G-096: Dispatch from the DMV CA

I hadn’t been into the Department of Motor Vehicles in a long time. And so when it was time for my 2019 Driver License renewal? It was time to pay a DMV Field Office a visit.  I was headed to the office in Santa Clara.  It was the place I had taken my original driving test long ago.  It is actually the only DMV office I’ve been to.   I was psyched.

I didn’t think far enough ahead to make an appointment before my license was due to expire, so I queued up on the Non-Appointment Line when I arrived. It was 7:49am on Saturday. There were already 50 people in line outside. The office didn’t open until 8:00am, so the website said. I thought, “51st in line? Shouldn’t take too too long.”

A little boy in a black and red checkered hoodie was waiting on a bench, brought along by his parent on a Saturday morning for the adventure.  My kids were still in bed at home.  Actually, our son had woken up just before I left the house.  The other two were still snoozing.

“Good Luck,” my wife said as I departed. “Enjoy the solitude and your book.” Funny thing, being a parent with three little kids, any time to yourself is luxurious.

When I got inside the DMV building, it seemed like there were a couple hundred folks in various lines, at different stages of being processed, taking care of their business. There were a lot more than the folks I’d seen in line.   But everything seemed to be clicking along at the many work stations scatted throughout the big room.  Bureaucracy at its finest.

I wasn’t sure how long it would take.  Funny thing? I didn’t mind.  I was happy to be taking care of something that had been on my to-do list for a couple months; I was happy about that little bit of solitude; I was happy about the hot coffee in my travel mug.

I chatted with a nice lady in line, enjoyed a little people- watching (I’m told by others that it’s more like “staring”, but I’m working to be more discrete). The variety of people reflected the variety that live in this busy and diverse San Francisco Bay Area. Various languages and attire, on folks of all ages and persuasions. I love it.

A lot happens at the DMV, a variety of transactions and tests and miscellaneous state government business. It’s a main government channel to the masses. If you haven’t been in an office for a while, or haven’t browsed the department’s website, you might forget. I sorta did. So I was grateful things kept moving. Every minute or so another number was called; screens overhead told us what numbers were being served where.

My number? It was G-096.

I waited maybe a half hour, maybe 45 minutes. Then I heard my number on the loud speaker, saw the number on the screen, and things started moving.

I went to Window Number 9. The person there was pleasant and professional. She cut me a little slack to help me correct an error I’d made on my application.

After she was done processing my application and support documents from her station, she sent me on.

I arrived to queue in Line D. Another 10 minute wait. Another nice person at the desk to do her part helping my application move though the process, including the universally loved / hated license headshot photo. I gave a little smile.

Then I moved to Line C to wait for the final steps  of the transaction and issuance of the temporary license.

And then it was done. I walked outside into the brisk morning sunlight. I felt a little moisture in the air, promise of the rain due later in the day. I heard geese honking in the distance.

A couple hours of my life complete, the rest of the weekend ahead, a quiet satisfaction in my head. A basic but very necessary task was accomplished, and some simple lessons, ones I seem to learn over and over again.

Be early. Be prepared. Be friendly. Pay attention. Listen carefully. Be patient. Take your time. Think.

These lessons I try to teach my kids, kids like that little boy I saw sitting on the bench. They’re lessons I keep learning over and over again, too.

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