Monday, October 3, 2011

Department of Motor Vehicles

Today I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew the registration on my vehicles.
As I walked into the unassuming, fluorescent-lighted office, nestled between an insurance office and a pet store in a generic Midwestern strip mall, I hoped that my experience would be the same - mundane and uneventful.

License and Registration, Sir
But as I walked into the government office, a wave of warm, pungent aroma washed over me. The small gray room was a cauldron of swirling body odors. It did not matter the age, race, gender, or station of the citizen, their smell was represented in my olfactory.

Slowly my nasal passages calloused to the harsh scents and I made my way through the melting pot and to the woman at the front desk. Taking my ticker tape that bore the number "774", I glanced around to take stock of my situation.

The electronic signs above the cubicles read "942", "946", and "947". Judging by the people standing below these neon numerals, those digits may have been indicative of the number of hours they'd been waiting.

Never have I been in such close proximity to so many people who's collective apathy and loathing was directed at a few drab-uniformed government employees. And those employees radiated equal-and-opposite apathy directly back. The tension burned in my sinuses worse than the body odor.

A woman a few seats away from me held a child, who in turn held an iPhone. The child evidently was not happy with the game selection that Apple proffered, and was vocal about this deficiency. Unable to keep the child quiet, she sternly threatened,

"If you don't start acting better, I'm taking you out to the car to sit with grandma."

Aren't there laws against leaving your grandma in a car unattended? I hope she left the windows cracked.


A man behind me, in an effort to pass the time, strikes up a conversation with the gentleman next to him. Their words add to the din of the crowd, when suddenly I overhear the man say,

"So do you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon?"

"No, that wouldn't be a good idea. I am an angry person."

The second man proceeds to go into his resume of car thievery and automotive parts trafficking. The conversation meandered through the cacophony of children wailing, phones sounding, and what I can only assume was the wheezing cough of avian bird flu.

The man boasted his conquests of car repossession, ATF cajoling, and dog beating. Judging by the inflection and light-hearted quality of his tone, he truly felt that this was the American dream.

And if that is his dream, I salute the achievement.


Finally, after two hours of listening to "Grand-Theft-Stupid" and "Geriatri-buse", my number is called. I land in the cubicle with the excitement of a schoolgirl at recess. Handing the woman my old registration, I chimed, "I need to renew my registration! What information do you need?"

"I'll let you know when I need it."

Ok. Sorry for my attempt to assist.

The curmudgeonous woman began clicking away at her computer, her fingers using all the excitement she could muster. Honestly, to call her a curmudgeon would be kind. She tottered around with an unyieldingly sour face, then handed me a bill with a little sticker on it.

"Are you paying with cash, check, or credit?"

That was the most expensive sticker I have ever bought. But also the most entertaining one.


  1. You know you can renew your plates online right?

  2. Yeah, but then what would I have to write about?

    "You've got to go to the people if you want to know the people."

    -I said that.