Carol Neumann recently received a postcard from the Missouri Department of Revenue reminding her that her drivers license would expire in July.
The notice told her she had two options. She could choose to renew her current license. To do so, she would need only her current license and a utility bill, a paycheck or the renewal postcard itself.
Or she could apply for a REAL ID-compliant drivers license. As Missouri readers probably know, our current licenses are somehow not up to federal standards. As of October 2020, our current licenses will not be considered valid for boarding airplanes or visiting military bases or nuclear power plants. The idea behind REAL ID is to make it tough for terrorists to obtain identification documents under false premises.
As far as I know, we have not had a problem with terrorists using current Missouri driver’s licenses to access airplanes, military bases or nuclear facilities. Then again, I remember talking to an airline pilot who was stopped at security in Phoenix. Agents confiscated his fingernail clipper, which had a fingernail file that could have been used as a mini-knife.
“I didn’t say anything, but I wanted to say, ‘I don’t need a knife to get into the cockpit. I have keys,’” he told me. Yes, I agreed. Better to say nothing. In the same vein, if Homeland Security sees Missouri driver’s licenses as a potential problem, fine with me. Fine with Carol, too.
She opted for a REAL ID driver’s license.
Carol grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Her husband, Marvin, grew up in Wisconsin. She was a teacher. He was an accountant. They’ve lived in Milwaukee, Kansas City and, for 51 years, in Denver. They have friends and relatives all over. They want to be able to fly to visit them. Valid passports work for identification at airports, but the Neumanns have allowed their passports to expire.
“We’ve traveled the world. We’re done,” Marvin told me.
Carol will be 91 in July. Marvin is 92. They seem to be in great health. They moved here from Denver three years ago to be close to their daughter. They bought a home in Ellisville. They live independently.
The postcard from the Missouri Department of Revenue specified what documents Carol would need for REAL ID — a U.S. birth certificate or a valid passport, a Social Security card and two documents proving she was a Missouri resident. If a name change was involved, she would need a certified marriage certificate or a certified court order.
She got her birth certificate, her Social Security card and her real estate and personal property tax receipts. She took them to the Department of Revenue office in Ballwin. She took a number and waited. When she was called, she took her documents to the clerk.
The clerk studied them. Hmm. The birth certificate said Carol Richards. Carol explained that she has been Carol Neumann since she married in 1955. Because her current Missouri driver’s license was issued to Carol Richards Neumann, Carol said she had thought that the name-change requirement would not be applicable to her.
But it was. The clerk told her she needed to return with a marriage license.
Carol keeps important papers in a safety deposit box. So she drove home and got the keys to the safety deposit box, and then went to the bank and got her marriage license. She drove back to the revenue office. She took a number and waited. She got the same clerk. After examining the marriage license, the clerk said that it would not do because it did not have a raised seal.
“This is the license we were issued 64 years ago,” Carol said.
The clerk explained that Carol should contact the county in which she was married — Vilas County in Wisconsin — and ask for a license with a raised seal.
Carol contacted Vilas County. An application for a new marriage license is $20, she was told. And yes, it can have a raised seal. When Carol got the application, she filled it out and sent it back with her $20.
Last week, she got her “new” marriage license with a raised seal.
She took it, along with her other papers, to the revenue office on Wednesday. Her papers finally passed muster. She now has a temporary REAL ID compliant driver’s license. Her official license should arrive in the mail soon.
At this point in the column, I would normally say something snarky about Homeland Security or government bureaucracy. But somehow that doesn’t seem appropriate.
The most remarkable thing about this story — maybe the only remarkable thing — is Carol’s attitude. In an era in which anger seems to define us, Carol told her story without a hint of rancor. She smiled and laughed. Maybe there’s a lesson in that.
She’ll be 91 on the Fourth of July.