by Pam Marra
I had put off going to the DMV as long as I could. For all the years I've been driving, it's ranked right up there with cleaning the grout in my shower and having a root canal. Long and painful.
But maybe today would be different, I thought as I was turning onto the exit.
Hmmm. The parking lot isn't full. That's a good sign, I said to myself. As I walked to the door, I put my hands up to the tinted glass. Wow, I can't see anybody standing in a long line. That's definitely a good sign.
But when I opened the door, I was shocked. The place was packed!
My first thought was: Did everybody walk to get here? Take the bus? Drop by parachute? I mean, there were, maybe, seven cars in the lot and about 7,000 people inside.
But oddly enough, there wasn't a single line. Not even to the bathroom.
Then it hit me. Apparently, I hadn't been there for longer than I thought. Somewhere during my latest time warp, the DMV had gone techno.
Now it's: Walk in, take a number, wait your turn. Pretty much like going to the deli for your weekly order of bologna and provolone.
Only it's all by computer.
After I come to my senses, I grab a number and turn around to find a seat. My look is met with a sea of disgust. Hundreds of chins resting on hands, every face an empty, frustrated stare. One blending into the next.
A computerized "female" voice breaks the silence. Red-lettered signs flash overhead.
"Now serving A-1-7-9 at Window 3."
The deli slowly takes on the feel of an airport terminal.
Flight 687 now boarding at Gate 8.
Over the next hour, I watch as the numbers are called. The wait in between seems to last a lifetime.
"When I came in here, Eisenhower was president," the man in front of me says to a bald guy beside him.
"That's nothing. When I got here, I had hair," the man retorts.
I waited for a chuckle from either one. None came.
I looked at my watch and realized I was already 10 minutes late for a meeting. The pressure was on.
Could I bribe somebody for their number? Fake an illness to get rushed to the front? Stand up and yell "Fire!"?
No, Pam. You can't do anything about this and you know it. Just sit and wait your turn like the rest of the grownups in the room, I scolded myself.
But I've found that something happens to the human body after waiting more than 20 minutes for something it doesn't think it should be waiting for in the first place.
You start getting angry. Irrational. Downright mean. You want to throw something. Hit something. Scream.
Or simply take it out on the poor soul who has the misfortune of waiting on you.
"B357 at window 5."
That's me! That's me. I'm so excited, I nearly plow down two people standing in the aisle.
Just wait until I get to that window. I'm gonna give that clerk a piece of my mind. This waiting stuff is ridiculous. Don't they think people have other things to do?!
I lean on the counter, prepared for the usual rude clerk who's overworked, underpaid and tired of dealing with people like me all day long.
And then the strangest thing happens.
The man asks for my license, looks me right in the eye and says, "And how are you today?"
He was nice, for goshsakes! Pleasant even!
Now I ask you. Is that any way for the DMV to treat somebody?