Hell, Me, and the DMV

“Hell Under, Hell Above, Hell All Around,” James Ensor

I have a super power: anytime I decide to tackle the day head-on, the day tackles me. The power works inversely, too. Anytime I decide “bleep it, I hate everything,” the day goes great and I end up on an amazing adventure. This morning I was determined to start the day brand new. So, naturally, I ended up trapped at the DMV.

Nobody likes the DMV. The people who work at the DMV don’t even like the DMV. The Department of Motor Vehicles is the embodiment of unhappiness crossed with bureaucratic necessity. So it’s like sixth grade, but with driving.

Anyway, after losing my Illinois driver’s license – and after the standard mourning period over my inability to keep things – I headed to the DMV. It was still early; I felt ready to seize a new day and a new license. The line wasn’t even bad. Things were looking good.

Then I learned I’d have to retake the written exam, possibly the driven exam, and wait for three hours. I would also have to get Illinois to prove that I am licensed. Also the electronic system for running through patron requests broke down. And finally, I was going to miss an important appointment. My day had just gone Costanza.

If you do not know George Costanza from “Seinfeld,” this picture of him still explains everything.

My super power had taken effect and modified the space-time continuum. “Carpe diem” became “and you thought getting up this morning was smart.” The electronic readouts of directions had gone dark. The line for new requests spilled outside. Someone desperately shouted from the crowd, “How long will we have to wait?” Then, as if to confirm the magnificence of my horrible power, an employee answered, “I have no idea.” I think somewhere a baby cried. And a dog whimpered. And a fifteen-year-old wept for his permit.

A woman wandered around shouting patron request numbers to direct us to the correct window. She had a hard time keeping track of the numbers she said, and she had a unique way of pronouncing “G,” “B,” “A,” and “F” that made them all sound exactly the same. Perhaps this was her own super power. It was about as helpful as mine.

The mass of humanity trapped at the DMV started organizing and defending itself. Everyone kept track of the numbers that had been shouted, and we all made sure no one was missed. People would stop and say, “That’s my number, but he’s got one before me.” Rather than foaming at the mouth and trampling on one another, we showed remarkable organization and compassion. I was moved at the human beings around me. And perplexed at how superior we were to the DMV at being the DMV.

Eventually, I passed my test and got my little temporary California permit. The man who handed me my papers at the end of my journey saved me from any further torture. I smiled at him in gratitude. He scowled.

I escaped and counted my blessings. I had learned that people could be helpful and good, and that the DMV is hapless and evil.

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