Photo Tim Collins-TSM

Every once in a while I get this feeling that computers and technology are working for me instead of against me.   And less often, I feel like government is working for me instead of against me.   Monday was a banner day.  Both happened, as I left the Secretary of State’s office with a big grin on my face.   Impossible?

Recently, I noticed that my driver’s license had expired.   I had that sinking feeling.  Like many, I’ve grown to despise a visit to the Secretary of State’s Office.  A whole lot of people jammed into one room, wishing they could be anywhere else on earth.  Government red tape.  They don’t take debit or credit.  You have to fill out endless forms, and listen to those poor workers yelling out the next number:  “Serving number 62….number 62.”   The place is always a dump and there are always a half dozen screaming kids and at least as many screaming adults.  And then you get to pay a bunch of money for the privilege of spending a quarter of your day there.  Yeah, you know.

I stopped in twice at the SOS office on Capital Avenue SW in Battle Creek.   It was jammed.  Both times, I just turned and fled.  Then somebody told me to make an appointment on line.  Really?  That works?

I searched “secretary of state Michigan appointment”.  That got me here.    Choose the county, click “get started”, put in your cell phone number and you can either join the line immediately or make a future appointment.    I did this Friday and made an appointment for Monday at 1:50pm.  It took me two minutes.

On Monday, after getting a couple of nifty text message reminders with simple instructions, I went to the SOS at 1:45pm.  At 1:51pm, they called my number, and it’s no longer a bunch of workers yelling at the top of their lungs.  There’s a giant screen that shows which numbers are next, and an automated system announces it clearly over the sound system.  I stepped up to the counter, answered 3 questions, swiped my debit card, they snapped my picture and I walked out the door at 1:55pm.  Done.

Photo Tim Collins-TSM

It was amazing.   Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is to be commended.  The system works great.  The kiosks out front are also a great shortcut, and a lot of business can be done on line now.  You can pay by credit or debit card.  There weren’t any forms.   The staff was more relaxed, and the place was clean and orderly.  Was I in an alternate universe?   No, I think it’s just progress.