My driver’s license expired on my birthday. Like a law-abiding person, three months to the expiration date, I visited the Department of Motor Vehicle’s (DMV) website and booked an appointment to visit the DMV and replace my Driver’s License with the Real ID (required for Domestic USA travel after October 2020). To obtain a Real ID, one cannot simply apply online/ mail an application. No, one must present oneself in person, with supporting documents. For more information on this enthralling subject, please visit the DMV in person if you’re feeling brave, or online if you are not.
Perhaps it was a sign from the universe that the only available appointment was on my actual birthday. As anyone who has been to the DMV knows, it really is one of the last places you would want to visit on your birthday. If we’re being honest, it’s not a place you want to visit, period. But there I was, starting my next trip around the sun standing in line at the DMV, ready for my 10.20 am appointment.
Sign numero dos from the universe was that the non-appointment line (people who woke up that morning and decided to go to the DMV), was moving faster than the appointment line (people who planned ahead and made appointments). Among the ten or so people standing ahead of me was a very tall gentleman (I use the word gentleman very loosely here, more on this lovely Original Gentleman (O.G) ahead). A quick time check informed me that it was now 10.30 a.m (did I mention that I have a job and was hoping to actually get some work done that day?)
Finally, at 10.40 am, a lady (again, loose use of the word Lady here), wearing an iPad around her neck ( a la Flavor Flav) , stood at the front of the line and loudly asked us to arrange ourselves in order of our appointment time, which, I thought, was a reasonable ask. This is how I came to find myself standing right behind the aforementioned lovely gentleman.
The following conversation is not paraphrased, taken out of context, or in any way exaggerated.
Lady : Okay, everyone who has a 10.00 am appointment is now at the front of the line, followed by 10.20 am, 10.40 am and 11.00 am appointments, CORRECT? (the CORRECT was yelled)
Line of antsy appointment- makers who were now at least 40 minutes late: YES! (also shouted)
Original Gentleman (O.G) : I got here early, I’m not moving.
Lady: (to Gentleman). Sir, what time is your appointment?
O.G: 11.00 am
Lady: Sir, I’m going to need you to move to the back of the line, as you cannot be ahead of the earlier appointments.
O.G: Well, it is 11.00 am, my appointment is for 11.00 am, so I am on time.
A staring context ensued, with the barely 5 ft Lady unblinkingly staring at the approx 6ft 6ins tall O.G.
The Lady won. The O.G mumbled something under his breath and moved to the 11.00 am (soon to be noon) section.
Lady 1: O.G- 0
Next up was a real gentleman (RG) who was also applying for a Real Id. Unfortunately for this gentleman, life had not prepared him for the Lady.
Lady: Sir, how can I help you?
RG: I applied for the Real ID a few months ago, unfortunately, it was not correctly done, because the Department of Homeland Security has notified the DMV that its process for providing residents with federally recognized identification cards is not adequate. So I am back to do it correctly this time.
Lady: So, (deep sigh), you’re saying WE messed it up? (asked in a tone suggesting the answer better not be yes, you messed it up)
RG: (takes a step away from Lady and is wisely silent)
Lady: Here’s your number, go sit over there.
Next up was another Real ID applicant.
Lady: Can I help you? (notice she did not address him as sir, she had maxed out on her daily politeness quota)
Applicant: I would like to apply for Real ID, here is my paperwork.
Lady: (examines paperwork, slowly shakes her head and returns the paperwork to the Applicant)
Applicant: No……??? (apprehensively anticipating the rest of that sentence)
At this point, we are all, including the Original Gentleman (O.G), craning our necks to see what happens next.
Lady: Listen, you are missing ONE more document. Something like a bill with your address on it, your AAA bill is not enough. Maybe a phone bill, maybe another bill”
Applicant: Ok, I can go to my car and search for something like a bill, I’ll be right back (his car was literally outside the door)
As the Applicant walked to his car, Lady looked at us, her face a mask of derision, as if we were most disappointing group of people she has ever had the misfortune of dealing with. She let out a dramatic sigh and called for the next person in line.
The next person in line was not a native English speaker and when Lady asked him, in what I had come to know as her “Welcome to the DMV, I wish you weren’t here” tone:
“WHAT DO YOU WANT?”
“To drive”, the unfortunate soul responded.
That was the last straw. Lady dramatically announced:
“I can’t work like this! I cannot do it. You people are making my life so hard!”
And then she casually turned around and walked away through a maze of desks into a dark room, from whence no one returns.
As she was walking away, the Original Gentleman, aka O.G, shouted:
“Yep, walk away, DO IT! I bet you’re Unionized. WAAAAALLLLLKKK off the job and still have a job. Try that at my job. Must be nice!”
I was internally shaking my head. No no no no no. Please do not make it worse O.G. Let Lady be. She spoke her truth. She can’t work like this, she said. Let her disappear into the dark room of escapism. Leave her alone!
We stood there in awkward suspense for about 10 minutes, quietly discussing the merits and demerits of walking away from our jobs, before Lady’s replacement arrived. We will call her Hero. Hero was nice. Hero was kind. Hero had a bad cold and had lost her voice.
She had a clipboard with a form on it, and needed us to write what we needed help with. To this day, it remains a mystery why we needed to write our requests on paper, when it was Hero who had lost her voice, and would be the one writing her responses to our inquiries. Details details. Hero is nice. Hero is kind.
Hero found a translator for the unfortunate soul, and he was able to apply for his Driver’s License.
It was finally my turn. I did not have the “Bill-like” document printed out, so I ended up getting a regular license (which I could have applied for online), and will have to return to the DMV at a later date, with every type of printed document I can lay my hands on, to apply for the Real ID. I will kill a few trees in the process because if the DMV attendants cannot physically hold the document and feel and smell the paper it is printed on, your document does not exist. Lovely.
As I was applying for my license, I overheard this conversation, also not paraphrased, exaggerated or taken out of context.
20-something year old Lost soul to DMV attendant: Can you tell me my address?
DMV Attendant to Lost soul: Ma’am, I do not know your address, YOU know your address.
Lost soul (rolls eyes): you don’t know MY ADDRESS? (shouting always motivates people to help, we all know this )
DMV attendant: No, I do not. You know where you live. That is your address.
Lost Soul: (deeply sighs) FINE!
I finally understood why the ladies and Gentlemen of the DMV are not all sunshine and rainbows. They are asked for things even Santa Claus would have difficulty providing. But sometimes, they are having a bad day, and then you get to spend your birthday with them and get a Birthday wish you would never make in this lifetime. Or the next.