Oliver: Snappy driver’s license renewal brings smile

Complaining about the Department of Motor Vehicles seems to be one of our national pastimes.

Think I’m kidding? Try searching “DMV horror stories” online.

Here in Illinois they’re called Illinois Secretary of State Driver Services facilities. Still, tales persist of long lines and surly state workers.

For years now, I’ve managed to avoid having to renew my license in person by earning the “safe driver” designation. That means that every four years, I usually get a sticker in the mail to put on my license and I don’t have to go in to take a written or driving test.

The state of Illinois recently changed the program and now will mail new licenses to safe drivers who qualify. Renewal can be done over the phone, online or by mail. Or there’s always the option to renew one’s license in person.

Four years ago, I had to renew my license in person for the first time in years.

Despite still being a safe driver, I wasn’t eligible for another sticker. Apparently, one can avoid showing up in person for only eight years at a time.

I also had put on a few pounds and decided that I’d better fess up to them. 

Sheepishly, I told the young male worker at the Woodstock facility that we had to fix the weight portion on the license.

Much to my surprise, he actually tried to make me feel better about it, pointing out that it wasn’t all that bad. The “kid” was lucky I didn’t give him a hug on the spot.

This time around, I had the opposite problem. Since changing my diet for health reasons, I’d lost a significant amount of weight. I’d also changed my hairstyle, as well as my glasses.

Needless to say, I was more than happy to turn in the evidence of my former self and start fresh – even if that meant waiting in a long line.

My heart sank on a recent Tuesday morning as I found myself in a line that snaked almost to the entrance. 

But lo and behold, I wasn’t standing there very long.

Perhaps it was because there were three people working to direct each visitor to the correct section of the facility.

Before I knew it, I was on my way to the driver’s license line. Although it wasn’t much of a line, since I was the only one in it.

The female worker was more than happy to return my smile and to congratulate me on my weight loss as she updated my information and administered the vision test.

Then I was directed to a waiting area. I’d hardly had a chance to pick a spot before my name was called for my photo to be taken.

Click. Done.

I’d scarcely sat down again in the waiting area when I had my shiny new license in hand. 

The whole thing took less than 20 minutes from start to finish.

So much for all those horror stories about poor customer service and hellish wait times.

Not at the Woodstock facility, at least.

It’s no wonder I’m still grinning from ear to ear. 

And I have a new driver’s license photo to prove it.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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