Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Department of Time Wastage

Yesterday I visited the Smallish State Bureau of Motor Vehicles for the purpose of renewing my driver’s license, a task which took under five minutes. Waiting in line to perform the task, however, was a two hour ordeal. You go through the door, and a nice man behind a desk says, very cheerily, “May I help you?” But no matter what your need is, he just directs you to take a numbered ticket and have a seat in the waiting area, which resembles a small movie theater. Then you sit there, forever, watching the numbers on a digital screen increase ever so slowly towards the magic number. On occasion, they’ll call out the number of someone who gave up and left; when no gets up and they move on to the next number, you feel secretly joyous. Once, three people in a row didn’t show for their number—a girl near me clapped her hands and said “Hooray!”. It became convention, when someone next to you had his number come up, to offer verbal congratulations.

I saw several people close to cracking, and thought I might have to employ emergency shrinking skills. One man was clearly on the edge. He had a stack of papers and paced back and forth between the detainee waiting area and the magic service windows. He had the look of someone who knows his business before the court is more important than other people’s, if only he could make someone understand. Once, when a clerk seemed idle briefly, he approached her out of turn, seeking to sneak in—when rebuffed, he demanded to speak to a supervisor. A portly man who appeared to have just awakened from a nap was produced from the back room, and there were some words and display of the papers, but no satisfaction for the complainant. Shortly he shouted “I HAVE TEN TRUCKS THAT NEED TO MOVE RIGHT NOW AND DRIVERS WAITING TO MOVE THEM AND ALL I HAVE TO DO IS GET THEM REGISTERED!” then ran out and slammed the door. This building should absolutely have a metal detector.

Eventually, we all started growing cobwebs, yawning, dozing off. I calculated that two full work-weeks of Smallish State citizens’ time had been squandered in the time I had been in the room. I envisioned a great strategy for getting a date with an attractive person: hold on to your ticket for an hour, then when an attractive person comes in, write your phone number on the back of your now-desirable ticket, give it to him or her, and leave.

When my number finally came up, I felt like I’d won Megabucks. The clerk said, “Sorry you had to wait so long.” I couldn’t bring myself to say “It’s alright”, because it really wasn’t at all. She worked hard to get me to smile for the license photo, but I couldn’t muster anything more than a bitter smirk. God help me if I ever have to go in there again.


Blogger pjm said...

I've never bothered to smile for license pics (how often are you smiling when they use those pics to identify you?) but when I got my Smallish State license (many moons ago,) I was in a phase of actively scowling. Because, I figured, I wasn't likely to be happy about whatever was causing someone to look at the license...

8/8/06, 8:39 AM  
Anonymous girltuesday said...

my license expires in about eight months, so really i should get in line now.

a few years ago i went to the dmv by smallish state mall. the wait was approximated to be two hours, fifteen minutes. so i took my ticket and wandered around the mall. i was in the mall for not more than an hour and a half (which i learned was my upper limit for mall tolerance) before returning to resume my dmv wait. however, upon returning i was quite disheartened to learn my number had already been called. apparently they don't let you back in line.

8/8/06, 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Norm said...

The last time I had to renew in person rather than by mail out here in biggish state, I prudently made an appointment online -- which meant I got to stand in a shorter line in order to receive the number I then had to wait to appear on the screen. And, it's expected to only get worse when the new federal regulations kick in requiring everyone to appear in person. Oh well.

8/8/06, 9:58 AM  
Blogger Katinka said...

Hilarious post!!

8/8/06, 5:26 PM  
Blogger DrivingMissMolly said...

I thought of your post this afternoon when I was watching comedian Dane Cook on Comedy Central. He made reference to the DMV as "Satan's A$$h&*e.

Fortunately, I have had pretty brief visits to huge-ish state's DMV (Texas) so I cannot commiserate.

Take Care!


8/18/06, 6:50 PM  

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