SURRATT: An appointment shouldn’t be necessary for a driver’s license

Published 4:00 am Friday, December 2, 2022

On Monday morning, I went to fulfill a duty I do every four years — renewing my driver’s license.

I drove to the driver’s license office, walked inside and was greeted by a nice lady sitting behind a plastic shield who inquired about my purpose.

“I’ve come to renew my driver’s license,” I told her.

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Her response caught me by surprise: “Do you have an appointment?”

An appointment?

An appointment to see my doctor, I can understand. An appointment to see my dentist, I can understand. But an appointment to get a new driver’s license? To do something that will take 15 minutes at the most, where you plunk down $25 and get a bad mugshot?

It sounds a bit elitist.

I told the lady I did not have an appointment. She wrote down my name and cell phone number and told me to go sit in my car, “And I’ll call you.”

Sit in the car waiting to pick up my daughter from work? Yes. Sit in my car while my wife runs into the grocery store? Yes. Sit in my car like some exiled child who misbehaved? No. Instead, I stood outside the building with three nice ladies to pass the time until about an hour later, when I got the call to return to the inner sanctum — actually, more of a hole in the wall, which made me realize we need to do better by the DPS employees and the public.

Let me be clear, I am not criticizing the employees in the office. They are very good; they were cordial to the customers and very professional.

But the idea of having to make an appointment with someone for something as basic as a driver’s license just seems a bit strange. I didn’t have to make an appointment when I renewed my license four years ago, but I could be mistaken; memory lapses are not uncommon in one of my advanced age.

But since there had been a four-year span between license renewals, I wondered if the state Department of Public Safety had changed its policies and now required appointments to get a driver’s license, so I contacted DPS. One of their spokespersons told me appointments are not required, but the receptionist at the driver’s license office will ask the customer if they have an appointment so they’ll know where to place them in the line. Customers with appointments are provided a number to keep the “system” in the proper order.

But with discussions of long lines and driver’s license offices occupying closets like the office here, it would seem time for the powers that be at DPS to re-evaluate its systems, like installing an express lane for people who want to renew their driver’s license, since that process usually takes such little time, and spend some money hiring more workers and finding buildings with adequate space for employees and customers.

There’s an old joke, “I’m from the government; I’m here to help you.”

It’s time DPS began helping its employees and the public.


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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