Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Not bad for gov'mint work

Well, I guess it could have been worse.

With less than a year to go, Kim and I decided to put the wheels in motion to get our Real IDs. You know, the little star that goes in the upper right hand corner of your driver's license that, by the October 2020 deadline, will officially allow you to fly domestically, enter federal buildings, nuclear power plants and God knows what else – ABC stores and college football games, maybe. You never know any more in this incredibly complicated and paranoid world of ours.

Anyway, that meant Kim needed to get a certified copy of her birth certificate and marriage certificate (as proof of name change). And that meant we needed to go to the Davidson County Register of Deeds in the lower level of the courthouse.

Oh-oh. I could see trouble on the horizon. Bureaucracy bubbling in the basement.

But, no.

We walked into the office, told the clerk behind the counter what we needed, and within 10 minutes, we had the documents in hand. Holy cow. I almost passed out.

Then it was my turn.

My quest, unlike Kim's, was going to be a little more problematical. I'm not a native North Carolinian. I was born in Pennsylvania. My certified birth certificate no doubt is moldering in a filing cabinet somewhere in Quaker officialdom. Maybe in Harrisburg. Maybe in Philadelphia. Maybe even in Scranton. There's no telling.

I was born in Allentown, in Lehigh County, which is located about an hour north of Philadelphia, an hour south of Scranton and an hour east of Harrisburg. Based on Kim's experience, I logically made a phone call to the Lehigh County Register of Deeds and explained what I needed.

The nice lady on the other end of the line told me that in Pennsylvania, you have to go through the Pennsylvania Department of Health to get a certified copy of a birth certificate. Well, so much for logic. She gave me a Web site and said to follow the simple instructions.

Oh-oh. There's no such things as simple instructions. Especially online.

My only other choice was to make my third 500-mile trip to Pennsylvania this year to physically show up and request a copy of my birth certificate, so I decided to go with the online option. I found the page I needed on the PDH site and went to work.

Actually, it was three online pages. The first page was the actual application. The second page required a credit card payment of $47, and the third page gave mailing instructions – and a request for a check for $40 (I wanted two copies at $20 a piece).

Huh? Two payments? I was confused. But I couldn't get from one online page to another without completing the previous page.

So I printed out my online receipt and snail-mailed it with my application, explaining that I'd already paid for it with a credit card. I sent it all off and waited my 10 business days.

About two weeks later I got a letter from the PDH, saying they were unable to process my application because the required $40 fee was not included. They also pointed out that Pennsylvania's only authorized vendor is, not VitalRecordsOnline.

For crying out loud. Except that I was a little more colorful than that. Bluer, actually.

But it was the unauthorized VitalRecordsOnline that was on the PDH page. I hope they got that straightened out.

When I got my credit card statement a day or two later, it turned out my payment went to a Vital Records in Madrid, Spain.

This required me to cancel my credit card and get a new one, otherwise somebody in Spain was going to use my card to purchase bullfighting equipment and whatnot. A hassle, to be sure, but a necessary hassle.

In the meantime, I tried calling one of the phone numbers on the PDH site to let them know an unauthorized payment plan was on the second page of their site, but all I got was a recorded "Your phone call is important to us," etc, etc, and then a few minutes later a notice saying my wait time was 91 minutes for assistance and I was 31st in line. I was angry, but not that angry, so I hung up.

I mailed my check for $40 and hoped for the best, wondering when am I going to make time to drive back up to Pennsylvania?

That is, until my birth certificates arrived in the mail a few days ago.

Well, that was easy. Now to get the Real IDs taken care of...

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