It was time to update his mom’s credentials.
She moved last year from Illinois to the Rockynol retirement center in Akron to be closer to her son, and she needed something to reflect her change of residence.
She no longer drives, so a driver’s license wasn’t appropriate. The only logical choice, then, became a state ID card.
Now, before we leave, let’s make sure we have everything.
• Certified copy of birth certificate issued in 1926? Check.
• Marriage certificate to prove name change? Check.
• Social Security card? Check.
• Valid Illinois driver’s license? Check.
• Correspondence from Medicare and a phone bill to prove current address? Check.
If I were Phil Canuto, a former Beacon Journal reporter who is now the executive editor of the Cleveland Clinic’s medical journal, I would figure we had things under control.
After all, he had called the Fairlawn deputy registrar’s office six months beforehand to figure out what documents were required, and then double-checked in person a couple of months later while he was there to renew his own driver’s license.
He picked up his mom at 2:30 on a Friday afternoon, shortly after she had gotten her hair done. As they eased into his Honda CRV, his only real concern was how long the wait might be.
They speculated about their odds for speedy service on a Friday. Canuto told his mom, Blanche, that when he renewed his license, he had arrived late on a Thursday afternoon and had no wait at all.
The situation wasn’t bad: only five people ahead of them. They took ticket No. 39, sat down on the bench along the back wall and were called up within 15 minutes.
They turned in their paperwork.
That is correct. This 87-year-old woman could not get an Ohio ID card because she had not proven her identity.
The problem? Her old birth certificate did not indicate whether Blanche is a male or a female.
Well, we can never be too sure about these things. For all we know, Blanche Canuto is working closely with the Taliban.
Her son was livid. Little wonder. She was being treated like a male Olympian trying to sneak into the women’s 400-meter dash.
Adding to his fury was the fact that he had specifically asked — twice — what documents would be required, and nobody mentioned that a birth certificate required the gender.
Even if he had researched the requirements online, he might have found a link on the Fairlawn office’s website that led to a document from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles that reads:
“PRIMARY ACCEPTABLE DOCUMENTS
“(Must include Date of Birth)
“CERTIFICATE OF BIRTH — Either an original or certified copy, with a seal, and issued by an appropriate government agency.”
That’s it. No mention of gender.
But if he had selected a different link on the same website, he would have ended up in a place that says this:
“Certificate of Birth — Either an original or certified copy with a seal, issued by an appropriate government agency. Must contain gender.”
In other words, getting the correct information on the agency’s own website is a crapshoot.
The person listed as the local contact for the Fairlawn deputy registrar, Kelly Marie Caruso, said she was not permitted to comment, and referred me to my old friend in Columbus, BMV spokeswoman Lindsey Bohrer.
Bohrer looked into the situation and admitted the clerk waiting on the Canutos screwed up.
“The gender would have been on the out-of-state driver’s license,” she said.
Bohrer emailed me copies of two all-points bulletins that were sent to deputy registrars in September and October 2011 that said: If a birth certificate doesn’t include the gender but the applicant has a current driver’s license that does, that’s plenty of proof.
As if Blanche’s eight-decade trail of paperwork shouldn’t have been enough.
Meanwhile, the local rep, Caruso, reached out to the Canutos and offered to personally rectify the problem.
So all’s well that ends well, right? Well, no. Not every 87-year-old has a dutiful son to help her fight through these kinds of things.
Phil Canuto is still shaking his head. He admits to having been “furious.”
By contrast, he says, his mom was mainly “amused.”
Which is probably the reason she has made it to 87.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.