Driving Nowhere Fast. At the DMV.

It’s 10:16 am, Saturday morning, and I’m sitting in the DMV.

My ticket #: A-160. Yes, #160. and that’s just the “A’s”.

I’m watching the attendant at the entrance. She’s conducting emergency room triage, with victims coming through the door in shock, experiencing some form of bloodless trauma.

It’s 79° F, a gorgeous Saturday in late September. And here we are, at the DMV. It’s Saturday for God’s sake, we can’t be here.

“Take a ticket,” she calls out, “grab a seat.” There’s many seats, most taken, a smattering of empties dispersed throughout the room, with a zero lot line between each.  Each incoming patron’s reaction is the same: they look around, inhale, walk slowly to a seat, shoehorn themselves in, and slump heavily into the hardback metal chair.

Now serving A (pause) 66 at Station 29″

The computer generated voice, a Male voice, calls your number over the loud speaker, calls it again, and then skips to the next. There are Categories A, B, C, D and E, which I’m sure tie to a unique DMV service, but I was unable to (and uninterested in) trying to crack the code.  My attention was on the “A’s”, and the numbers flashing on the overhead monitors.

Now serving A (pause) 68 at Station 22″

What is it with the DMV that elicits such dread? And why does such a simple process (should be) of license renewal strike such fear?

Now serving A (pause) 71 at Station 13″

There are no 1% privileges here. No Fast Passes. No Speed Passes. No TSA lines. No CLEAR. No appointments. No tips to jump the line.

You sit, and you wait.  And you wait, and you wait.

Now serving A (pause) 73 at Station 19″

Heads are down, Smartphones, Smartphones, Smartphones. Not A.D. or B.C. It’s B.S. Before Smartphones. How did we manage without smartphones. What occupied our time? What kept us from going out of our minds?

Now serving A (pause) 75 at Station 16″

Intermittent gusts of air conditioning (our tax dollars) are keeping the patrons cool, and surprisingly calm.  No, not calm. It’s total resignation. If you can’t learn to ‘let go’ at home, we’ll teach you at the DMV. And you’ll get damn good at it. Yes, you will.

Now serving A (pause) 75 at Station 27″

The expanse of the dress code is wide. Hoodies. T-shirts. Sweatshirts. Polos. Cargo shorts. Levi 501s.  Maternity dresses. Stripped dress shirts. Floor length summer dresses.

Now serving A (pause) 79 at Station 17″

It’s a melting pot. English. Spanish. Russian. Indian. Pakistani. Young. Old. Middle age. Children. Infants. Those soon to have children. There’s no shouting about immigration policy, health care or global warming. All are unified in a single, common, desperate need. Get out of here.

Now serving A (pause) 81 at Station 13″

A toddler in her little pink shoes swings her legs under the chair.  She twirls her Mom’s hair.  Mom stares straight at ahead at the monitor.  It’s a head-bob we all engage in, smartphone to monitor, smartphone to monitor.

A tattoo, blue ink and in cursive, runs from her baby toe to her heal on the outside of her foot. I strain to read the text, frustrated that my eyesight is sh*t, and give up. Had to be good.

The toddler leans in, restless now. Mommy!

Now serving A (pause) 84 at Station 23″

The ticket numbers crawl forward, inch by inch, a beached leatherback sea turtle desperately seeking water.

Now serving A (pause) 87 at Station 16″

Bags. Fanny packs. Manilla folders. Clipboards. Backpacks. Purses. Wallets. Brief cases. Plastic pouches.

All holding the essential DMV documentation, after following mind numbing instruction forms on the requirements.

Now serving A (pause) 95 at Station 24″

Sneakers. Sandals. Sperrys. Flats. Boots. Flip flops. Steel toes.  All briskly in motion at your number being called. No chance anyone wants to lose their place in line. ZERO chance.

Now serving A (pause) 103 at Station 19″

Older gentlemen, a theme. Dress Slacks. Dress Shirts, pressed. Loafers.  Brokaw’s Greatest Generation. Those that sacrificed, those who still believe in Government.  The Greatest Generation comes to the DMV, to show respect, they dress up. And then, there are the rest of us.

Now serving A (pause) 107 at Station 24″

[…] (Cannot recall what happened between 107 and 146. Fell into a waiting coma. Blanked out.)

  • Now serving A (pause) 146 at Station 22 (11:40 am)
  • Now serving A (pause) 150 at Station 15 (11:46 am) (Anticipation builds. Home Stretch)
  • Now serving A (pause) 151 at Station 16 (11:48 am)
  • Now serving A (pause) 152 at Station 19 (11:49 am) (Anxiety building. Did I forget my sh*t)
  • Now serving A (pause) 153 at Station 21 (11:49 am)
  • Now serving A (pause) 154 at Station 15 (11:51 am)
  • Now serving A (pause) 155 at Station 20 (11:53 am)
  • Now serving A (pause) 156 at Station 23 (11:53 am) (I need a restroom. OMG. What is wrong with you?)
  • Now serving A (pause) 157 at Station 15 (11:57 am)
  • Now serving A (pause) 158 at Station 18 (11:58 am) (Watch the board. Watch the board.)
  • Now serving A (pause) 159 at Station 23 (12:01 noon) (Here it comes! My heart is racing. There is something seriously ‘off’ with you.)

Now serving A (pause) 160 at Station 20 (12:03 pm)

BOOM!

I get out of my chair, my shoe catches on the leg, and I almost take a header. Two Millenials next to me chuckle.  Get a grip Man. Please.

Five minutes later I step out of the DMV into the bright sun, minutes short of the two hour mark.

I walk two blocks to the car.

The sun beams down and warms my back and shoulders, those same shoulder blades and that same sun that poured down on Mary Oliver’s shoulder blades:

“about this cup we call a life…about happiness. And how good it feels, the heat of the sun between the shoulder blades.”

Freedom.

Let Freedom Rain…


Notes:

Comments

  1. Brilliant! Made me smile (and laugh a little) here in a London cafe where I’m having my afternoon tea, sorry cappuccino. First laugh for a quite a time. Thanks Dave.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for sharing with us! Did the thought of sharing with us help? I laughed out loud when you blanked out between 107 and 146. Wasn’t interested at first, and then was totally into…what’s next: that is good writing, David! [I’m afraid to italicize “that” for fear of losing my reply–which is what happens on Facebook]. Your reporter at large at the DMV experience made me realize that I always take a book with me wherever I may have to wait. Now, it’s “Walden”. …a book…I guess I’m old-fashioned!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. DK: One large (aw…go on…my treat) Cinnamon Latte (take away) with all the bells/whistles: whipped cream and chocolate covered coffee bean make that dark chocolate covered coffee bean on top….please. Just because…..and much better than the back stroke! xR

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I thought you were going to say, after all that time, you got back to your car and had another ticket. Good Sunday morning chuckle.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t stop laughing…
    No 1% privileges?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve had similar DMV experiences before and also had that everyone-waits experience at the VA hospital. Your perspective put the finger a key aspect – the ruthless democracy of it. We all wait our turns, we all go through it, regardless of rank or privilege.
    Oh, sometimes in those places I’ve heard someone mutter “don’t you know who I AM?”, although to no avail.
    I find a certain fairness in the arrangement, even if it is a bit mechanical.
    Oh wait, there’s another way! Some DMV let you make a prior appointment. At the designated date and time, you can place a crown on your head and stroll in at your majesty’s pleasure. Yes, that’s right, there’s no line for you, no cold hard-backed chair, no bingo number offering little reward. Instead, where others enter the building dazed and confused, you enter in a blaze of light and proceed calmly and certainly to take care of your business.
    It’s grand!
    Oh, just one thing: to get said appointment takes weeks!
    Oh well, may as well join the rest of us.
    Vincent

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Another deep dive into Kanigan country, giggling all the while. Loved it pal, and glad you’re all set. Is now a good time to tell you that, in NH, we can renew our license by mail?….

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Ha! We have a *few* more than 150, but yes, we’re smallish. And yes, it is as nice as it sounds. I was thoroughly stoked when I realized I didn’t have to make the pilgrimage to the DMV. But I paid my dues when I lived in Boston, pal, worry not…..

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Seems like a lot of bother to appreciate the sun between my shoulder blades ….
    Love this 😎

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dave, Hall of Fame, Material. I don’t know how I managed to read this out loud while I was laughing, thinking, on no, the pain involved in passing a Saturday morning, in the confines of the DMV office… I figured that since you live in a small enclave you must have had to drive to another city like, Fairfield or Stamford? If that is the case I am sure you can make an appointment, I think I would have paid someone to text me when number 140 was called. I carry a nice folding camp chair in my car trunk so I can sit outside and enjoy when lines are long /// To my knowledge we do not have Saturday hours at DMV, and I’d be surprised if we have even eight windows, we do take a number, when they call they hold up their arm so we know which window is vacant, ah hello hmm no one standing in front of the worker is a giveaway…Like, Lori our area has mail in options for most transactions (so nice) though every “eight years” you have to go in and have a new photo taken if it is for a driving license…last time me and my hubby, separately went to DMV in and out in under 12 min. , we did stop in at a DMV out of town at the beach since we had to drive past anyway, they had two windows, in and out quickly./// My funniest DMV story is about my much older sweet cousin “J” she was in the small DMV office outside of Nashville, TN and she sat down and soon realized who she was sitting next to, for some reason, (I have no clue she brought me up) and where I live and had a very nice long chat with the kind and handsome, Vince Gill (formerly of Pure Prairie League, a big solo artist,& now of The Eagles, he and Glenn Frey’s son Deacon are performing the vocals since Glenn’s passing)

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Ah DMV – an excellent reason to appreciate the outdoors

    Liked by 2 people

  12. certainly one of dante’s levels. my technique is go in 15 minutes prior to closing time. they then lock the door and whip everyone through the process, they are ready to get out too and it has worked very well for me –

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Enjoyed this, but it was a sad reminder…my renewal is in December ! I think I’ll go on a Wednesday.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. And I thought a wait of 6 tickets before me was a long wait, David. I sure was wrong… Chuckle, chuckle.
    Living here in this semi-rural/regional centre sure has its advantages… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh that was painful to read and I wasn’t even waiting ha! But I must admit, I now take these patient and yet, painful opportunities to say mantras to myself or practice stillness. Infact, we could all get a lot more books written in this forced timeframe; bestsellers I’m sure! BTW Mr K, where is that bestseller you are writing! You can’t say you don’t have time ha 👍👏

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh my gosh…lol! So funny, David!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This is what we did before Smartphones–what you do on the train and everywhere you have a moment to observe. We also stuck paperbacks in our purses/backpacks. We let ourselves get bored fer crapsake.

    I went through this ritual, too, last week astonished at how some things never change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny on crapsake part. Yes, some rituals will never change.

      Like

      • Sandy Sue, Can you believe it, I don’t carry a purse or backpack…I make sure I have a pocket to put my stylish Vera Bradley zip id case w/ id window 5W” x 3H” in & key ring…I keep my my id, money, paper and coin, debit card, Costco card, library card, insurance card, (in a small ziploc portion pak, slides in so nicely) my Small Cell phone, a sugar packet, plastic gym bar code disk, a pill or two & the all important key fob! I bet it seems surprising that I travel light since I can be a lengthy writer. I like to keep my hands free, esp when I have a small slim pocket camera at ready in the same pocket or another pocket…It’s a casual Friday everyday kinda life, dear hubby gets to wear shorts to work…he doesn’t like to wear ties. I do like the looks of a man in a nice suit though.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Bridgeport, CT DMV always felt like the worst day of your life, but yeah, the getting back outside was like breaking out of the joint. Without these miserable institutions, we might not appreciate the sunshine on our shoulders… Nah, we still would, but maybe just a tad bit less.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Great piece bro! Seems the DMV experience has felt the same way for 25 years to me. I just can’t stop thinking and laughing if you did take the header! LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. What a fun read. I love how you can take something so “mundane” as renewing your license and turn it into a great post.
    Ya know… takes me less than half an hour to renew mine. You just have to go at weird hours. No Saturdays, no lunchtimes, not first thing in the a.m….

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I don’t know what it is about DMV’s – they’re all pretty awful. Ours on the island here are bearable. But I’ve been in others. Just horrible, dead energy. It would make me SO grateful to have a smartphone in my hands though – the last time I was in one of these soulless places was before this kind of technology. Ugh. Funny you just about took a header though. That. Would be me. 😉 !!

    Liked by 1 person

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