I turned west this morning, leaving Annapolis, joining the teeming mass of metropolitan DC traffic on the Beltway. I crossed the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge into Virginia, the National Monument in plain view in the distance to the north. Somehow it seems fitting that my exit from the east was via one of its busiest highways. Eight lanes of traffic all skirting the capitol in one direction or the other.
I misunderstood a sign and got into the EZ-Pass Express lane. I understood that the lanes were express; I didn’t understand that they were exclusively for EZ-Pass holders. The electronic sign gave toll prices for the exits the express lanes served. I wanted Route 66 toward Front Royal, Virginia, price: $1.95. I took the express lane.
Traffic wasn’t particularly heavy but it was nice to zip by the local exits and to not have so many vehicles moving around me. The express lanes were in better condition also, making for a smoother ride with the extra weight of the camper. Somewhere along this stretch I started to think that maybe I misread the sign but I thought I would sort it out at the exit.
Yesterday in Annapolis I went to the United States Naval Academy. I wanted to walk around the campus, see the boats, and enjoy a beautiful spring day. The campus is open to visitors but requires, of course, a security check. I arrived at the airport-style metal detectors and told the Marines on guard that I wanted to visit the grounds.
“I just need to see your driver’s license.”
I handed her my license.
“And I need a second form of ID. Do you have a social security card, your birth certificate, or a passport?”
No. My passport was in the truck, miles away. I thought I just needed my driver’s license.
“Well, any normal person would think that. But Washington State isn’t complying with the Real ID.”
That sounds like Washington.
“I’m sorry, you’ll have to leave. I can’t let you in.”
My tax dollars at work.
I took the EZ-Pass Express lane left hand exit for Route 66 and merged into another highway swamped with vehicles. No tollbooth. No place to stop and say, “I made a mistake, here is your $1.95.”
I expect this mistake will cost me. I am sure that my license plate has been recorded and a bill for $1.95 will be sent along with an exorbitant moving violation ticket for using the exclusive club express lanes.
No real ID, illicit use of Beltway express lanes, I am probably now on the No-Fly list.
I wonder. If my license doesn’t qualify as valid ID, do I even exist in the eyes of EZ-Pass? Does the Washington truck registration fly under the radar, unseen by the in-motion transponders that read these things?
Big Brother may be watching but will he acknowledge me without a second form of ID?