Driving Test Day at the DMV
This hub started out with the title "A beautiful day at the DMV." There I was. Sitting in the passenger seat of my car. Accompanying my son to his big, long-awaited, long-practiced-for driving test. Sonny was setting the mood for himself by playing one of his homemade rap CDs.
I said to him, "It's a beautiful day here at the DMV! Hey! That sounds like a song title, doesn't it?" He said, "Tell you what, Mom. I'll make the beat and you can write the words." So that was my intention, going into the experience.
I bet I know what you're thinking. Beautiful day/interaction with public servants behind a desk = total oxymoron. Overprotective mother/private sector cynic goes to the state motor vehicles department looking for tangled red tape and exasperation. Seeking evidence that DMV workers are lazy and stupid and just don't give a frig about serving the public. No, it's more than that. They're vindictive, taking a not-so-secret delight in torturing us. They can take their sweet time calling patrons up to the next window -- they've got all day (or at least till 3:59). Your time don't mean shit. Besides, they hold all the cards here. They can grant or withhold the right to drive (legally, anyway). That's a lot of power.
Surprisingly, our interactions with the woman at window 13 went surprisingly smoothly. She even went out of her way to help me! I thought I had all the necessary paperwork, but as we reached the front of the line I discovered the car registration was not in my stack. I knew this information could be readily found in the DMV database. The question was, would she comply? Or would she send me back out to the car to fetch my copy?
I was all set to gush profusely over her bracelet (it was lovely so that wouldn't have been a stretch). But turns out I didn't need to. She helpfully extracted the registration form, printed it, and stapled it to Sonny's paperwork.
I could be wrong, but I think she even wished him good luck.
Back outside, it was time to take our place in the line of cars. I dutifully accompanied Sonny up to the front, then hopped out to wait for him to strut his stuff behind the wheel.
Now, I'm a studier of people. I love to people watch wherever I go. Although I've gotten better (most days) at the whole "contempt prior to investigation" (aka, snarky, petty judgments) thing, I still tend to form snap opinions about people.
I was on high alert this morning, for obvious reasons. One of these more-or-less normal-looking people holding a clipboard held my son's driving future in his/her hands. Which examiner would we get? Which one did we hope to get? Who looked the nicest? Who looked mean and cranky?
Interestingly, most of the DMV driving test administrators were female. Many looked to be between the ages of 18-25. I briefly wondered (given the state of the economy) if I should look into this as a way to supplement my income.
A dour looking brunette approached our car. Without cracking a smile she ordered me out and Sonny to drive up to the white line.
I had the dubious pleasure of watching him do the "instrument panel" test. Man was I glad I'd thought to prep him on the emergency brake and hazard button just last night! Unfortunately, he bungled his hand signals. He got "left turn" ok, but for "right turn" he reached his right arm over toward the passenger seat inside the car. I snickered. The DMV lady was not amused.
They drove off and I made myself comfy next to two middle-aged women chatting amiably. The one holding the tabloid newspaper (headline: OJ goes carrraaaazy!!) was talking about corporal punishment. Out of nowhere she said, "Hillary Clinton was right. It does take a village to raise children." The other woman, with pouffy dyed hair and drawn-on eyebrows, agreed.
My feeble attempt to join the conversation was to comment, "These days you better be careful spanking your own kid, let alone a neighbor's or anybody else's. They'll call CPS on you. And they all know that too!"
*CPS = Child Protective Services, for those of you who live somewhere where it might be called something else.
Suddenly a red-faced man carrying a little oxygen bag appeared. He asked if he could share the bench with me. Of course I said yes.
Well, I soon discovered the real reason he needed to carry oxygen around with him. If I talked as much as he did, I'd need an extra hit of air every 15 minutes, too!
We all know the type I'm talking about here: "The Talker." No, strike that. "The BRAGGER." It's one thing to make small talk with a stranger, to trade comments related to some commonality -- in this case, both of us waiting for our teens to (hopefully) pass their driving tests. It's quite another to impose your personal information and views on someone without their consent.
I honestly don't know how long it took for Sonny to finish his test. To me it seemed like an eternity. I tried my very best to be polite. I held back the urge to say something contrary or rude (knowing full well I'd have the opportunity to vent here later:-).
Sure, the guy's a proud grandpa. Yay! His granddaughter is a straight A student. Good for him, he retired from driving trucks. How impressive that he can drive anything on the road and that he's taught 1000 people to drive! How exciting for the granddaughter, finally being "allowed" to obtain her license as a sophomore in COLLEGE. And bonus: if she passes today, Grandpa will teach her to drive the motorhome, too!!
I did try to inject my own thoughts here and there. It was futile. Every comment or topic I'd introduce, he'd one-up me.
And let me tell you, the man has some interesting opinions, too. He firmly believes that teens should not drive while they are in school. Why, you ask? Well, that should be obvious! It detracts from their main focus, schoolwork!! If they get their permit or license they'll want to spend time driving around instead of studying (uh, yeah, like all their friends are allowed to do).
Oh, and then someone might bring a joint into the car, or beer.....
It was at that point I had to make a split decision. Say nothing? Or shock the hearing aids right off him?
- California Department of Motor Vehicles
The Department of Motor Vehicles enhances traffic safety through the testing and monitoring of drivers; protects identity by ensuring the integrity of DMV's database and the integrity of the licensing, identification, and registration documents it is
What I wanted to say was, "Oh honey. I am waaaaayyyyy past worrying about weed and beer. I'm sure glad my son's kicked his heroin addiction, tho. That last rehab really turned his life around. Praise God."
What I said instead was, "Oh, there comes my son now. He doesn't look too happy. I hope he did ok."
At that moment my son shot me a thumbs up. I jumped up, leaving the old windbag in mid sentence.
It turned out to be a beautiful day at the DMV after all.
Other DMV Hubs of Interest
- Light Reading at the DMV
Believe it or not a visit to your local Department of Motor Vehicles can be quite educational. It was for me. I recommend it to everyone. The next time you visit the DMV to have your license or registration renewed, take a good look around.