Monday, April 8, 2013

The DMV & Me—Part 2

Picking up where we left off, last time...everyone has a memory of their first encounter with the DMV.

I guess the experience varies from state to state, but I’m pretty sure it was the same angst producing scenario for all of us.

If you’re of my generation, give or take a decade or two, you probably recall the anxiety of taking your written test.

Not you’re driving test…you’re written test.

You know, the one where they give you this little driver’s manual to study from cover to cover, just to make certain that before you even look at a road with intent, you understand what a yellow light signifies.

Sure, you tell yourself, everyone knows these silly little rules; at least everyone who has ever ridden in a car.

Green light, go.

Red light, stop.

Yellow light, speed up so you can beat the red light that’s about to come on.

And doesn’t everyone know that the proper distance to follow a vehicle, while driving down  a 55 mph highway, at 75 mph, is as close as you need to be in order for the loser to hear your horn as you try to pass them.

So you figure it’s a pretty intuitive test.

Needless to say, many a learner’s permit seeker was foiled by this tactic, simply by not knowing the inventor of the Stop Sign and the inspiration for its octagonal design.

Hint: It has nothing to do with the Amish…but you have to admit, that was a pretty good guess.

The other constant at the DMV, back then, were long lines…long lines everywhere.

There was even a line just to find out what line you were supposed to be on. 

Once you've made it to the proper line and subsequent window, for your specific requirements, you were greeted by a standard, government issued woman who could have been anywhere from 25 to 75 years old, if you had to judge by appearance only.

Fortunately, when you factored in the amount of time it took for them to sharpen their pencil, and how often they stopped to lick their finger while pursuing the three pages of forms you handed in, you could make a pretty good guess.

Throw in the quality of condescension emoted as they peered over their half glasses, which I believe were also mandatory Government Issue, and you could narrow it down even more.

Not that the age of this person had anything at all to do with the proceedings at hand, but after waiting on line, for what seemed like several weeks, hoping against hope that you were actually on the right line, your mind needed some sort of distraction, other than wondering how long a person could survive without urinating.

But, as I said last time…that was then…and things are better now.

Now, when you walk into the new 21st Century DMV, there is no sign at all of multiple long lines.

Now, when you walk through the door, the first thing you encounter is just ONE long line, snaking back and forth through a maze of what appear to be cattle restraints.

Of course, your first thought—mostly because you think of yourself as special and above such common treatment—is…this can’t be the line for me….

But alas, it is, judging by the sign posted right in front of you that states, ALL patrons must report to the Information Center upon arrival.

And even though your well-defended sense of denial side tells your brain…there must be another Center for MY Information…without such a line…your pragmatic side knows this to be false, and glumly shuffles it’s feet into the corral of the near undead.

Immediately, you’re hit with the smell of anxiety and the odor of way too many wool coats.

Someone, a few dozen places ahead of you, yet only a few feet away, due to the line’s snaking effect, says…“Well, at least it’s moving…” which is true, but still, you can’t shake the sound  of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” meandering through your head as you creep forward in microscopic increments.

By the second turn, you amuse yourself by studying the faces of other new arrivals as they enter the room, battling their own defense mechanisms, trying desperately to convince themselves there is something they’re missing, as well.

By the third turn, you find yourself thinking about how easy it would be to just duck under the restraints and run maniacally to your car screaming “I am not a number…I’m a free man!!!!”

But are you really willing to just rashly toss away those first two turns?

And what about those behind you; is this really the example you want to send?

By the fourth turn, you can actually spy the faces of the “Next Ones” to be called.

It’s a look of hunger about to be sated; a look that infuses you with something you had thought lost…lost, what seems like turns ago….


By the fifth turn, you allow yourself a small smile. Perhaps it’s merely delirium setting in, but you hear yourself saying, aloud, to anyone who can still listen…“Well, at least it’s moving…”

Until finally, standing, toes behind the line, you hear those magic word…“Next!”

And as you step forward, past the line of magic dreams, toward the information window, you can’t help but turn back, not to gloat, but to offer a sign of faith to those who are still without.

It can happen to you…and it will…in its time it will.


You step proudly to the window, greeted not by some humorless old woman of ambiguous origin, but by a smiling, non-bifocaled, young woman who deftly sorts through your pre-filled forms, stamps them and politely asks you to step in front of the camera in order to have your updated photo ID taken.

There you stand, eyes wide open, smile, frozen on your face, awaiting the tell-tale flash, whereupon you are then handed back your now “approved” paperwork, given a number…and told to take a seat while you wait for your number to be called.

“Wait” again, being the operative word.

Undeterred, you accept your documents with profuse thanks and appreciation, as if you had just passed the most stringent challenge possible and were just rewarded one of humanity’s highest honors.

Fueled by the adrenaline of fulfillment, you walk, almost nimbly, over to a row of church like pews and find a seat, encouraged by the fact that the cobwebs hanging from the others are merely of the light and wispy variety.

Great…it can’t be too much longer, you think.

All around you, the room fills with the pleasant, reassuring voice of a faceless woman, calling faceless numbers to the next open service window.

 Lighted message boards display a stacked row of numbers designed to instill you with optimism that indeed, progress is being made.

And, yes, that’s just how it appears.

F 86




All stacked neatly in front of your own, F93. 

It shouldn’t be too much more of a wait….

Until the comforting woman announces customer F90 please report to Window 11,

Ahhhhhh…only three more to go….

Which is followed by a call for…Customer B67.



What happened to F91…F92…and me F93!!!!!!


And now you understand why the church pews actually have kneelers.

However, in time—time now the operative word—F93 is called in the dulcet tone of the faceless woman and you lumber off—knees badly stiffened from all the kneeling—to your designated window.

You, again, hand in your neatly pre-prepared forms; step on the foot prints stenciled on the floor and read the lowest line on the eye chart, which you imagine spells out…theresnothingucandosucker.

Afterwards, you shuffle off towards the exit, past a group of even more arriving hopefuls, and again, try to muster a sign of encouragement, just to let them know…it will be okay.

Unfortunately, most of your facial muscles have now numbed, and your attempt to smile only produces a painful grimace, which provides no comfort at all.

You reach the parking lot, surprised that the sun is still shining, stop and find yourself dwelling in one final desperate thought….

I hope my picture came out okay…..

The DMV & Me—Part 1


  1. Something happens to me when I am put on hold, or have to wait for eons in the doctor's office, or am in line at the supermarket. I feel myself expanding like the Incredible Hulk. The last time I was at the Registry for Motor Vehicles, I had parked in the nearby garage. Would you believe I went out to move my car twice so it wouldn't be towed away while I was waiting for my number to be called? I was just lucky that I returned in time. Someone upstairs or in the parking garage likes me.

    1. Next time you get Hulkish make sure you take a picture and send it along. I’d like to see that.

      I guess bureaucracy is bureaucracy no matter what you call it or where you live…and there’s always line….


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