From The Classroom: The MVA Diaries, Part 2

| June 29, 2011

Hey all, it’s Seth. Did you catch the first part of my MVA diatribe?

This is a series of columns about the unfriendly environment at the MVA–and why we need to change it. This is the second in the series, which was broken up because it runs over 2000 words (which, incidentally, is the approximate number of days it takes for the MVA officials to determine that you are actually not an ax murderer, even though they highly suspect everyone is). This column deals with the permitting process itself–and why it’s extremely flawed.

The Process:

I’m a firm believer that the government needs some form of influence and regulation, and impose taxes. Without these things, the environment would be a shambles, companies would prey on consumers, there would be no money to help the young and old and poor and sick, et cetera. But I am not a firm believer that the government needs to micromanage.

But try telling that to the great state of Maryland, ranked 43 out of 50 when it comes to in-state freedoms. ( Heck, we even fined kids for opening up a lemonade stand without a permit! ( Not that regulations aren’t necessary—they certainly are—but I don’t think requiring kids to get a permit for their lemonade stand does anything to improve the general welfare.

Nor, for that matter, does ordering me to show up to get my permit with no less than 50 documents including:

  • A passport
  • A social security card
  • A birth certificate
  • An electricity bill
  • A cable bill
  • A school attendance record
  • A finger, just to make sure I’m serious
  • Transcripts of all emails sent from my house within the past month
  • A partridge in a pear tree

I mean, seriously, the amount of evidence they need to prove that I am not Osama Bin Laden is just overwhelming. Especially considering he’s dead. I just don’t see the need to verify and re-verify and super-duper-top-secret verify my residence and age and grandmother’s maiden name. Nor do I see why only certain forms will do—apparently an official tax form that clearly shows your social security number on it is unacceptable, it has to be The One And Only Official Tax Form that displays your social security number on it in a manner impressive enough to convince the MVA worker to consider honoring your puny mortal request. 

Put one foot down wrong in the maze of red tape and you’re sent away with a curt parting word and dared to re-enter. And many of us do venture again into the mouth of the bureaucratic beast, forever scarred by our encounters.

Does it really have to be like this? Does it really help the low amount of trust and faith we have in our government for them to be subjecting us to a scowling, rigid, bureaucratic process that leaves us drowning in more forms than are necessary? Is this how we encourage our youth to consider careers in public service? By showing them that government is an artificially lit room full of nitpicking grandmothers who won’t lift a finger until these seven thousand documents are collected, color-coded, initialed, notarized, and laminated? Not that we shouldn’t have to show proof of identification—it’s important. But there should be a better way—more friendly, more efficient, and less rigid—to do it.

And then, once you get past the terrors of the application process, you realize that the test itself is astoundingly easy. How do you expect to vet out the morons when your questions are like this?

You see a blind man on the sidewalk ahead of you. Do you:

a)    Speed up and see how close you can get.
b)   Honk the horn loudly so that he is aware of your presence.
c)    Slow down and be prepared to stop.

The above was an actual question on the actual test that I actually took. Perhaps paraphrased a bit, but not at all embellished. It was almost disgustingly easy. A test on basic multiplication tables would have been harder. The only question I was ever confused on was one about the speed limit—I knew the answer (YOU MUST NEVER GO ANY FASTER THAN THE POSTED SPEED LIMIT EVER OR A DRAGON WILL EAT YOU)—I just didn’t think it made any sense. I drove to Washington DC and back once I got my permit at exactly the posted speed limit, and I was passed by half of the DC Metropolitan area. Hogwash.


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Category: COLUMNS

About the Author ()

Fish Stark is a 16-year-old Edgewater resident. He likes laughing, politics, and Reese's cups. His least favorite beverage is unleaded gasoline. His two novels can be read here: and here: His stand-up comedy and amateur filmmaking can be seen here:

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