Fun at the DMV

Last year in August, I had a fun day at the DMV.

I’m sitting at the DMV in Corte Madera, CA getting my California drivers license. It’s official now. I am a Californian. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a DMV. In the past, I could always count on a visit here to boost my confidence. It sounds completely judgemental, something I normally abhor, let’s just say you see lots of colorful characters during a routine visit, and all common sense runs out the window. All that being said, the Corte Madera DMV is most certainly as close to the Ritz of DMV’s as one will find. The characters are still colorful, but we’re talking pastels and bright futures for at least a half of them, decidedly different than my experiences of DMV’s of my past. I wouldn’t be surprised if a percentage of them were wealthy beyond imagination.

My appointment was for 2:40 PM. I arrived early at 2:08 PM. Flashing my pearly whites, I announced to the woman with the horn-rimmed glasses behind the counter that I was early. Unimpressed, she responded “I’ll see you in 30 minutes.” There was no one in line behind me.

While I blankly stare into sea of people waiting to be served by the inadequately staffed group behind the counter, none of whom is very forthcoming with information or comfort, my mind wanders considerably among very disjointed thoughts. Something profound I hope will hit me soon.

I’ve been a Sprint customer for over fifteen years, and my phone number has been the same for twenty, maybe more. My relationship with Sprint is the closest I have to an abusive relationship. It’s brutal. The service is horrible. I’m always nickel and dimed. Maybe I was thinking of Sprint because I was at the DMV.

It’s time to get back to the counter.

But now there was a line. By the time the same woman saw me again, it was ten minutes past my appointment. With a question lingering in her eyes, she finally said, “You were here before?”

“Yes. I’m glad you remembered me.” (From thirty minutes ago, I deadpanned into my head.)

She gave me a ticket to wait in another line.

So waitaminute, she couldn’t see me thirty minutes early just so she could give me a ticket at the time of my appointment to wait in line?

And this was just the beginning. I’m glad that I am a patient, fairly mild-mannered man.

Fortunately, I didn’t wait too long in the second line. By the time it was my turn, I was greeted by a young man with a 49ers hat gently situated perfectly sideways onto his head. Pretty soon he informed me that I needed to pay $110 before I could obtain my drivers license which was $30.

“What’s the $110 for?”

“I have no idea, sir.” He was very polite. And yet, he was extremely irritating.

“What do you mean you have no idea?”

“The computer doesn’t tell me.”

“I want to contest it.”

“You can absolutely contest it. You’ll just need to fill out these forms and make an appointment.”

“Ok. Let’s get on with the license then.”

“You can’t get your license without paying the fine.”

“But you can’t tell me what it’s for.”

“If you pay for it, I can tell you.”

“Waitaminute, so I need to pay for the fine to find out what the fine is for?”


“And what if it’s wrong?”

“Then you can contest it.”

“How long would that take?”

“I have no idea.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I was beyond perplexed, and borderline having an out-of-body experience where I wanted to hurt something.

I paid the fine. The attendant still couldn’t figure out what it was for. Thirty minutes later, my picture was taken. And thirty minutes after that, I was standing in a booth in front of a PC that reminded me of 80s computer lab in high school, ready to take the written test. Still steaming from everything leading up to the moment of the test, I completed the test in five minutes.

And failed miserably.

Squeezing the edges of the booth, smiling so wide cos I was so beyond angry, I turned around furious beyond belief.

And right there, as I faced the desk that was behind me, sat the gentleman who I’d had the exchange earlier about the fine I paid.

He matched my smirk with a smile and said, “You do know they allot an hour for you to take the test?”

“Yea, I do know that.”

“You completed the test in five minutes.”

“Yea, I know. Is there any way I can take the test again?”

“Normally, you have to make another appointment.”

“The appointment for today took weeks to schedule!!?!?!?!?!”

Almost in acquiescence to me, he finally became human. “Look, I know what happened earlier didn’t make any sense either. Why don’t I just reset your test. You’ll just need to wait a few minutes to take it again. Sound fair?”

And that was all I needed to hear.

I took my time, this time; and I easily passed.

I am officially a Californian. That only took two years.

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