Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The DMV: A Writer's Smörgåsbord

By J.C. Lynne


I’m the first person to say that the Department of Motor Vehicles, the place where you go to update, replace, or get your driver’s license, is the portal to Hell. 
The Reaper's Gladys, the DMV Demon

I’m serious. It’s the actual gateway to the underworld. Okay, I’m speaking of our local DMV offices, but I think most people would agree. 

Let’s face it, you’re not getting out of there in less than three hours and it’s three hours of grumpy, disgruntled humanity.

I attribute this to the lack of windows at our branch. Fluorescent lights and interminable waiting times are enough to tax even the most cheerful spirits. 

I see the clerks trying and I see the moment they concede defeat.

With three children all over driving age and the passing fleet of cars associated with having three driving children, a motorcycle and two driving adults, I've spent my fair share of time at both the County Clerk and the driver's license office.

Son 2 thinks the driver's license queue should involve putt putt golf. No one can arrive at the counter unhappy after putt putt.

The county clerk and recorder is a different universe. Sure, if you get out of there in less than two hours it’s a miracle, but it’s a happier place. Folks chat with each other. The clerks are patient and smiling. There’s cheering when they’re able to skip through more than three numbers. 

They have windows. That’s my theory. Windows and plants creates a more cheerful environment. 

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned the Beard and I purchased a Mini Cooper. It’s as fun as THEY say. Of course, it needed new plates. Due to a miscommunication, we thought the Beard was the only one of us who could go get plates. 

If you don’t know, you need copious amounts of paperwork to get new plates and it can’t be just any paperwork. If you’re name isn’t on that paperwork, you cannot get plates. 

Monday morning saw the Beard heading to the county clerk office. Now, the clerk’s office opens at seven-thirty, but the Beard can barely rouse before eight so he hit the nine a.m. rush. 

Even if the place is fully staffed, you’re not getting out in under two hours. Waiting for bureaucracy isn’t the Beard’s strongest trait. Sure, he’s patient with the circus because we’re entertaining and he drinks. 

In any case, he cried uncle at an hour, out of coffee, and grumpy. 

He meant for me to rearrange my Monday plans to return to the clerk’s office, but homie wasn’t playing that. 


I shifted my Tuesday plans around and arrived at the office at seven-thirty. Don’t get me wrong, it took two and half hours for my number to be called. I took my coffee and a book. And my writer's frame of mind.

I eavesdropped on three different conversations between my fellow number holders. As before, folks chatted. Folks cheered when a clerk shot through three numbers. Small children gathered in groups to spin circles and crawl under chairs. 

There are few places where you can observe such a wide swath of humanity. It’s a circus in its own right and as the ringmaster of our particular big top I’m quite comfortable there. 

I've filed a couple of characters away for future use. I've jotted down a few sentence gems. And I walked out of there with plates.

It’s a writer’s treasure trove. 

Next time, I'll bring popcorn.

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