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‘S’ You, Too!

Once again, you can’t make this stuff up.

I was at AAA in Stamford, CT, today to renew my driver’s license, looking to get a “verified” version with its extra-special star and identity protection.

Except the bureaucrat there — I’ll call him “AAA Guy” — changed my identity.

Yup; another set of bureaucrats in another state gave me a new name.

My mug shot.

My mug shot.

The first time this happened, I was an infant and the Great State of New York was making over my identity as part of my adoption.

Today I’m a supporter of the fights by New York’s Unsealed Initiative and Access Connecticut to overturn their respective state laws so adult adoptees have access to their original birth certificates. It’s time to end the secrets and lies, and give adoptees access to their true heritage and medical information.

But that wasn’t on my mind as I raced to tick off this chore and get back to work.

AAA Guy troubled himself to stop eating his lunch and adjust the volume on his Sirius stream of ’70s R&B.

Then he began to go through my paperwork — birth certificate, marriage certificate, Social Security card, existing license, current bank statement to prove my address.

He spent an overlong time looking at my birth certificate, which gave me butterflies. I wouldn’t be the first adoptee whose birth certificate caused a problem with the folks who generate red tape.

Turns out that wasn’t an issue. The problem was my name.

  • Birth certificate has me as Terri Salvatore.
  • Marriage certificate says Terri Salvatore marrying Basil Nicholas Vanech.
  • Social Security card lists me as Terri Salvatore Vanech.
  • Driver’s license I brought in says Terri S. Vanech.

AAA Guy kept going over all the documents, making smart remarks the entire time. Basil, who had come along for the ride, stood a little taller and loomed a little larger over the counter.

After a bit of silence, AAA Guy said, “You won’t have the S.”


The “S.” is part of my name, dammit. It became my middle initial when I married because I didn’t have one before then. I changed it with AAA Guy’s Social Security counterpart 20 years ago.


Some stupid rule says that they have to go with the originating documents — birth and marriage certificates — for verified licenses.

If I wanted a verified license, I would simply be Terri Vanech on it.

If I wanted to keep my S., I had to stick with the plain vanilla ID.


No amount of arguing worked.

Basil’s extra-tall, sucking-abs-in stance had no effect.

AAA Guy dismissed my insistence that my legal name is Terri Salvatore Vanech.

“This,” he said, motioning to my birth certificate, “is who you used to be.”

(I couldn’t help but think, “Boy you don’t know the half of it.”)

Then, pointing to the marriage certificate, he said, “And this is who you are now.

“You can’t be who you want to be.”

What the hell not?

About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.


7 thoughts on “‘S’ You, Too!

  1. Hi there! Stopping by from the Blog Hop! Now following and would love if you’d consider following back 🙂

    Posted by Bel Smith | January 30, 2014, 3:58 pm
  2. Sorry I can not rightfuly claim to know exactly how you felt but comming from a polygamous family myself I know how trying to always have to explain from which mother I belong or how my sisters and brother are halfs.WTF, right? my identity is mine alone and if you are not comfortable with it, deal with that and stop making it as though i am not enough to matter.

    Posted by ferwam | January 30, 2014, 12:47 am
  3. OMG — getting my verified license was one of the more difficult things I’ve done. We have a PO box. I needed proof of my real address — things like a utility bill, a bank statement, a doctor’s bill. Utilities are in Bill’s name, and sent to the PO box. My bank statement goes to the box. Got a doctor’s bill; it has to be within 3 months. (Gee, if I’d known, I’d have put off my annual exam to satisfy your insane requirements.) Finally found 2 pieces of junk mail sent to our street address in my name by going through the recyling bin, and went back for my 4th trip to AAA. Both envelopes had first class stamps — but were rejected because the cancellation did not say “First Class.” (Where was Basil when I needed him?) At that point, I burst into tears, and a really nice lady took pity on me. She called DMV HQ and told them she was faxing my envelopes to them for examination, and if she did not hear from them with an objection in 15 minutes, I was getting a verified license. Which, by the way, says Karen Ann Waggoner. Maybe because Karen Ann Ramsey married William Cornell Waggoner. Not sure why they wrote it out because my old one said Karen A Waggoner. Oh well.

    Posted by Karen Waggoner | January 29, 2014, 9:36 pm
  4. i hope you told the guy to go S himself

    Posted by Bob Dorf | January 29, 2014, 7:44 pm

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