Blog: Stories From The DMV
(originally written 10/1/12)
At 8:17 a.m. I enter, met by an empty non-appointment line and about 13-15 people waiting in chairs. Assigned the number G7 with the screen already showing G2 (omitting the middle 00's for brevity's sake) it seemed the wait would not be a torturous one. Operative word: seemed—G7 would go uncalled for a full hour.
I'm reading a book about veterans acclimating to civilian life after tours of duty in Iraq/Afghanistan, obtained under the mistaken belief it was about specific veterans and their stories. In actuality the book was a resource for them—full of phone numbers, groups, references, websites, etc. and devoid of a single story. For me to read this would be akin to Barbara Walters reading a fertility book. Now how do I kill time?
A man and possibly his son (if so, it'd be wise to place a call to Maury) sat a few seats to my right. The boy, about 3, was understandably bored but Papa made no effort to entertain him. As the father of a 2 1/2-year-old, I know firsthand that A) you never bring a toddler to a place with infinite wait times unless you have no other choice, and B) in such a case, you bring something to entertain him/her. A Magna-Doodle. A storybook. A meal, even—remembering to busy the tyke takes priority over remembering underwear.
Fellow parents will agree it's just that crucial.
But "Dad" came wholly unprepared, and worse, uninterested. Threatening "You betta act right or get smact right," is how he chose to handle the situation...to no effect. Just as I was beginning to consider entertaining the boy myself (as I've done before with a neighbor's fussy baby and a flustered mom at Target), the two went outside. I don't know what happened but when they returned, the boy didn't make a sound at all. He sat there like a mannequin, albeit a mannequin with untied shoes and dried snot on his face.
The kid was now quiet, his whines substituted by noise most miffing—Dad, using his cell phone, began playing some 30-second jazz snippet on loop. Over and over again. At first I thought it was his ringtone but no cell phone rings for five consecutive minutes. It began to amount to torture—days later it still plays clearly in my mind—and ultimately drove me out of the building to the relative tranquil of the parking lot.
Now outside the building, I gaze impatiently through a window at the screen, which after 20 minutes still displays G2 as the most recent G. C's and D's are all the rage. This upsets me.
Just like the police, we as a society are not supposed to "profile" others—the goth dude from America's Got Talent backed that up pretty forcefully. Yet, common sense often dictates, "if it walks like a duck, acts like a duck..." Which one is it? Hard to say. All I know is that when a pickup truck full of dudes resembling those who "arrested" Ethan Hawke in Training Day go out of their way to alert an oblivious pedestrian to his dropped paperwork, let's just say it defied expectations.
Still marveling at what I'd witnessed, I notice a young man sitting nearby. Pre-pickup guys, I'd have dismissed him as a typical "gangsta"—a definite purse-clencher (women clench purses tighter in his presence). But now I've been enlightened! He's no troublemaker; he's probably just on summer break from UCLA or something.
Then he whips out his cell phone and proceeds to bark out a minute of speech with enough obscenities and angry ghetto speak to burn down a church.
My newfound enlightenment lasted exactly two minutes. Back to judging books by their covers.
A flurry of G's get called, but it's still up to only G5. Now it's A's and B's leading the charge.
A mysterious puff of cigarette smoke floats right in front of my face—a big no-no within 20 feet of the building. My first suspect is the seated gangsta dude—hey, when enlightenments end, they end—but he isn't smoking. Neither are the three women entering/exiting the premises at the time. I was pretty sure I wasn't smoking. Only one logical conclusion remained: the smoke came from the cigarette of a bird. (Hey, they like to relax after nooky, too—don't they?)
Having spent the last few minutes texting, I'm absolutely elated when G6 finally appears on the screen. With my turn imminent, I at last return inside and seat myself between two people near the door. The entire row is now filled. For some reason, a woman vacates and reclaims her seat down the row four separate times. The first "excuse me" is audible, clear, and friendly. By the fourth one she's barely even trying, mumbling something like "shooma" as she passes.
In steps a young woman in a beach-like outfit barely covering more than a bikini would, along with oversized sunglasses that she doesn't bother to take off indoors—even when conversing with the DMV clerk. In case you've never met me, I don't like most folks at first but I especially loathe those who crave attention so badly that the type of attention obtained is immaterial. I take great pride in ignoring them. Drives 'em nuts. :) The dude next to me, however, couldn't help but gawk. (Yeah, I saw you. You weren't as discreet as you tried to be.)
A man exactly my size and proportions—but about 15-20 years older—sludges through the building. It isn't pretty, and I can't help but wonder if I look that awkward and clumsy when I walk. (Footnote: an hour later after leaving the DMV, the same guy is loping around near a store I was patroning a mile away. There HAS to be a film that began this way.)
A cute young blonde seated nearby inspires great hope that there are still some people who realize what it means to live in a civilized society. She makes a phone call from her seat...and talks into the phone quietly. How about that? Turns out the clueless tattooed skank who cracked windows with her waiting-room cell phone braying last week could be an aberration.
Ultimately, everyone in my row except the people to my immediate left and right get called. So there the three of us are, sitting alone and clumped together, the last three seats in a row of 15. I wonder if I should be the one to get up, but will I offend the others if I do? "Oh, what? You think you too good to sit next to us?" I can just hear it. The move/stay debate was still raging in my head when those sweet words were at last spoken: "Now serving G007 at window #13".
My clerk strongly resembles the very first desk clerk (the black one) from ER, enough that I considered telling him so—but I wasn't there to talk about the past. I explain my situation and, with little hesitation, I'm told my license cannot be renewed. It's a commercial license, meaning that without a valid medical form on file with DMV, I'm screwed. I do have a valid medical card, but apparently my ex-boss failed to submit the form to the DMV as expected. And since we separated on terms rivaling that of the Kidds, obtaining said form wasn't an option.
Translation: I've been subjected to a crying kid, a horrible ringtone, mysterious smoke, unconscionably foul language, a wannabe Jennifer Diley, my Bizarro twin, and an awkward human sandwich for nothing.
Luckily, before my blood pressure surged too high, a competent employee corrected his colleague with these simple words: "He (me) CAN get another license; he just can't drive commercially without the form on file." The original clerk seemed a little disappointed—he actually left the window for parts unknown. My guess: he wanted to sob in private; I really didn't care.
The lesson: never lose your drivers' license...
...unless scary gangsters are nearby to find it.