Driver's License Picture Worth a Thousand Words About Pandemic Life at the DMV

Lesley Pilgrim resolved that she would follow the rules and remove her mask at the California DMV office in Orange County only when she was told to do so.

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A mix-up at the California Department of Motor Vehicles left a California woman with a frame-worthy driver’s license photo and a sign of the times.

Lesley Pilgrim followed strict pandemic protocol rules when she visited the DMV office in the Orange County community of Laguna Hills. There were health safety signs, a questionnaire about symptoms and distancing stickers on the floor.

Employees reminded visitors to keep their masks on with their noses covered. Some people complied, others complained.

The excited teenagers in line in front of Pilgrim needed several reminders.  

“I saw workers working very hard to make sure that people are compliant,” Pilgrim, of Sacramento, said. “I resolved in my head, I’m not going to make these people’s lives any harder than it needs to be. I’m going to really listen and follow all their instructions. I can see how hard they’re working just to make sure everyone’s safe.”

Lesley Pilgrim holds her California Read ID driver's license with her pictured in a mask. Credit: Lesley Pilgrim

Finally, it was her turn. Pilgrim took her position in front of the backdrop, waiting to be told when she could remove her mask.


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“But all of the sudden he just says, ‘Look in the camera,’ and I heard the click,” Pilgrim said. 

One glance at the monitor and the employee could see what happened -- Pilgrim still had her mask on. She was asked to remove her mask and a second photo was taken.

But when the DMV envelope arrived in the mail, the Real ID card inside had Pilgrim pictured in her mask. 

I think I’ll frame this one, keep it and show my kids a sign of the times.

Leslie Pilgrim

“When I first saw the photo, it didn’t immediately strike me,” she said. “I do recognize myself in a mask. This is my everyday mask."

Pilgrim said she’s noticed some negative social media comments about the DMV mistake, but she doesn’t share those feelings. 

“We need to be gracious, forgiving and understanding,” she said. “This is just one mistake out of millions and millions of IDs they’ve issued. They’re providing us an essential service, and I’m really grateful for that.

“I think I’ll frame this one, keep it and show my kids a sign of the times.”

The DMV office in Sacramento called her to re-scheduled an appointment for a new photo. 

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