Purgatory on Earth

I think we all know by now that the DMV has the potential to bring out the worst in people.

Or the best, depending on your frame of mind.

I would also think by now, most of us in Western civilization - or at least Eastern Pennsylvania - would just assume that if you have to face this necessary evil, you should plan on clearing your schedule for the day, bring a book, some hydration, and expect to hunker down for a bit.

Especially on a Tuesday morning near the end of the month.

Still, some people are surprisingly indignant and even personally offended when strolling into a government building and finding a minimum 90-minute wait facing them.

Never mind about all the rest of us, who've already resigned to doing the time and making the best of it. Never mind, either, that the unspoken thorn of this indignation is that most of us probably waited until the last minute to deal with stuff, meaning, if I can't wait here today, and then get arrested next week for driving on an expired license, this is somehow the DMV's fault for being so backed up, and whatingod'snameisthisworldcomingto?!

Such would have seemed to be the case as one woman who was simply furious at how wrong Wrong WRONG this whole 'stupid' building was, and how much she dreads coming to this awful place, and how upset she was that she has to waste an entire day just to get her license renewed, and how much effort it was for her to get to this godforsaken STUPID place, and did she mention how WRONG and STUPID this was?

Most of this wrath was unleashed on a meek, very, very calm employee there, who probably sees this every day, and I'm certain will be canonized. She has my vote. The rest of us standing or sitting behind this middle-aged Main Line tempest in pink flip-flops couldn't help looking at each other and laughing, like really? And here we were all thinking we wandered into a cocktail party!

As the employee was patiently trying to suggest more optimal days and times to come ('oh, so now I have to leave and come back during rush hour!?') in addition to locations closer to her  ("oh, great! I will NEVER be able to find THAT place!!") a nearby gentleman stepped in and not only was trying to give her directions, but, with his hand on her shoulder to calm her down, offered to take her to lunch.

A young gal standing next to me, who had been stifling sympathetic laughter this whole time, turned with an 'Awwwww....!" at this kind gesture, and then was as bewildered as the rest of us when the woman said, "No. That's very nice of you, but I'm just too mad. I'd be too mad to enjoy lunch!" (!!)

At which point, he turned, looked at us, shrugged his shoulders, and as he walked away, we were all like, "But, you can take us.....!"


I know I've behaved irrationally in the past. And probably will again in the future.

I know I've been so dang angry that I would not be (that) easily appeased by a free meal (unless you asked me twice. And threw in a glass of wine.)

But I hope this was a lesson to me - to all of us in that room  - in how ridiculous it is to get so worked up about something one has little power over and which isn't really THAT terrible, and that by being so caught up in outrage, one can be oblivious to the presence of blessings, as well as to a large room of people snickering and then applauding as I finally walked out the door.

Compare this to my son who was holding his ticket numbered #119 since we came in for a photo id at 10:15, while the photo booth counter still only now read #88 at 11:30. (It was at #64 when we arrived at 10:15).

We were cracking jokes about camping out overnight and stocking up on a handful of the first deli-style numbered tickets so we could scalp them out in the parking lot. Or musing on the possibilities of taking over one of the photo booths for a chair massage room, equipped with candles and soft music, and how cool would that be? Or telling the young kids reaching for the driving manuals on the rack behind us that they were five bucks.

I also got to practice my wu chi, like, a lot, and I can say after two hours of standing (with one bathroom break) my back and legs weren't tired at all.

Or, like with another woman who walked in, and when seeing the enormous line before her threatened - in a somewhat loud tone - that she had an epi-pen in her purse and wasn't afraid to use it if she had to wait too long. Or an inhaler, if things got really rough.

See? Ya gotta know how to roll with it.

You go into these things, expecting the worst, but hoping for the best, and if they're worse than even what you imagined, you make slightly inappropriate and very untimely jokes about opening fire in a crowded building.

And somehow she managed to get out in like, 15 minutes - brandishing her license at the rest of us losers - which made me just a little concerned.

Still, she did offer to lend us her epi-pen if we'd had enough.

What's the moral here? I guess if you're going to be in hell, or at least purgatory, there's no need to make it worse. No one's time is worth more than another. Some people had small children there. One couple was in their 90's, and did they really want to be spending their precious hours in this god-forsaken place? It took them 8 minutes just to get in the door, what with the canes and the walkers - I know, because I was holding it for them. And even they were joking about it.

This poor woman - the topic of my post - exclaimed to all within ear shot that she was always in such a state of dread about this whole experience. The people at the DMV are a lot nicer than they used to be, and short of rolling out a red carpet and offering champagne on the way in, I'm not sure what could make it more pleasant for her.

Okay, so less of a wait time, more people on staff and fewer lunch breaks, and clearer instructions, and maybe some reading material, or a tv screen, and would it kill ya to put a couple pictures of something on the walls besides identity thieves?

I don't know why the DMV has to be so sparse and boring.

Other than I have a slightly metaphysical and twisted theory that there is a divine plan behind daily streaming a cross-section of humans from all walks of life into a mandatory meeting place with no distraction from the interminable wait other than their own thoughts and feelings about it - and each other, just to let us see what we're really made of.

It's either a brilliant spiritual opportunity, or amusement for the gods.

I'm just thankful that my license isn't up for renewal for another three years.


(PS: She did come back in, after ranting outside on the phone for 20 minutes. She sat down, with a book and water (see? prepared!) and after settling into some DMV war-story conversation with the couple next to her, I saw her smile, and all was right with the world again. Praise be.)