", the abundance of cactus, the ugly yards, the 122 degree summers (yes, I know it's dry heat but at 122 it really doesn't matter-it's too hot to breathe!) I'm considering picking up, leaving my friends of 30 yrs., my 23 yr. old son, and piling all my belongings into a "pod", selling a house that has tripled in price since I bought it and "mushing " on down to Raleigh/Cary/Garner NC---------a place I have never been to and in which I do not know a single soul! But my heart is so "Eastern" with the rich history and gorgeous decks and backyards for my dogs, with the plethora of cultural activities and, so far, the friendliness of the Southerners I have met so far, I can't stay away from dreaming that I can one day actually live there. Am I nuts?????? Most of my friends think I am but I have a few that say "follow your dream" and your friends will all come to see you when it's 122 degrees again! Any advice for an intrinsic Easterner that has somehow been dropped all her life in the SW?