Am I talking politics? Climate change? Taxes? Nope. I’m talking about the worst personal nightmare of all: THE MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRY!

Since Trump changed the law about “real” identification papers, what used to be a one minute online process has become a personal hell. Although in theory you can renew a license online, actually, you can’t. You have to prove you are you. You have to prove where you live. You have to provide original paperwork, even though almost all this stuff is done online, so you can’t provide original paperwork because there is none.

Massachusetts has a special technique wherein anything that was simple and efficient has to be “fixed.” We used to have plenty of registry offices including many “mini” offices in malls. For reasons of economy (?), they closed most of the registry offices that aren’t in or near Boston. Worcester county has just two offices — and we are the largest county in the state.

The paperwork they sent Garry doesn’t mention that you can’t just drop in OR that you need to make an appointment to renew your license two months IN ADVANCE. No online appintment? Go home. Even if the registry is empty, they won’t help you.

We couldn’t make an online appointment because the form they provided for birth certificate information doesn’t allow you to use the number because (sigh), both of us were born in New York. Their number doesn’t fit the field. Lord only knows what happens if you were born overseas. Thus they will never validate your identity which means you can’t make an appointment. They have also eliminated the people who used to answer phones. If you want to get in touch, it’s a three or four day turnaround by email, assuming anyone gets back to you AND assuming whoever gets back to you has the answers you need.

Garry got up early and went to the RMV office. He found a convenient parking space (that never happens, so he should have known it was a trick) and got inside. He made it all the way to the front desk. Where they told him he didn’t have an appointment . Even though he was standing there, at the front desk, papers in hand, they wouldn’t help him. He had to go home and do it online.

We couldn’t. The fields are incompatible with New York’s documentation. New York is not some distant state with which Massachusetts doesn’t deal. Probably half the people in Massachusetts were born in New York. I shiver at the mess that each one of us is going through because Donald Trump wants us all to prove we are us.

It has been a long day. A long time holding, a long time filling out the same forms over and over while trying to figure out whether what they wanted was the issuing date for the birth certificate OR the date you got the replica from New York.

Also, it’s very difficult to change old information, like old phone numbers and long dead email addresses. The seem to believe whatever phone number you had 20 years ago you must still have that number. You can’t change your email address, your phone number, or even that four digit code the follows your zip code. It’s the merry-go-round from hell and we were on it all day.

After about an hour of listening to the message about how sorry the RMV was to hear from us and why didn’t we go online and not bother them with annoying phone calls, I got a live person on the phone. She didn’t care what the issuing date on Garry’s birth certificate was. She found a date (tomorrow) and set it up for him.

The final blow was when I closed down the RMV site, there was a survey.

How did you like our service?

I didn’t. I didn’t like anything about it. I didn’t like the design, lack of clear information. Nothing worked and there was no information on exactly what information they wanted. Worse, the places they told you to click weren’t there. They changed the page, but not the “instructions.”

How can they make it better?

Hire a technical writer and a web designer and start from scratch. Don’t just keep adding patches. Fix it. Properly.

Which they will never, ever do. It’s like fixing the subway (MBTA) (usually called just “the T”) in Boston. Garry has lived here since 1970 and the trains — under and overground — are even more broken now than they were when he got here. They were plenty broken in 1970. In the 53 years following, they have yet to put up the funding to repair them. Now half the commuter rails are shut down because the tracks are unusable. Way to go Massachusetts! We just hired yet another Transit Chief. We hire one per year and fire him or her before summer’s end. I’m sure they are grateful to leave.

Next time, I’ll have to tell you about how they are removing perfectly functional, sensible access and egress points on major roads so they can install tiny roundabouts that have no signs so you can go around and around and around and never know where you should be getting off because in New England, we are against signage. If you don’t know where you are, we aren’t going to tell you.

Would you be surprised at huge recent increase in the number of accidents? Of course you aren’t.

For a state that’s number ONE in education, we are a mess. A disaster. If there’s an ass-backwards way to do something simple, come to Massachusetts. We’ll show you how to turn that simple thing into a nightmare. We’re good that way.

Categories: Anecdote, Bureacracy, Cars and Trucks, Government, Humor

Tags: , , ,

15 replies

  1. Marilyn, if Jean Paul Sartre is right, an updated version of “No Exit” is being in the DMV. Or, I can see a lead in with Rod Serling. Marilyn Armstrong thought she could get her license before lunch, Sadly, she was unaware she was entering The Twiight Zone. Keith


    • You’re right. It IS the Twilight Zone and not one of its happier areas. Garry got a standard license today. Trying to get the “real ID” was beyond his willingness to cope. It was really stupid yesterday. He was there. The place was empty. They could have taken care of him but no, he had to come home. And then you have to fill out every known form of identification just to MAKE an appointment, which because the fields don’t fit the format of New York’s birth certificate data … well … finally, somehow by some miracle, I eventually got a human being and today he got a standard license — also what my son got. I actually managed to get the other one, but I think they gave it to me because they weren’t sure what to do and it was easier to give me the licence than fight about it.

      To be fair, the motor vehicle registry has ALWAYS been a nightmare in two states and two countries. Talk about unmotivated workers!


  2. This is a nightmare 😕


  3. It is a ridiculous situation. Technology was supposed to make our lives easier but it often seems to do the exact opposite when coupled with poor customer service.
    I don’t think that renewing a licence is as difficult here. I’m pretty sure Naomi does it all online. In Tasmania we have “Service Tasmania” offices in many towns and they will deal with motor vehicle licences and registration and most other state required permits, fishing, guns , boat licences etc. It makes life much easier but there are some forms you have to fill online. “Working with vulnerable people” is one that can be really tricky. If you tick one box incorrectly you can’t proceed with the application. Many of our volunteers at the information centre have been caught out by that one.
    My most hated site though is the one you have to access to get your resident visa linked to your passport. The website is horrible and if you ring up they tell you to go online. You are no longer allowed to visit the office that deals with it in person. A security guard will shoo you away before you even get to the door.


    • This USED to be a simple online transaction that took a few minutes every five years. Okay, it would take longer now because we are over 75 and have get an eye test, so every five years we have to go in. But NOW you have to make an appointment and the documents we have don’t “fit” the format Massachusetts is using — so we CAN’T make an appointment. Around and around and around. It WAS simple, but now? NOT simple. Ridiculously not simple.


  4. Goodness me. Admin hellhole sounds just about right …. in France, we didn’t get our driver’s license changed within the regulatory 6 Mo because our papers were lost in meter-high piles in an office corner. Went there (taking 1/2 day off work) in person, waited for hours, were sent off again as their ‘window of opening time’ was over…. same thing again, and finally got the last slot at 11.45am with an employee saying: I can’t do you because it’s lunchtime (@ 12)…. we insisted, persisted, promised Swiss chocolate…. (bribing) 😉
    In the end, we got our ‘new’ permits after we were already a few years in the country, always carrying bundles of paperwork in our glove compartments, in case of a police control!
    I kind of like roundabouts, but WITH helpful indications. Many a time, I did ‘honourable extra rounds’ until spying and getting off at the right exit. In both, England and France, one cd feel like in a spaghetti bowl, trying to sneak outwards towards the next exit. So, sorry, friends, we won’t be able to visit you until this is fixed!


    • I don’t know why something this simple has gotten to be such a nightmare. It was a nightmare in New York when I lived there. It was bad here, but got better, but now as we have gotten older and survived Trump, it has gone from easy peasy to hell hole — nightmare city.


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