Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The DMV and Me

The DMV has become a cliché, and even though I was hoping to counter its bad reputation via surprisingly happy personal experience, I was also kind of into the idea of its employees treating me so crappily that I’d get a column out of it.

Not that I'm a masochist. Much. 

Hey, when you’ve been writing opinion essays for twenty-five years—the last fifteen as a regular columnist for a newspaper—it’s kind of hard to stay fresh. While I generally don’t go looking for trouble, it often finds me. Sucky, yes, but it’s made for some interesting columns.

So, yeah, I recently had an experience with my local DMV. A rather long experience that hasn’t yet reached a satisfactory conclusion.

This is a Primus song about the DMV. I don’t know what he’s saying, but I completely understand it.

Last November, I made an appointment with the DMV to renew my driver license. December 5, I went in, claimed my appointment time—to the groans of those in line without an appointment—did the vision test, gave my thumbprint, took a new picture, got an extension for my old license (which hadn’t yet expired), then went home to wait for my new license and its presumably hideous photo.

This made me throw up a little.  I couldn’t sit through the whole thing. She's just too damn adorable.


After more than six weeks, with the extension deadline looming, I phoned the DMV. The representative told me something was wrong with the computerized photo system. She was rather vague about the reason for the delay, but said someone would call me within five to ten days to tell me if I needed to reshoot the photo. I told her my license would expire by then, so she suggested I go in to extend my extension.

It was too late to get an appointment online. GAGH! I HAD TO STAND IN THE NO-APPOINTMENT LINE. With the masses. As it turned out, the COUGHING, SNEEZING, GRUMBLING masses. Seriously. The lady behind me kept coughing. INTO MY HAIR. Kind of surprised I woke up not-bald the next day.

On the plus side, I did some mathematical calculations (get it? Plus side!)—despite failing nearly every math class I ever took—and figured 9:40 would be the optimal time to go. You know—an hour or so after the DMV opens, when people with real jobs try to get there before work, and before pre-lunchtime, when people with real jobs think they’d just take a slightly longer lunch.

I was correct. There were only about five people in line when I got there, meaning the no-appointment wait would be thirty minutes.

My heart was pounding so hard the entire half-hour that I thought I’d have a freakin’ coronary. I was terrified that they'd be rude to me, not extend my license, make me come back another day, call security when I started hyperventilating, not call an ambulance if I did have a heart attack, etc. Making it worse was the no-appointment line's lead grumbly guy, who kept saying stuff NOT under his breath about the wait. Dude, shut up. I’m going to pass out as it is, and then I’m never going to get my license.

Upshot: The two employees I spoke to were nice, and my photo was retaken, although there was never any explanation as to why my original license was stuck in DMV limbo. As opposed to DMV hell, which is what the no-appointment line looked like by the time I got out of there.

Anyway, the second employee, who took my photo, told me I’d get it in seven to ten days. She said it twice. Firmly. Which I’m hoping means it’s true. Otherwise, I’m writing that column. Because being a masochist is part of the job.

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