Carroll County Times

Merritt: Come up with a plan (or two, or three) when renewing your driver's license

Do you have a real ID? I thought I did.

But under the Real ID Act of 2005, enacted by Congress as a result of the 9/11 terrorist tragedy, Americans are required to have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or — for non-drivers — an ID card.


After Oct. 1, 2020, this new means of identification will be necessary when boarding commercial planes or entering federal facilities.

All I wanted to do was renew my driver’s license. Having received a notification from the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) in January, indicating my March deadline for getting a new license, I put the letter aside and procrastinated until two weeks before my birthday — still plenty of time.


I read the letter sent to me, making sure (I thought) to have everything in hand when I arrived at the Motor Vehicle Administration location in Carroll County.

As I pulled into the parking lot, there were no spaces available and I doggedly went around and around for at least 10 minutes, expecting any moment for one to become available. It did, but, of course, another driver got it and, exasperated, I drove home.

New plan.

When I returned to my house, I asked my husband, Paul, to drop me off at the MVA before he ran a number of errands that would probably take him an hour or so. I figured by the time he’d be finished, so would I.

After we arrived, I waved goodbye, got in the line that wrapped around the inside of the door and waited my turn. When an employee asked for my proofs of identity, I presented three of the items that were required in the notification — a birth certificate, social security card and two proofs of my residential address. (If you don’t have some of the required documents related to your age and identity, social security, and residential address, there are alternatives listed in the notification.)

To my shock, I was told my social security card couldn’t be accepted, and was asked if I happened to have my marriage license with me. (I have no idea where that license may be but, after 56 years, I suspect it has disintegrated.)

Because the employee was so nice and even checked with two other persons to see what could be done, I graciously accepted his apologies with a smile that hid my clenched teeth. He made a suggestion about getting another social security card, noting that I had plenty of time before the expiration date. I left, taking note of his final advice: “If you make an appointment, we’ll get to you in about 15 minutes,” he said.

In a race to contact Paul before he set off on his errands, I was able to reach him and he turned around to pick me up, arriving 20 minutes later.


Plan No. 2.

Once at home, I immediately pulled up the website listed in my notification and proceeded with the steps to make an appointment. When I got to the end where I was to push “proceed” in order to facilitate the time and date, the website went blank and I repeated my efforts, only to have the same thing happen again and again and for one last time.

My next step was to call the number, also listed in the notification, that would enable me to talk to someone if I had trouble making an appointment. Instead, I needed to press a number, that was “answered” robotically, instructing me to put in the number of my driver’s license, along with some other simple details that left me out of time to continue with the call. Exasperated, I gave up.

The next day, with renewed energy, I tried again on the computer and discovered the website was working well and I made my appointment with no problem.

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Plan No. 3.

This time, armed with an SSA-1099 social security benefit statement (that substantiated my social security card), in addition to my birth certificate and two proofs of my address, I held my breath as I stood in line to present them to the person who checks out the documents.


Yahoo! Everything passed muster and I took my seat and waited to be called — just 15 minutes later, as promised.

At this last stage, all seemed to be going well with the paperwork until the woman hesitated while looking at the computer and asked me if I had a marriage license. I rolled my eyes in disbelief, still not understanding what the problem was. A minute later, she excused herself and I waited and wondered until she came back and, ultimately, gave me the go-ahead for the eye test and photo.

At last, I was finished. I was so glad to get out of there, I never looked at my photo —always a source of embarrassment — that was plastered on the computer screen along with my age. Let me out of here, I thought, for fear of being detained about my non-existent marriage license.

A few days later, my new license arrived and I felt as if I’d been given the Holy Grail. A sense of relief swept over me until I noticed the expiration date — March 2026.

Only seven more years before my next renewal.