Thursday, July 31, 2008

Stay off the sidewalks...

My kid has a Learners Permit.

What an -- how shall I say this --- adventure?!?! to get it. 

He took a Drivers Ed class July 14 - 25, five nights a week, 3 hours each night.  This is because in our state, it is mandated that minors have a minimum of 30 hours of classroom instruction to get their license.  Now don't get me wrong - I am ALL FOR classroom instruction and having someone teach young people to drive who is a professional at their job.  All for that.  But I don't much like the fact that the state says they HAVE to take the class.   I would have had him take the class anyway, but IMO that should be my option and my duty as a parent, not my obligation to the state.  At any rate...

Oh yeah - and at least 2 hours of those classes was devoted to discussion of substance abuse as it relates to driving.   All the students were 18 and under.  They cannot legally purchase alcohol or even cigarettes.   Why the long discussion? Just show them some pictures of bodies and wreckage and people in jail and tell them that's what happens when you drink and drive.  Next topic.  Instead, at one point they did a word search or crossword or something, with words related to drugs and alcohol.  So they're more familiar with the street names of various illicit drugs, I guess??? I don't know.  I should ask Harrison if the words "revoked license" "Criminal Negligence"  "vehicular manslaughter" "dead at scene" or "prison term" were included in the word search. 

And yes, I do know that there are publishers that sell Driving Instruction programs accepted in all states that can be taught by parents.  And I know that it would have cost me about a hundred dollars less to do that.  I made the choice to do the driving school classes instead, knowing all of that, and actually I'd probably do the same again - despite my skepticism about the value of doing word searches on alcohol abuse.  (Picture my eyes rolling really hard here.)

Our state also has a special requirement for some students getting their Learners Permit.  You can get your Learners at 15 years and 9 months of age.  However, for those getting it before their sixteenth birthday, they must also have a school attendance affadavit from a public school official!  When this new law was in process, many opposed it, and with the help of HSLDA it has not become as problematic as it could have been.  This law has been in effect since October.  You can read about it at HSLDA's website.  Now that story says that... "Students under age 16 seeking a learner’s permit will simply need to get the signature of a local school official on the form confirming that the student is being homeschooled."  The word simply is somewhat misleading, we've found.  Because the parent cannot sign it, neither can our homeschool umbrella group administrator.  It must be signed by the one and only person in our county authorized to do so.  And if she is on vacation, or out of the School Board offices on the day you go down to get it signed, well... you'd better hope that whoever is there does it correctly.  I went all by myself while running other errands to get this form signed, sealed and placed in a sealed School Board envelope.  After confirming by phone that I did not need to bring my student with me to do it.  I figured I didn't really want to put my son in the position of possibly being questioned about any aspect of our homeschooling.  Well, the lady was out of the office, but of course there are competent and efficient officials there to cover for her.  And they did so, very nicely, as a matter of fact.  I have no complaint at all about how I was treated in the offices.  They were very kind indeed.  However, I suppose that because no one other than that one special person usually signs these forms, the lady signing mine made a slight error.  She checked a box that was not pertinent to homeschoolers.  Which of course I didn't notice at the time - it is the school board official's duty to put that piece of paper in an envelope and seal it up before giving it to me, so I didn't have a chance to double check it for accuracy.  I think you would probably be in big-time trouble if you didn't bring the enveloped to the MVA with the seal intact.  So... fast forward to Tuesday when we took our precious form to the MVA...

Round One:  We stand in line at the MVA to get to the "guards" at the front desk who look over your paperwork and deem whether or not you are worthy to receive a number to await the pleasure of the staffers who will give you your tags, renew your license or whatever your business there may be.  The guard very skeptically looked at our papers and pointed out that we MUST have the actual social security card with us.  Grrrrrr.... This was mostly my fault.  I had checked the requirements online and thought I had everything but all the ID requirements are rather confusing and I had brought Harrison's passport to back up his birth certificate, because his birth certificate is not from the USA.  So - return Home.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, etc.  (MVA is about 45 minutes away from my house, btw)  The guard gentleman was, I think, a robot.  Given his monotone voice, lack of discernible emotion, and complete inability to smile or express sympathy with our disappointment at a wasted trip.

Round Two, Part One:  We returned to MVA later on Tuesday, with the social security card (and with Harrison's bank statement and pay stub, just in case I had to further prove residency in this state and county... ya never know, wanted to be prepared) and stood in line again.  Longer line this time.  When we reached the guard desk, the social security card passed inspection and they proceeded to rip open the school board envelope to make sure that this kid had attended school often enough during the past semester to "earn" his chance at a Learners Permit.  (can someone show me actual hard data proving a correlation between school attendance and ability to drive???  why is this form necessary in the first place??? But that is a different rant for a different day)  And at this point, the error of the extra box being checked was discovered.  YellowShirt (as we dubbed the cheerless guard) droned "this is not acceptable.  both boxes are checked" and walked away with it.  Ummm..... okay....  After a long wait, another staffer (this one we named "Scruffy" in honor of his meager beard) who informed me that they couldn't accept the form because "both boxes are checked" and he suggested I phone the school office and have them fax over a statement saying that they made the mistake and what it should say.  Excuse me????  I pointed out that since Box 1 was checked that YES this student is homeschooled, that Box 2 was therefore completely irrelevant.  (Box 1 says if Yes, that the appropriate official should sign and seal the form, nothing else required.  This is what HSLDA worked for - that homeschoolers would not have to show attendance.  Box 2 questions if the student had 10 or fewer unexcused absences over the past semester, and they had more than 10 - sorry they don't qualify for a license.  No joke.  The "unexcused" thing is another PS term that bugs me.  But I won't get into that now)  Although he couldn't really refute my reasoning, he was firm that the form as it was could not be accepted.  He had showed it to the supervisor and the supervisor said so.  "May I speak to the supervisor then?" I asked.  And after another long wait in limbo, the supervisor showed up.  (BTW, Scruffy was a robot too)  The supervisor, another robot, was not particular nice.  Obviously we taxpayers/customers were interrupting something important she was supposed to be doing.   She took us into a little "principals office" - leaving the door open - and sat down at the desk but didn't invite me to sit down on either of the other chairs.  Rude IMO.  I preferred to stand anyway, as I intended for her to understand that I meant business and didn't expect to have to wait long.  Same general conversation as I had with Scruffy, but I insisted that since it was not MY mistake and not MY problem in accepting the form, that if SHE didn't like it, SHE could phone and request the fax.  She even tried to intimidate me by saying something about the person's name that had signed it  - "she's not authorized to sign for this county" - and I pointed out that the lady who WAS authorized was out of the office that day and someone else was completing her duties.  Whatever.  So Supervisor takes the form and marches out of the office saying "give me a moment"  It was a long moment.  But at last she came back and said that she had called and the official at the school board had confirmed and was faxing over an amended form.  Score one for Mama Bear.

Round Two, Part Two:  We were called over to Scruffy's station to continue the application process.  At this point the fax has been received and we think we are all good to go.  Not so fast... turns out that Harrison's vision didn't quite make the grade, and so we needed to take a form to his eye doctor for completion.  I am ready to go postal on someone at this point.  And I probably should have made sure that I got the eye doc to fill out the vision exam statement a month ago, but again, the info on the website wasn't 100% clear about needing the doctor's statement.  I made sure to ask about the school board form before we left though.  Last thing I need is to come back with the doctor's statement but have them reject us because *gasp* the seal on that envelope has been broken!!!!  But thankfully Supervisor had already signed and initialed that form, so we were hopeful that Scruffy's assurance that it would be alright was true.

Round Three:  On Wednesday morning, we stopped at the eye doctor's office and waited for the vision exam statement to be signed, then headed back to MVA and hoped for the best.  Another wait in a long line.  Yet another robot at the guard desk.  She reluctantly gave us one of the coveted deli counter tickets so we could wait our turn.  At long last, we were called to Station 11, where the one MVA staffer with a pleasant voice and demeanor was on duty.  (I had told Harrison I would buy him lunch if he could spot an MVA employee smiling - I paid up)  All our paperwork was in order - yay!  So he got his picture taken.  Ironically perhaps, there was a little note taped to the camera reminding licensees to "Smile!" for their picture.  Although I only noticed this at the nice lady's station, not at any of the others.  Then Harrison had to go into the exam room to take his knowledge test.  I used that wait time to fill out the customer survey regarding our experience at MVA.  Mwaaahaaaahaaaa.  He came out having passed with flying colors, and with another deli counter ticket to wait for the prvilege of paying the bill.  Much longer wait than any up until that point.  But finally it was done.  And that very nice lady at Station 11 smiled and said "Congratulations" when she finally handed him the completed permit card.

So now the hard part is over. 

Except for teaching him to drive, that is.

Be afraid. This guy has a Learners Permit.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid. 


burttbunch said...

That is way to much for me! I would have gone postal! They make things more difficult that it really need to be! Glad it all was worked out and now the hard part....actually teaching him to drive!!!! LOL Hopefully your foot does get sore from the fake brake...LOL

CrossView said...

I just love bureaucracy! =/

You handled it much better than I would have, I'm afraid.

Congrats to the new driver!

Tom said...

Is it wrong that I found the entire story hilarious?

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