Dealing with the DMV blues

I believe it is every Californian’s right, if not duty, to complain about the Department of Motor Vehicles. So, to keep my state citizenship in tact, here I go.

Before I get to the details, I must say that I saw no discrimination at my local DMV office. Whether you were white, Black, Hispanic, Native American, disabled, abled, tall, short, fat, skinny or anything else, everyone was equally mistreated. One positive thing is that while we all stood in nearly 100-degree heat for hours on end, everyone wore a mask. I attribute this to some uncommon common sense by the citizenry, not to anything the DMV did. And while everyone started out about six-feet apart, the closer we got to the door, the shorter the socially distant distance became.

I wasn’t looking forward to spending part of my life at the DMV because being both a senior (67) and a diabetic, I have two of the high-risk factors for COVID-19.  But I had no choice. My license expires on my birthday at the end of August, and I figured, being mid-July, I’d get it over with. The last two renewals were done either online or through the mail, and this time, I needed a new photo and a new thumbprint. I also wanted to apply for the Real ID so I could be ready to fly off somewhere should the pandemic ever end.

So I dutifully grabbed my renewal notice which I received a month earlier, logged in to the DMV website at home and started typing away. All went well, and I received what I thought would be a time-saving confirmation code.

Now, I can’t speak for other offices, but my particular DMV office is not making any new appointments, so I was informed that I had to head down there. This was midmorning on a Monday, and, since I had nothing else to do while I was in COVID quarantine, I pulled my mask off its hook, bid my wife a goodbye and drove off.

When I arrived, I found that the line wrapped around the building.  I figured how bad could it be? I had a confirmation code, so, surely, I wouldn’t have to wait too long. HA!!!.

After nearly two hours of slight progress, and with an intense need to pee (remember, I’m an old diabetic), I asked an employee if she could give me her best guess as to how much longer the wait would be, based on her experience. “I don’t know,” she grumbled. Then, knowing I couldn’t last much longer, I asked what time the office opened in the morning, “8 o’clock”…another grumble, adding that by 7:45, the line was already around the building.

I asked if it would be better if I came about 6. Grumble. Grumble. “I don’t know.” Frustrated, I said “This is not a very good system.” “Blame it on the virus,” she said loud and clear, which really pissed me off, so I left.

Early the next morning, my wife and I packed the car with all sorts of supplies, including drinks, snacks and a urinal, just in case. She came along so that if I had to use the urinal in the car, she could hold my place in line. We never took this much stuff when we went on vacation.

We arrived about 6:45 only to find that the line had already started. Fortunately, only about six people and a vacant place-holding chair were ahead of us. At that time, it was fairly cool, so that eased things a bit.

Finally, at about 7:45, things started moving, but my wife had to go to the bathroom, so she headed home, figuring she’d have plenty of time to make it there and back. Meanwhile, I got in and I immediately called to tell her to turn around and head back, which she did.

At long last, my confirmation code was about to do me some good. While many others had to start the paperwork process from scratch on one of the DMV computers, I triumphantly waved my confirmation code in the air, which allowed me to proceed right to a window, where a very nice lady got things started. Actually, I didn’t brag about the confirmation code. If I had, I probably would have been beaten up by some of the very frustrated people around me

Things were proceeding smoothly until it came time to take my thumbprint. For some reason, the reader wouldn’t read, and it had to be reset over and over again, all the while I’m thinking about my poor wife sitting in the car having to use the bathroom. Eventually success, and I was sent to the next window to have my photo taken.

Again, I had to put my thumb in the reader, and again, no luck. After more resetting, it finally worked. Maybe I have a defective right thumb.

And then I was done, and we rushed home. Luckily, we have two bathrooms, so my wife and I each had our own.

What I don’t understand is why the DMV had to blame all the delay on the virus. There’s only so much you can blame on the pandemic. If stores and other operations can adapt, why can’t the DMV? Why open at 8 a.m. (especially when the posted hours say it opens at 7) and not 7 or 6 when people are already there waiting? And why not stay open later than 5 p.m.? And why not open weekends, or hire more people? With so many people out of work, I doubt they’d have a hard time filling the jobs.

It was very frustrating, but at least it’s done, and, next time, maybe, I’ll be able to renew online, unless, because of my age I’d have to take a driving test. Maybe I should apply for my next renewal now.



Published by Mike Sturman

I am a retired journalist with nearly 30 years in the field, during which time I was a reporter and held numerous editor positions at local newspapers and a number of magazines. After I retired, I was a sub in my local school district, then did PR for that district. I hold a Bachelor's Degree in journalism, and as for my politics, that's simple: I'm a liberal Democrat. I'm married, and my wife recently retired after 25 years as a teacher. We have one daughter, who has earned her PhD and works at a UC. Through this blog, I hope to pass on some interesting thoughts and ideas, entertain with some lighthearted posts and generally quell my pandemic-induced boredom.

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