Doing Time at the DMV
The office opens at 8:00, by 8:20 a.m. a snake-like line had formed. Weaving its way from the front desk, coiled around the royal blue plastic chairs, in front of the three sided room that adjoins the main area that holds clip boards and pens then winding all the way to the restrooms at the back of the building. The walls are blank white, smudged and scratched where countless people have leaned against it, resting and waiting for their turn. Numerous colorful posters decorate the sparse walls listing steps and instructions. On the wall to the left of the three sided room a flat screen TV hangs.
The image on the screen cycles through the programed slides, one of the slides shows both in English and in Spanish reads, “Ticket numbers are not called in numerical order or by arrival time. Your number is assigned by service required. The automated voice for your required service will call your number. When your number is called you must respond immediately, otherwise you will lose your place, we ask for your patience so that we can give all customers efficient and accurate service.”
“That doesn’t seem fair,” says a woman sitting in one of the blue waiting chairs as she nods in the direction of the television screen to older man next to her. The young girl in her lap pulls on her light brown hair, her mother gives the child a stern disapproving look and the child settles down. “How long have you been here?,” he asks the woman, “Eight.” “Wow,” the older man says as he scratches his white short cropped hair and checks his watch, it read 9:57.
The line inches forward slowly at a snail’s pace. Slowly each person makes it to the front desk. A woman enters through door wearing a black and white checkered jacket, eyebrows drawn together, mouth agape, she addresses the people in line by the door, “Where is the end of the line?” A woman dressed entirely in black with a furry hood points across the room of blue chairs filled with people waiting.
Those who are patient enough to make it through the line are greeted by a woman wearing the work uniform, a crisp blue collared shirt with the company logo etched in black thread onto the left breast of the shirt, however this woman also wears a dark brown jacket with the company’s logo, Department of Motor Vehicles embossed onto it in gold.
“Next in line,” the lady at the front desk calls after each person leaves her desk with paper work and a number in hand. People either head for one of the plastic blue waiting chairs or a spot against one of the white walls where the waiting begins.
People make conversation, listen to iPods, space out looking at the ceiling with their heads tilted to the side, use their phones, or stare angrily striaght ahead with their arms crossed in front of them. Stomachs grumble and people complain about the line and the slowly passing time. Parents struggle to keep their young ones in check as they grow restless, “Cut that out and stand still!” a woman’s voice says. A baby cries loudly, making its presence known with a constant stream of nonsense words.
“953 at desk 1,” chimes the overhead voice, chopping up the word so each number is a separate word, the number transforms into “Nine hundred, fifty, three.” “18 at desk 5,” “202 at desk 3,” “713 at desk 1.” The automated voice constantly calls out numbers, but not fast enough for the people waiting. The patrons whose numbers have been called stand up quickly, smiling, their ordeal is almost over.
“It took me two hours and 41 minutes to get through the line at the DMV,” a person complains into her cell phone as she heads out the door.