Friday, May 05, 2006

Questionable residency

Most people, upon reaching grad school, tend to leave their permanent residency in their home state, often at their parents’ address. I think this is more for convenience than anything else, as students tend to move a lot, and changing the address on your license every 6 months can become tedious. I, however, had to become a resident of my new city and state pretty much as soon as I got there, because I am one of the lucky people who gets called for jury duty every 3 years like clockwork. And often more frequently than that.

I was first called to jury duty while a sophomore in college. I know I was a sophomore, because the only thing I brought with me to read was my thermodynamics textbook as a sort of ploy to force myself to study. You don’t know boredom until you’re stuck in a tiny room full of strangers and plastic chairs with nothing to do but study thermodynamics for eight hours. I think I probably shaved a couple of days off of my purgatory sentence with that gig. But I didn’t have to serve on a jury because the judge felt bad for me when I pled chemistry lab. I was called again two years after that, but that time I got to check the “served less than 3 years ago” box and go merrily on my way.

Unfortunately, I was called again about a month after arriving at grad school. It had been just over three years since the first time, so I was out of luck on that front. And while it is true that students are allowed to postpone jury duty, they only get to postpone until the summer, because most students go home for the summer. Grad students, however, do not. Grad students are chained to the lab for the summer. So I checked the “permanently moved out of state” box and mailed it back. And then I figured I’d better get a new license, or the jury duty police would come get me. Also I wanted to be able to vote.

Getting the new license was actually surprisingly simple. I didn’t have to take any tests other than an eye test, and the whole process, including walking down to the DMV, only took about 2 hours or so. The DMV was remarkably efficient. And, as an added bonus, I got to register to vote at the same time! So everything was great until I got called to jury duty a month later.

A few years later, I was talking to a woman in my church choir. She mentioned some difficulty she was having because her permanent residency was still in Illinois, where her parents lived, and that was the address on her driver’s license. “Oh, it’s really easy to just get a license here,” I told her.

“Oh, but I don’t want to have to take a driving test,” she said.

“No, you don’t have to,” I replied. “You just take an eye test, fill out some paperwork, and exchange your license.”

“Oh, but it’s such a hassle because the lines at the DMV are so long,” she started to complain.

But I had an answer for her there as well. “No, it was actually quite easy when I went,” I said. “I made sure I was there right when they opened, and I was only there for about a half hour.”

She was unconvinced. “But I don’t really want to get a license here because I’m really only here temporarily. I plan to move back to Chicago.”

“Oh, how long have you been here then?” I asked her.

“Twenty-five years,” came the reply.

I let it drop after that.

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