We moved to this island about nine months ago in search of a change of scenery and boy, did we get it. I am thoroughly enjoying the slow pace of the island (the slow drivers, not so much) and the rural life. Living here feels a lot like stepping back in time with its little main street town, no big retail stores, no mall or chain restaurants, country tree-lined roads with no sidewalks and really bad cellphone reception. Now, as much as I love it, I realize this island life is not for everyone. If you like to shop, you should not move here. If you like to be out of your house past 8:00 p.m. at night, you should not move here, because the town is closed. If you like your car clean and not covered in pollen, pine needles and road dust, you should definitely not move here. When my parents visited a couple of weeks ago, for example, we spent four of the six days they were here exploring various other cities because my mom didn’t want to be, I quote, “stuck on that island for a week.”
Some things I’ve noticed as I go about my daily life that are a little different here:
In Orange County they have “speed bumps”….
On Bainbridge we have “road humps”….
On a nice day in Laguna, finding a parking spot near the beach can be a challenge….
On a nice day on Bainbridge, finding a person on the beach can be a challenge…
Signs I might pass on the way to the grocery store in Orange County…
Signs I pass on the way to the grocery store on Bainbridge…
Our town in Orange County was built in 1999 so all the homes, schools and shops are brand new…
Bainbridge Island is just a bit older…
This was our post office in 1890.
This was the high school basketball team in 1919!
Yes, there are many little differences I have found between our old and new locales. But the absolute single, most dramatic difference I have found here is…the DMV EXPERIENCE. So as some of you may know, I recently lost my drivers license on a trip to California and had to visit the DMV (see March 3rd post THE CALIFORNIA DMV).
So here’s your average afternoon at a California DMV.
I was originally told that if I could not produce a valid California license, I would have to re-take all of the licensing exams in Washington, including the road test. Which would include parallel parking. Which pretty much looks like this when I attempt it….
So, clearly, that was something to avoid at all costs. But then I found out that the DMV here could request my driving record from the California DMV and issue me a Washington license, no tests required! We don’t have a DMV on the island but there is one in the town over the bridge about 25 minutes away. I called to schedule an appointment. The first surprise was on the second ring, a HUMAN picked up. After recovering from the lack of an automated message, I asked her if I could make an appointment to come in and request my driving record. “Oh, honey, you don’t need an appointment” she chuckled, “just come in anytime!”.
So the next day I drove down there and this is what I find…
Was I in the Twilight Zone? Is there really a DMV in America that is this empty, clean, personal and efficient? I filled out some paperwork and the guy tells me, “Ok, I’ll fax this over to the California DMV. With them it could take two hours or it could take two days to get a response so if you want to wait here, it’s up to you.” Uh….thanks, but I think I’ll go home and wait. He gave me a number to call to check back later. I called the number a couple of days later, spoke once again immediately with a human, but no driving record had come in. Shocker.
Mind you, I had now been driving around for two months with no license AND thanks to another debacle with the California DMV, expired registration tags. “Uh, sorry, officer….I have no driver’s license and uh, no registration either” was a scenario playing frequently in my mind. Finally, after a second request and another week, it came in.
The next day, I went back and here is my daughter in the waiting area…
There is a machine that says “take a number”. There is no one around but I take a number anyway. Exactly two seconds later I hear, “calling number 31” which is my number. I walk up to the counter and tell the guy that I am here to get a new license and that my driving record had been sent over. “Oh!” he says, “So you’re the one who’s been calling! Last name starts with a “D”, right?” Excuse me? I’m the ONE person who’s been calling the DMV? Now, I know it’s a small town but this office is serving their own town of 9,000 people plus our island of 22,000 people which is a lot of people and I’m the ONE who’s been calling? I only called three times! But he pulled my record in a jiffy, filled out some forms and a minute later asked me to step in front of the blue screen for my photo.
He takes the photo and then calls me up to his computer and turns the screen around.
“What do you think?” he says.
“About what?” I reply.
“Your photo. Do you like it?”
“Umm…are you saying if I don’t, I get a re-take?”
“Of course! I’ll take as many as you want!”
What IS this place? I leave, about seven minutes after arriving, with a temporary license and the best damn driver’s license photo I ever took. And so I have decided that even if we ever do move back to California, I will always, always, have a Washington driver’s license. Because I would rather get on a plane and FLY up here to renew it than to ever go back to a California DMV. Seriously.