Saturday, September 27, 2008

DMV Confession

It might have just been luck. But I didn’t deserve it. I was thrown together. I slept past my alarm. I even forgot my bike helmet until the 4 year old neighbor reprimanded me and recommended that I go back home and get it. As it turns out, the Washington department of motor vehicles can give you a written test, upon license renewal. I hadn’t reviewed the difference between a guidance sign and a warning sign or read over the driver’s manual. And, I had moved, which can require documentary “proof of residence.” I had no such documents with me. I had just rolled out of bed. I’m not a morning person. I was not looking or feeling very swift.

I walked into the DMV and there were people EVERYWHERE… angry, unhappy people that had been waiting for hours. I only had really allowed an hour and a half to renew my license, and my lack of preparation made it seem a little unlikely to happen today. I wasn’t worried. It’s not my style, and besides, I don’t even really drive. I was not under the same pressure as the other, much more respectable Washington residents at the DMV this morning.

And I couldn’t find the number dispenser. There were several lines and you were supposed to have a number to know your place in line. Gosh, I should have had some coffee. I did a full lap through all of the irritable people, trying not to stand out or look too happy. I may become a target. This type of tense environment can be dangerous. A riot could have broken out at the DMV this morning.

Finally, on the beginning of lap #2, I found the number dispensers. They were by the door, when you walk in, under a large sign that read: PLEASE TAKE NUMBER HERE.” Everyone can get a license. It’s not as intellectually challenging as I was finding it. As I started to push the button to dispense my number, a young woman at my left asked, “Are you renewing or getting a new license?” I had no intellectual capacity to spare, so I answered her honestly and acted like it was a reasonable question. Normally, I may have wondered why another DMV patron cared about my renewal vs. new license categorization.

“I’m just renewing,” I told her.

“Some guy got tired of waiting and gave me his number. I’m in the ‘new license’ line so I can’t use it. Do you want it?”

“Sure, thanks! That’s really nice.” Sweet. It was number 48. I took it and kept my other number, just in case. Cool, maybe that’ll speed things up a little. They weren’t calling the renewal numbers yet. I had no idea how long I was expected to wait. But whatever. I’ll just give it to someone else if I have to leave.

Right after I found a place to stand (all of the seats were taken and it actually took a few minutes to find a place to camp out that didn’t invade someone else’s personal space bubble), the reality message came. One of the DMV staff members stepped out from behind the counter and said “if you are waiting to get a new license, the current wait time is approximately two and a half hours. If you are waiting to renew your license, the wait time is approximately one and a half hours.”

Yikes! No wonder everyone was so stressed out. I briefly wondered how long my wait time was going to be, since I had the special number from my friend by the number machine. They still hadn’t called any numbers from my line since I had gotten there, so I had no idea where I stood. One man, who had also noticed that the “renewal” line was not only moving slowly, but it was not moving at all, took this opportunity to get some face time with the DMV guy making the announcement.

I couldn’t hear the entire exchange, but it ended with “Listen! I’m waiting for another 30 minutes; you had better start calling license renewal numbers before I leave!” And he was fuming. We were just short of a fiasco. The room was just shy of the tipping point to revolution.

As I was thinking about this, and wondering how angry that man would be if he knew about my little number situation, the number announcer came on: “number 48, please go to window two. Number 48, window two.”

And there I went, took the vision test, gave them my new address, took a new photo, and signed the form… approximately 15 minutes after arriving… completely unprepared. Anyway, glad I got my new license. I’ll have to remember to do a bunch of nice things so I don’t mess up my karma too too much!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

NICE! I LOVE this story! -Robin