Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Devil Runs the DMV

Welcome to the Department of Motor Vehicles 

If this photo brings back any memories for you, I am sorry to remind you of such a sad time in your life. I was describing my Wednesday at the DMV to my bible study girls, and they insisted I blog about it. Lord help me, I had no appointment. I usually try to deal with any and all DMV business at the Auto Club office near my house. We had recently been forced to visit the San Clemente Ca office for my daughter to take her permit test. This is the office we usually choose. It is near the beach, which somehow takes a bit of the sting out of going. It doesn't seem to be as crowded. Right now, it isn't open. Building refurbishment or some such. 
My daughter's driving test was approaching, and although the registration on her car "to be" had long been paid, we still needed the license plate tags which were held up by a proof there was no lapse in insurance when we got the car. The gal at the AAA had told me I could only take care of this issue at the DMV office itself. I shuddered, and immediately put it off as long as possible. 
Well, there was no more time. Those tags had to be on the car for my daughter's test. So, Wednesday mid morning which I was told was a good time, (there is NO good time to go to the DMV) I headed for the DMV office in Laguna Hills, California. I got in a line much like the one pictured above.There were at least 40 people in the line outside the building, another 20 or so inside the building. And that was just to get to the desk to get a number!!! I spent two and a half hours making small talk with the people in line around me, people watching (whoa!! they let these people drive??) and shifting from one foot to the other on the hard cement. I was tired and my stomach was growling. I started to smell a mix of bad breath and slight perspiration... maybe it was mine. Gross. 
I briefly showed the man at the info/number desk my paperwork and explained my dilemma very quickly feeling jabbing eyes all around me calling; Hurry up Hurry up! He said O.K. and handed me a number. B082. 

So, here is my monster mistake. I asked the man how long the wait would be now that I had obtained my number. Gargantuan Error. Huge Blunder. Enormous screw up. Get the idea?

He answered quickly, "At least an hour." and went on to the next victim. 
Oh! I thought brightly. Oh good! I thought foolishly. I have time to run to the little restaurant 3 doors down and grab a bite. And that's what I did. I gave myself only 35 minutes just to be safe. and returned quickly to the DMV and plopped in a chair awaiting my turn. As I fidgeted in the plastic seat, I noticed I did not recognize any of the faces from the people who had been in line with me. Where did they go? There must be at lease one here somewhere. Oh! there's the balding guy with the grey pants... no, that's not him. Wait, the lady with the stroller. Oh. There are loads of ladies with strollers. No, none of them were here. Did I miss my number? How could that be? I was only gone... then I knew it. For the first time today, maybe in DMV history, and the precise day I came, the line with numbers went faster than expected. This is a miracle! This is unheard of! This... totally sucks. I missed my number and now I have to go slinking up to the side of the information desk where you are instantly invisible and dodging the dagger glances of those in the official line. I have to ask the man if I missed my number, which will likely encourage an Are you kidding me, lady look from him, and an  Are you an idiot?  look from anyone in line who overhears me. I feel like yelling, "No, I am not kidding, and yes I am an idiot!" before I even get up to the desk. I nervously and a little too loudly and the guy if I missed my number. As is suspected, he looks at me with a mix of pity and disgust. He checks. "Yah, they called that a while back." A while back? I was only gone 35 minutes. " You told me it would be over an hour." I said weakly. He just looked at me with droopy dog eyes and said, "It went faster." 

The man handed me a new number. B108. Great. Not only am I now 26 B numbers behind, they are calling mostly A and H and some C's. Ugh!
One and a half hours later, an electronic voice calls B108. I jump up from my catatonic state and head for window 6. The lady behind window 6 takes my paperwork and smiles at me. "Oh!" she says. Uh oh, I think. 
"You can't clear this in a field office," she continues. "You need to go on line or call this number (pointing to a number on the sheet the AAA have given me) and get a claim number. She smiled and gave me back my paperwork. I was stunned. I spoke quietly and through clenched teeth. "I have been here for four hours," I told her. "I showed my paperwork to the man at the desk and he gave me a number." I said. "Why didn't he tell me I couldn't do this here?" I think the woman could tell I was about to go postal at the DMV. She smiled carefully and asked, "Do you have a phone?" She suggested I go outside and call the number on the sheet, and if I can get a claim number I could come directly to her window and she would help me. 
I went outside. I plopped on the steel bench and pulled out my phone. 4% battery. A digital voice on the other end of the line said, "The waiting time is now one and one half hours. Please leave a call back number or stay on the line." 
I jumped in my car. It was about 3pm and if I could retrieve this number on line, I could race back and go to her window and be done with this nightmare. I called my daughter at High School. "I can't pick you up." I screamed accidentally. "But Mom, what am I supposed to do?" "Figure it out." I said quickly and hung up. 2% battery. 
I flew to my mom's house which is closer to the DMV than my own and asked to borrow her computer real fast, it was an emergency. She said she thought I had been at the DMV that morning. The look on my face must have said it all, because she left the room and told my dad to leave me alone, it was important. 
My hand shook a little as I typed in the address on line and navigated the site. It asked for a pin number. I had no stinking pin number!! Another hurdle. I called the AAA office and explained my plight. The angel on the other end of the line lead me back to sanity. "Use this number," she said sweetly, "and I will stay on the line with you and we'll figure this out. She must have sensed my desperation. We got the claim number, and I think my blood pressure dropped 10 points. The AAA woman said I didn't need to return to the DMV and that she could finish the job at her office which is near my house. I drove there in a fog. TEXT: I got a ride home. Oh good. 1% battery. 
The lady at the AAA office took care of everything. She printed and stapled and put everything my daughter would need into a special envelope. She told me that gal who had told me to go to the DMV with this issue had since been let go. "Oh really." I offered, no emotion whatsoever. 
When I arrived home, my daughter asked annoyed, "Where have you been all this time?" I wanted to say hell. I imagine hell will have long lines with completely uninterested employees and windows where they tell you "Sorry I can't help you get to heaven after all." And then they make you get in a new line. 

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