Friday, April 27, 2018

Tales from the DMV

On Thursday, Grey and I decided to brave the DMV. I've been dreading this visit since we learned we were moving, given that the last experience I had involved one of the field agents chastising me for daring to hyphenate my last name following sending me home twice before to get signatures on paperwork that previously were not specified. Determined to not have a repeat, I spent a week researching all we would need ahead of time, including making sure that we went to the correct office (only 3 offices in California process driver's license applications without an appointment; it currently take 5 weeks to get an appointment; by law, we are suppose to get driver's licenses 10 days after establishing residency) all while hoping that we wouldn't have any more horror stories to add to our collection.

It was wishful thinking.

I knew we were in trouble when Grey woke up with stomach troubles. Despite the plan to drop the Beats early at school, we got a later start, putting us in line at the DMV around 8:30 am. On most planets, this wouldn't be a huge issue, but the end result of having submitted an application at 9:15 am instead closer to 8 am meant we would then spend the next 5 1/2 hours sitting in folding chairs, watching 2-3 DMV employees slowly service over 200 people.

In the course of those hours, I watched people of all shapes and sizes unleash their frustration in familiar and novel ways. The most memorable where the older woman who seemingly hexed the DMV manager after 6 hours of waiting and learning that most the staff was out on lunch break, the elderly guy who was angry that the staff called the police after he left a small dog trapped in his car for over 2 hours (it got up to 70 degrees yesterday) and overly entitled couple who decided waiting in lines wasn't their thing.

In the end, I left Grey at the DMV and made my way back to our town to grab the Beats. I would learn 30 mins later that not only was my name finally called 10 mins after I left the building (of course), but they had botched my name, asking instead for "Krishna."

Thankfully Grey passed his driving test and was through the process. But it meant I had to go back.

If you're ever bored or having a rough day, I highly recommend searching "DMV horror stories." Why an "Office" or "Parks and Recreation" version TV show hasn't been aired on the comings and goings of this setting baffles me as the amount of fodder is mind-blowing. From long hours of waiting to bizarre driving exam questions to the forms, there's enough there for any inspiring author. And that's the normal stuff. Where it gets fun is when there are disagreements or someone decides to get pushy. Usually fueled by the system crashing or problems with DMV machines.

In the past, I've failed driver's tests due to the online test freezing, had 3 different agents tell me 3 different ways to fill out title forms (sign here followed by "why did you sign here?" followed by "this is the wrong form" only to stop mid-sentence, look confused and mutter "never mind."). All of it gives me the shakes seeing as it's extremely easy to find yourself forever trapped in the confines of these offices.

Over the years the horror stories have only gotten worse, directly linked with cuts in government funding. Grey was quick to point out yesterday that when you underpay and understaff these agencies, it's hard not to expect dismal conditions. Still, after 7 hours of sitting, he declared this the worse experience he's had so far.

And he only had to get a new driver's license (Cristy is in charge of doing the car title transfer; which is at an entirely different office).

This morning, I was back in line at the same DMV. Determined to not wait 6 hours again for nothing, I made sure to arrive at 7:30 am. I won't tell you what time I was up this morning to make lunches and pack the Beats off to school, but my hunch paid off when the employees emerged shortly after I got in line and gave out instructions for how the day would proceed.

I got my new application in at 8:07 am and found myself in the coveted line for processing by 9:15 am. Unlike everyone around me, I had all my materials (Passport, Social Security Care, old driver's license and proof of residence) in order, meaning that the agent was easily able to finalize everything.

And then I failed the written test. Missing questions that were clearly misspelled or had two answers that were insanely close in meaning.

All making me want to cry.

Instead I found myself at window 5, wiping away tears while the agent behind the counter took pity on me and gave me a form to do the test again.

60 mins later I was back in front of a computer, slowly reading each question twice, drinking over a liter of water to calm my nerves. And only missing 2 questions. One of which asked the following:
You're on a one-way street and the driver in front of you is going slowly, making frequent stops. You:
A) pass on the shoulder
B) flash your lights at them
C) reduce the distance between your vehicles
I wanted to scream when the computer flashed "Congratulations" at me. That and the fact that I needed to pee so badly.

I'm still not in the clear as we still have to register our car (aka Lenny) and we are running out of time to do so (20 days following establishing residency). But given that Lenny has already passed his Smog check (with flying colors!!!) and we have the title, in theory it should be a fairly straight-forward process.

In theory....


  1. OMG, no wonder the DMV gets a bad rap!! -- I thought our equivalent offices were bad -- I've been in lineups that took an hour or so to get through -- but nothing like that!! Crossing my fingers for you that your next visits are not so stressful!

  2. Did I ever tell you about the time that I lost my mind at the DMV and they called the police on me? Not one of my prouder moments, but the DMV drives people to do crazy things.

    Seriously though, I’m glad you got your license and came out relatively unscathed! Fingers crossed that the car title transfer goes off without a hitch!

  3. Good grief, I could feel my blood pressure rise as I read your post. I hope Lenny goes smoothly. Or at least MORE smoothly.

  4. WTAF. That is bureaucracy from hell! Mind you I’ve never moved to another province so not sure how Canadian system compares.

  5. Ugh, that sounds terrible! And I feel super naive, but I didn't realize you had to go through all that to get a new driver's license in a different state! I thought it was a transfer thing, didn't realize there was a test involved. Yipes. I've been in NY since I was 2, so the worst I've had at the DMV is constant name changing (THREE times!). I'm glad it's over and congrats on passing! That would have made me want to scream, too.

  6. I read this the other day on my phone, so sorry I'm late to comment.

    Good grief! I can't believe the inefficiency of the DMV. We hear about it as a joke on US media, but to hear about it in action is another thing!


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