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Welcome to the BMV

One of my best friends lives in Ohio. Some years ago, they told me they were at the BMV which I thought was funny. You mean the DMV? They assured me they were at the BMV. We went back and forth on this for a while and all the while I became increasingly shocked that they couldn’t just admit they made a typo.

Growing up in Pennsylvania and now living in New York, I’ve spent my share of time at the DMV, also known as the Department of Motor Vehicles.

DMV is the most common driver’s license department. Washington, D.C. and 26 other states use DMV (sometimes “Department” sometimes “Division”) making it the most common acronym for a one of these offices.

Only three states: Indiana, Maine, and, you guessed it, Ohio, call it a BMV—Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

This conversation happened easily over five years ago but when this friend recently told me they were at the BMV, I couldn’t stop laughing. How proud I had been back then! How sure!

Forget that this friend was born and raised in Ohio. Forget that they knew exactly where they were. Forget that there was a chance I just (imagine that) hadn’t heard of a thing!

But instead, some stubborn streak locked in and I was adamant that a BMV never existed. After all, I, Virginia-born, Pennsylvania-raised, New York-transplanted (all DMV states) hadn’t heard of it.

Our recent conversation about the BMV brought me back to this first conversation about it and reminded me of just how much I don’t know (the naming of a Midwest state’s government office being only one of many examples).

Moreover, what do I think with certainty to be true simply because that is my experience of a thing. I got my license at a DMV so everyone must get their license at a so-named place. And while this hardly matters, what about other lived experiences? What am I assuming I know about a thing simply because that was my experience?

We didn’t all have the same eighth grade.

So this is your reminder to one, renew your license. And two, accept that your reality might not be the reality of everyone else. To take time to listen and learn. To recognize that you might not have all the answers. You might only have yours.


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