Gettin’ ‘er done. [The Repatriate Papers, Vol.1]

I have a shit ton of stuff I need to be getting done these days, and frankly every time I get one thing off my list, it feels like there are ten more that jump on that bad boy. It’s like those perpetually refilling, ermm… I don’t know what perpetually refills, aside from my list of shit to do, so I guess it is like that.  Through it all I continue to be surprised by the things come off that list with unprecedented ease… as well as those that are surprisingly difficult. I suppose it is task-irony.

July 2 – Surprise #1: The DMV
I called the DMV before I went there because I figured it might be better to try to get an appointment.  The first available appointment was August 13. That was unsatisfactory. So I decided to walk over as it’s fairly close to T’s house. Of course, it mostly appears close because we usually drive by it, and also because I am generally with people who are able to negotiate the finely nuanced hell of Petaluma’s Eastside. Clearly, I am not driving and even my geographic skills cannot comprehend the Eastside; it is that foreign. I did eventually find it. It is actually basically across the street from where I am staying. Whatevs. Once on site, I went to the main counter where I was greeted by a totally decent guy who asked how he could help me.

“Well, I have been out of the country for more than five years and I need to get a driver’s license and I do not have a valid license. Or my birth certificate. Or a social security card. But I do have my passport.”

“You don’t have your old license?”

“No. And it was a Nevada license and it is expired. But I might be able to find it somewhere.” (That last part was a lie. I tossed that shit because it was a fat picture and had the word Reno on it.)

“Oh. Well, when was the last time you had a California driver’s license?”

“Umm, probably… 1996?”

“Oh. Wow. Okay, you may not even be in the system, so here is what you need to do: Fill out this form and then, if we can find you in the system, you are going to need to take the written test and go from there. If we cannot find you in the system you are either going to need a certified letter from the Nevada DMV stating that you held a license there, or you are going to have to take the road test.”

“Oh, okay.”

“There is a two-hour wait though, and I’d hate for you to wait and then find out that you cannot even get ‘er done.”

Smiling at him I said, “Well, time is one thing I happen to have with me today.” I took the form and after spending about 38 seconds to complete it, I sat down among the hundred or so people waiting in various states of despair and disrepair in the Petaluma DMV and went to Scrabble on my iPhone. I was number G243. I don’t even remember what number they were on but I know I had not even finished one game when my number came up. I took the form to the designated window and sort of re-explained my situation to the guy waiting there less than expectantly. He listened totally patiently and smiled when I was done.

“Alright then, let’s see what we can do. What’s your social?” He plonked in the nine digits and then asked my birthdate. “So, do you remember what address was on your license?”

I heard the Law & Order doink-doink go off in my brain. “Uhhh…” My brain went archival. “2214 California, San Francisco?” He shook his head. “885 Emerald, San Diego?”

“That’s the one!” He smiled. “And your middle name is…?”


He chuckled and got up to go retrieve something off a far away printer. He came back and showed me a black and white print out. “Is this you?” I looked at the photo and shed an internal tear for lost youth.

“Oh my god, can I have that?”

“No, I can’t give it out.” I must have looked like a really sad middle-aged person because he relented. “Well, okay.” He cut away the identifying numerical information while I coughed up the 31 dollars for the new license and he handed the little photo to me. “I’m gonna print out the color version later anyhow.” Nice guy to perv in less than five minutes. Amazing. Without missing a beat he directed me to another window to get my photo taken for my renewal of a license I’ve not held since 1996. Oh, and to take a driver’s test. Shit. “Don’t worry, it is only 18 questions and you can miss three.” At this point I must have looked like a very worried and sad middle-aged person so he added, “You can miss three. And if you fail you can take it again, you have three chances. Of course, if you miss by a lot you may want to study…”

I headed over to the other counter with my nerves and the black and white evidence of my Brooke Shields eyebrows. I was met by the guy who I had spoken with originally when I arrived at the office. Now manning both the testing window and the photo window [Hello budget cuts, how you doing?] he explained the procedure, apologized for the possible delay as he was helping six different people, took my photo then handed me the test. I looked at it, well aware that I had no idea about a lot of them and thanked some un-named diety that it was multiple choice with only three choices for each question, thus vastly improving my odds of passing. After a few minutes I brought the paper back to him.

I missed four.

He let it slide.

Girlfriend was licensed to drive in less than 50 minutes. California DMV FTW.

July 2 – Surprise #2: The AT&T Store
After such an obvious and rousing victory at the DMV, I figured today was the day to get a phone number as well. This should’ve been easy: I possess an unlocked iPhone needing only a local sim card, perfect credit and cash. I was totally ready.

Or was I? Initially things were going smooth. AT&T Dude greeted us at the door and we told him what we were after and he was ready to sell. Problem number one. AT&T Dude needed ID and asked for my license. Apparently after proudly displaying my DMV victory banner to T, I had left the temporary license on the table at the house. Okay, no problem, I had my passport. I handed it over. AT&T Dude became visibly flummoxed. “So, this is your last name?” He pointed to my middle name. I looked at him. Dude had never seen a passport. I showed him my actual last name and he went from flummoxed to annoyed. Then he asked for my social. I gave it to him. The next thing out of his mouth was hilarious save for the fact that he was totally serious. “Okay, I can get you all set up today, can even get you the new iPhone 4 for $199. You just need to give me an $800 deposit for the number.”


“Um, excuse me? Why is that?”

“It generally means you have a credit problem of some sort or maybe no credit. Could be the license thing.” (Now he was just being snarky.)

“But I have perfect credit and definitely have credit as my permanent address has always been in the States for my very well-loved Amex. There has got to be some sort of mistake.”

“Well, it has nothing to do with us. I guess you better call the credit agency, but if you want a phone number it is going to cost you $800.”

“That is stupid. Forget it.” As we turned to walk out AT&T Dude got a little more proactive to save the sell. We worked out that if I went on T’s plan that I could be her ‘family’ and avoid the deposit. Good one kid, that is the kind of American ingenuity I am after. He started to work up the paperwork and we realized that this was actually going to save T money too. (Win.) But I was still wondering why on earth they would not give me my own number. And then it came to me. “Wait, is Cingular AT&T?”

“Yeah,” He looked up.

“Oh my god. I had a Cingular account in 2005 that was supposed to close and Ex#4 was in charge of that.”

“Well, that would be it then if he never paid the bill.”

I put in the new sim card and shook my head. Still screwing with me after all these years over stupid money, eh #4? Good one. The funniest part? #4 always disparaged #3 for being money obsessed and using it as a control mechanism and swore he would never do anything like that. AT&T Dude gave me a number to call to sort it out and I took care of it when I got back to the house. The bill was small too. Just like #4.

Since then I have acquired car insurance (easy); applied for a bunch of jobs (less easy); worked out my NCLB compliance (freakishly easy); contacted BUSD HR for an application issue (easy and very pleasant); dealt with my Hong Kong banking (surprisingly difficult); and begun to make appointments to see all the people I need to see (challenging but so worth it.)

The list is still really long… so goes repatriation…


About Amanda

I am repatriating expatriate trying to work it all out. Well, to work some of it out anyhow. I am writing here for sanity, focus and general over-sharing.
This entry was posted in Absurd Shit, Home, Life, Silliness, true stories and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Gettin’ ‘er done. [The Repatriate Papers, Vol.1]

  1. Well done. I’ve only been out of the country five months so most things have been on hold rather than cancelled. Doing my divorce remotely has been the biggest pain but that’s now out of the way so the next step is my girlfriend’s visa application.

    Not even thinking about the crap to do when we get back yet.

    • Amanda says:

      Oh wow… you are ‘going back’? When and where? I will be interested to hear how it goes!

      • Back to the UK from Taiwan.

        I think it’s all pretty much under control: divorce is complete, girlf has shiny new passport[1], online visa application filled in, appointment booked. If the visa comes through sooner, we’ll leave here and spend a few days in Hong Kong where friends are dying to feed us 🙂

        UK is easy, I have work I’ve been doing here that should pick up again and I have somewhere to stay in an emergency. Aunts FTW! No problems with tax and so on. Or drivers license.

      • A week to go. Two main thrusts:

        1. Dealing with scumbag real estate agents.

        2. Trying to find fallback contract work if my main work nipple dries up.

        Watch my blog 🙂

      • Amanda says:

        You go my route… that being the very crowded road of the unemployed.

      • One way or another, I’ll be employed. I’d just it wasn’t for The Man.

  2. I’ve been wondering how you were getting on with this kind of thing. It’s amazing to me how scary the thought of doing this is. I left England without much hesitation and yet the thought of going back and having to do this – (despite the fact in the UK unlike USA there is a information leaflet on everything) – brings me out in a cold sweat. Have you tackled the IRS yet? The thought of having to do that whilst in the UK and then when coming back to the USA makes me never want to leave the country.

    Despite my own rubbishy worries – this was a very interesting/funny read.

  3. amy says:

    Love the new picture. Go get em<1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s