It was an inconvenient and unnecessary experience—and proof that at least one Alabama government agency doesn’t care about its citizens.
I called and immediately got a busy signal.
Same on day two…
…and day three…
It was apparent that I was wasting my time and no one was going to answer the phone.
I was trying to contact the Pelham Driver License Office in Shelby County to see about getting a STAR ID License since every domestic air traveler will be required to have one starting October 1st.
I had gone online and knew which documents to bring, but wanted to know the best time to come.
I had to do some business in Shelby County so I chose to drive to the Pelham office nearby.
The website said the office is open from 8 am to 4 pm. It was 2:30 when I arrived—an hour and a half before closing.
A sign on the door said to go into the office and request a number.
I was given the number 22 and I asked how long I might expect to wait.
I was told that they currently were on number 7 and that it should take about 10 or 15 minutes per person. I didn’t know how to compute the time—so I stepped back into the waiting area and sat down.
When the number 8 was called on the loud speaker, I asked the woman, who gleefully jumped out of her seat, how long she’d been waiting and she replied four hours.
Since the office was scheduled to close in less than 90 minutes, I thought it might be prudent to go back into the office and make sure I would be serviced before the office closed at 4 pm.
The employee responded, “Look Sir, we gave you a number, and we will do our best to get you in.
That was not the answer I hoped for, but I dutifully retreated to the waiting room and slunk back to my chair.
Five minutes later, a new arrival walked into the office. She quickly returned and I asked what happened. She said she was told they discontinued giving numbers (almost an hour and a half before scheduled closing), and to come back tomorrow morning at 6:45 to stand in line for an 8 am opening.
I looked around the waiting room and realized that many folks there were parents who had brought their sons or daughters to get their learner’s permit.
I was sitting next to a man who was with his 15 year old daughter– he said they’d been there since 11:45.
My newly found waiting room friends were surprisingly cheerful considering the circumstances. Though everyone was frustrated, they were trying to make the best of the situation.
One parent proclaimed that spending most of her day getting a driver permit for her son was clear proof of a parent’s unconditional love for her children.
An older adult jokingly announced that today she was celebrating her 19th birthday even though one of her ID’s proved she was old enough to get social security. When her number was finally called, everyone in the room gleefully sang ‘Happy Birthday.’
Around 3:25, an unsuspecting young man arrived. He was given a number, but was told the office might close before his number was called. He decided to wait. I don’t know if his gamble paid off.
They called my number–22–at 3:30, so I probably did better than just about anyone that day—waiting only one hour. If I had come earlier, I would have waited longer and if I had come one person later, I would have been turned away. But it sure doesn’t seem fair to parents who have to lose paid time from work to support their children.
Information could be posted online, or at the very least, they could install a recording on their phone.
A friend told me he made an appointment online for the Jefferson County Driver License Office on Arkadelphia Road. That seems like a no brainer.
By the way, the driver license offices are administered by the Alabama Law Enforcement Office (ALEA).
Why should we be held hostage and powerless by a government agency?
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group for free about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org