Friday, August 26, 2005

It Was Almost Justice, Poetic Style

Today I spent a ridiculous amount of time getting my drivers license converted to this state. The best thing about the whole experience is that I got to do some quality people watching. Man, did I have fun.

As I walked in I got in the initial line where you declare your purpose in coming to the DMV. It took me a little while to get in because the man in front of me had had some trouble with the front door. They have one of those rubber mats in front of the door and it bunched up when he tried to go in, preventing the door from opening. Most people would have pushed the door shut and fixed the mat, knowing that the door will never open. This guy, however, decided that he was going to teach the rubber mat a lesson. He tried to force the door open despite the mat being bunched up under it. He succeeded in moving it another 4 or 5 inches, but then it wouldn’t move at all. Now that he had it properly jammed he felt it was time to try to push it closed again. No dice. The door would not move. So he considered the problem for a few seconds, then bent down and tried to yank the mat out from under the door. No – that’s not working either. Then he starts trying to power-yank it, putting all his strength into it and giving several pulls in quick succession. I’m waiting for the mat to suddenly give way, tumbling him onto his backside, so he can look up at me and say “kiss it Daddy, kiss it.” No, wait. That’s another story.

I’m sure this is going to end up with an injury, but he’s saved. A guy on the other side of the door decided he’s going to pull on the door while the first guy pulls the mat. It works, and no injury! We’re in.

The man at the check-in desk is just a little bit surly. Every so often somebody, not paying attention, steps forward to stand behind the person at the desk talking to him. Mr. Surly then stops everything and loudly asks the person if they are with the person he is currently helping. As they answer “no”, he rolls his eyes and tells them to stand behind the blue sign. Then he gets back to helping.

He’s very concerned about his pens. Every time he gives somebody a form to fill out, whether they need it or not (I brought my own form pre-filled out), he hands them a pen. In a tone of voice stressing that this is the most important thing he is going to tell you he says “Bring me back my pen when you’re done”.

Now, he’s supposed to give you a number right then and there, but he is holding the numbers until he gets his pens back. I’m not kidding. As I stood there he paused and printed out a whole bunch of the numbers he hands out and lines them up on the counter. People would come up to the side counter after they filled out their form and he would hold their number slip in his hand until the pen was actually placed in his hand. Then he would hand over the number.

So, having returned my pen (after pretending to go to the table and fill out my already filled out paperwork), and gotten my number I sat down to wait. And wait. And wait. I was one of the smart ones. I brought a book. Unfortunately, I sat down next to a mental patient, or somebody doing a fine job of imitation. It is the best form of flattery, after all.

This man was covered in tattoos. Many men who are covered in tattoos look tough and people tend to avoid them. Not him. He didn’t look tough, and he never stopped talking. He talked about how insane this place was. He described how he’d improve the entire process, start to finish. He told the story of how he got his license suspended and made sure that people knew he was there to get it back. Funny, eh?

No. It was not funny. In the least. Why? Well, let me not answer your question directly, let me just say that if you see an empty seat on a bench in a busy crowded room where there are many, many people standing, do not sit there. It is empty for a reason. If he had not been sitting on the end of the bench there would have been two seats open. He showed great interest in the book I was reading. Then he asked me about my job (ironic, isn’t it?), and I decided to get up when he started asking about the documentation I had with me, such as my passport and social security card. Yes, you actually need 43 pieces of identification to convert your license.

As I stood against the wall I would glance up from my book every so often and see that somebody new was sitting next to him. It would be a new person each time. In truth, I never wondered why he was not called up. But I will admit to laughing along with several other people when I heard him say “What number?” He had never gone to the front desk and gotten a ticket. He’d been sitting there for quite a while, never questioning why the female mechanical voice kept saying things like “Now serving B337 at station 1. Now serving F543 at station 10.” In all that time he did not notice how everybody seemed to be clutching their tickets and checking each time a new number was called just in case their ticket had spontaneously changed since the last time they checked.

Some might say that he was merely a fool, and I did for several hours after that. But it occurred to me that the DMV had a reputation to uphold. That man could single-handedly drive 32% of the customers crazy on his own. What better way for the DMV to make your life hell than to force you to wait for hours in the same room as this guy?

There was also the entertaining officer who gave the driving tests. I watched as he would leave with somebody then come back. He’d sign their paper and go and sit or stand somewhere. One time, however, he went out with a young girl obviously there to get her first license. When he came back he looked like he was ready to kill – red in the face and walking fast. Behind him trailed the girl, looking forlorn and being comforted by a friend. I’d love to know what went on during that driving test.

Eventually my number was called. As I walked to the counter I heard Mr. Tattoo complaining that he’d been there for hours and they needed to speed things up. Pretty brazen for somebody who now held a ticket in his hand. Anyway, the woman at the counter was spectacularly nice. She went through the paperwork, typing everything in and eventually taking my picture. She asked me if I’d already registered a car, which I had, and she was happy, because that saved her time. Then she asked me if my license was suspended. I said no. She looked confused and typed a little more. Then she got on the phone. I heard her tell somebody that the computer wouldn’t let her update my record. She listened, then asked me several questions in succession. Had I ever had a DWI? Was I sure my license wasn’t suspended? Was it revoked? No, no no no no. I just kept answering no. She and the person on the phone finally got it fixed. She claimed it was because she had to change my address from the one I had when I registered the car to the one I currently lived at. I was about to tell her that it was the same address, but decided to let it go now that it was working.

I finally got to leave, my temporary paper license in hand. But does our story end there? No.

You see, when I got out into the parking lot I saw a couple of tow trucks. One was pulling out with a car, another was hooking one up. The one right next to mine. When I pulled into the parking lot several hours earlier I had pulled into a parking space as the previous occupant pulled out (they are single rows instead of double rows). The car to my left had obviously parked where there was no parking spot on the end of the row. The fool. I shook my head at them, thinking that some people just don’t get it. In any large city, parking illegally in a municipal lot is a quick way to get towed. That was strictly Amateur-hour stuff.

Yes. Some people just don’t get it. People like me. When I got to my car I found that when I pulled in behind the person pulling out I failed to notice that I was not pulling into a legal parking spot. I was the fool I’d just been laughing at. The only difference between this fool and the one I’d been laughing at is that I got back into the lot just before I got towed and managed to make a clean getaway. This had very nearly been Justice, Poetic Style.

You’d think that after sitting in the DMV for several hours you could come home and watch paint dry and find it exciting, but no. I have been bored stiff for several hours. I watched some Law and Order, ate some dinner and read some blogs. But I just couldn’t get into any of it. So I decided to write a quick post and get to bed early. That quick post turned into this monstrosity, and it’s now almost 11pm. So much for an exciting Friday night.

For anybody who noticed, somebody claiming to be The Hot Librarian posted a comment on this post. When I first read it I figured it was the Evil Norwegian playing a joke on me. It would be right up her evil alley. That there was no email address only added to my suspicions. However, I received confirmation that it really was THL who made the comment. However, this means that somebody probably squealed on me, as I doubt I’m on her regular reading list. So, who was it?