Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Hong Kong DMV: You decide

Well, I got my license.  In Hong Kong.  Actually I now have valid licenses in the US, Korea, and Hong Kong.  My Hong Kong license required no driver's test nor even a picture, but it did require MUCH patience.

Trip 1:  Brent was hot to go get our licenses so we could begin driving our new used car.  It was about one week before summer vacation would begin and I had a late afternoon class that day.  "Let's go at 10 AM; I'm sure we can get back before your 1:50 class," he said optimistically.  It's the DMV, I thought, highly unlikely that we will be able to do this.  But against my better judgment I went.  Brent had filled out all my paperwork and made sure I had my Wisconsin license and HKID card along so everything would go smoothly.  We rode the half hour to the city and to the government building in Admiralty.  We wound our way up escalators and down long hallways following signs until we landed on floor 3: licensing for motor vehicles.  Here we were ushered into a line of about 20 people all waiting to do the same thing.  Not bad, until I timed the people going up to few open windows for this task, about 9 minutes each.  I did the math and determined there was no way I would make it to the front of the line AND back to class in time.  Brent convinced me to stay as long as I could, which I did.  But after about two hours of standing in line and little progress, I told him, "You stay and see if you can process my information for me.  I gotta go."  I took a taxi back.  Brent later reported he was there four hours and another trip still needed to be made.  I said I would do it.

Tally: 2 hours total at the DMV.

Trip 2: Four days later.  I headed into the city at 10 AM with a few errands and a 3 PM massage scheduled back in Stanley.  I thought I had plenty of time.  But no!  After a quick lunch I headed to the DMV.  Back down the winding white hallway and into the expansive space.  This time my line was 60 people long.  Truth!  I did the math.  Three minutes each, a few windows open.  Things were moving along and I had everything I needed with me so it should be about an hour to get through the line and out, I figured.  Wrong!  Yes, the line moved along at a good pace; I hadn't been too far off in my prediction.  Fifty minutes in line waiting.  The problem began when I got to the window and the lady there wasn't satisfied with my paperwork - again - because I needed a government statement with our names and addresses or a bank statement with names and address.  And they needed to be recent!  My document of proof was too old and I could therefore not pick up our licenses.  Could I find my bank statement on my phone?  I tried at the window for about 10 minutes, then exited the line and desperately called Brent to find it and email it my way.  He cursed on the other end and said he would try.  The woman had given me a ticket that would get me in the short line at window 43 when I was ready.  Soon enough Brent emailed me what I needed, so I proceeded to the line at window 43 where everyone was a "special case".  We were going on 2:15 about now.  I needed to get out of here by 2:30 to make my massage appointment, which I was feeling more desperate for as each moment passed.  Finally I made it to the window, phone in hand with my bank statement on the screen.  "I guess I need this to complete getting our licenses," I told the woman.  She took a look at it and said, "Can you print this?"  You have got to be kidding me!  "I don't have access to a printer," I said, stating the obvious.  "There is a Photomax on the second floor. Try them," she said to me, dismissing me and giving eye contact to the next person in line.  I took a deep breath and headed for the Photomax I remembered from a previous escapade in this building when I needed to come to the Indian Embassy three times before getting my entry Visa.  So, I waited in line at the Photomax for my turn to ask the question.  Time was ticking and I was getting real fed up.  "Can you print something from email?" I asked the woman working.  "No, sorry," she said," I would need it on a USB stick."  A man in the shop, who had also been sent down from the DMV line 43 said, "I believe there is a print shop elsewhere in the building.  Should be easy to find."  "Thanks," I said and left.  From there I knew it was hopeless, there was no way I was going to find this print shop, get back up to the DMV and get our licenses and still make my appointment.  Screw it!  I need the massage more than ever now!  So I left, determined to come back a third time to finish the job.

Tally: 4 hours total at the DMV.

Trip 3: Well, Brent had had to leave for London, but I had assured him I would go back to the DMV and get both his license and mine before I left for the summer.  He had made copies of his passport and HKID and printed the proof of address that we had needed.  And so I set out again, on the half hour taxi ride, up the escalator to the third floor and down the winding white hallway to THE ROOM. Well, let's see.  I still have the ticket that gets me in the short line for "special cases."  I asked a guard if I could use it and he said yes.  That's good luck.  Maybe today is my day!  I waited in the line for only 20 minutes this time and made it to the window documents in order.  "Hi," I said.  "I'm here to pick up a license for my husband and me," I added thrusting the documents in her direction.  She looked through them with a stoic face.  "And where is your letter with original signature?" she inquired.  "What do you mean?"  "Well, you have copies of your husband's HKID and passport.  You need a letter with his original signature giving you permission to pick up his license.  See, here, on the instructions [in the fine print]?"  "I see," I said, defeated.  There was no fighting it.  There was simply NO HOPE I was going to get Brent's license for him.  And by the time we would get back from the summer, he wouldn't have valid documents anymore and would need to start over from the beginning.  "Okay.  Just give me my license then, please."  "Sure.  You just need to wait over there for an hour for it to process."  "Right."

One hour and a half hours later. . .  "Brenda Brayko?"  My license didn't even have my picture on it!

Tally: 6 total hours at the DMV and one out of two licenses received.

Post script: It turns out Brent had much better luck than I on his last and final trip to the DMV upon arriving back in Hong Kong.  He did fill all the paperwork out again in anticipation of starting over from scratch.  But, upon telling the teller that he is the "Associate Principal for Teaching and Learning at HKIS" and that he "cannot take another day off of work waiting for my license."  The woman actually spoke to her supervisor who expedited matters, getting him his license in one hour!  So, the lesson is. . . make yourself sound important to get things done.  Or is it, be male?  Or both?