Upon becoming New to Seattle in 2011, one piece of advice I received was to get my new Washington State driver’s license at the state Department of Licensing office in Shoreline, the first town north of Seattle. Shorter waits, I was told. That proved to be true. As I recounted in my very first post here reflecting on the then-ailing state of the area’s economy, I was in and out of the office with my license in a mere 35 minutes.
But that was more than three years ago. Things can change, as I found out on Saturday morning when I made a return visit to the Shoreline office to help family members moving to Seattle get their own licenses. We got to the Aurora Ave. N facility 10 minutes before the 8:30 a.m. opening, figuring it would be another quick in-and-out.
Well, it was a quick out, of sorts. But that’s because we never went in.
Here is the text of the “customer comment card” I mailed later in the day to the DOL’s Customer Relations Assistant Director in Olympia:
As doors opened, an employee came out to tell the waiting line that another employee had gone home with the key to turn on computer system, and that employee had left for vacation, meaning applications couldn’t be processed.
It appears this office has poor management in charge, which you should rectify.
I also recommend that a second set of keys be authorized.
Now I don’t know how many other taxpaying residents ended up being disadvantaged for lack of a duplicate key. Fortunately, we had enough sense to quickly scoot north on S.H. 99 another six miles through Edmonds to the next DOL office in Lynnwood. The management there had a level of competence such that no employee had gone off on a two-week vacation with the only key to the office computer system. We were in and out in 40 minutes (the economy is doing better, and people are moving here for jobs, so the wait was longer than in 2011–a good thing, actually).
To sum up, Seattle residents had to drive one-sixth of the way to the Canadian border and back to get a Washington State driver’s license because a government employee was in too much of a hurry to leave on holiday, and there was no back-up. The key take-away, in more ways than one.