Small Defeat, Small Victory

Over the years, stories about dealing with State Motor Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing departments have become legendary. Having dealt with only a few, mostly midwestern states, I can’t speak to the entire national scene. Noentheless, the stories I’ve read and heard would suggest certain similarities from coast to coast, border to border. When it comes to interactions related to legal registration of transportation, there is a long history of frustration, indignation, and aggravation. And then, there are other citizen’s stories, too.

Those stories become more intricate when adding the aspect of moving from one state to another. I’ve had that one about ten times, although I don’t think I bothered with the title transfer during a couple of short stints.

Space and time and your patience do not allow me to recount those stories at this time. Suffice it to say that not only do states vary considerably in the number of obstacles, challenges and complexities involved, it seems there are at least as many interpretations of the rules of procedure as there are clerks involved in their administration. In fact, I’d say it’s even more than that because some clerks will tell you one thing one day and something else the next. In fact, I had one in Lexington, Kentucky, who didn’t wait till the next day to change her story; she only waited until I came back later the same day.

The guy who comes to Troy, Kansas, once a week to perpetuate the state’s afflictions upon newcomers and long-term residents alike wasn’t like that. He didn’t change his story one bit: ‘birth certificate from your state, not your hospital, proof of residence and your current drivers license." Hoping a personal appearance might touch his more compassionate side, I showed up with the only birth certificate I’ve ever had, all of my grade school and high school report cards, my draft status letter from 1972 and a hopeful expression. Didn’t affect him in the slightest. Same story, same inflection.

Randa had a state birth certificate, her current drivers license and proof of residence. But, she did not have a copy of our marriage certificate or of her divorce decree. (From her first husband, not from me.) The man gave her the same flat rejection that he gave me, no doubt guided by his unswerving devotion to the cause of protecting our neighbors and the country at large from any potential terrorist cells that might be forming among Caucasian Baby Boomers relocating to northeast Kansas from clear across the Missouri River.

I shall remain a public danger, or at least nuisance, driving with a Missouri license in a vehicle now registered in Kansas for a while longer. At least until the first Tuesday following the arrival of my Kentucky-issued driver’s license.

Randa, though, is completely legal now. We did obtain a certified copy of our marriage license, with the help of some very cooperative and friendly courthouse workers in two counties in Missouri and after driving over to Plattsburg. Randa also managed to find a copy of her custody and property settlement but no copy of her official divorce decree or of her first marriage certificate. Even though she did not have a complete paper trail proving who she was at each step of transformation from being born a Burleson to becoming an Arnett, she took what papers she had and headed back to the Doniphan County Courthouse. I stayed home to entertain thoughts of violent arson and anarchy.

When she arrived home barely twenty minutes later, I knew she’d run into the same inflexible attitude we’d found that morning. I was wrong. "No, he accepted everything. I was in and out in five minutes."


As for me, I’m still busy forming that anti-government terrorist cell. Some day in the not-too-distant future, I’d like to unleash a veritable explosion of common sense and practical wisdom. Maybe it could help return this country to being a bit more like it was before fear, vengeance and paranoia trumped liberty and personal freedom. Just for good measure and to add a truly revolutionary element, I’d like to put more emphasis on compassion, mercy and forgiveness than on any of those other things.

H. Arnett



About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Blair, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-five years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-one grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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