Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Did you ever go into some place and think, "This is exactly what people joke about!"  I know my friends, the priest, the rabbi, and I felt like that when we walked into a bar the other night.  But I digress...

But seriously, I was just reminded of such a place when talking to friends of mine about jury duty.  While describing the...ahem...unusual people there, one of them said, "It's like a trip to the DMV."  Well that was enough for me.  I have my new blog topic.  Thanks Lauretta for going to jury duty, and thanks Jeanie for mentioning the DMV.  I was almost going to have to write, in excruciating detail, some nonsense about a minute aspect of my life...which is totally different from what I am doing now.

It seems that I was in the mood to release a little pent up "I CANNOT BELIEVE THEY LET YOU DO THAT AND STILL GET PAID" anger while describing a trip to the doctor yesterday.  I suppose there was just a bit more pressure built up, so DMV lady...you're next!

The DMV, for people in other countries or states, is California's Department of Motor Vehicles.  If you wish to drive legally in California you need to have dealings with them.  It's not as if there is any competition for their services either.  They have a corner on the vehicle market...and there are certain people who know this, and act like it.  Before I begin, I should mention that I have encountered many wonderful people actually working at the DMV.  They were helpful, kind, and expedient,  I have actually had people get supervisors to waive certain fees when I plead my case and explained why they shouldn't apply in my particular case.  But that is not always the case.  In fact, there are comedians who make a living joking about the unmotivated who occupy the DMV.  The regulations, the fees, the handbook that is printed in twenty seven languages even though the road signs are all printed in one, but most often, and most related to my story is the utter apathy that forces certain employees to work at arthritic snail's pace.  And that is where our story begins.

Sylvia and I were lucky enough to be able to purchase a new trailer some time ago.  We are both teachers so we have the summers to take the kids traveling all over this great country of ours.  Our old trailer had been giving us trouble and, as much as we loved it, we needed to upgrade to a newer model.  In case you are wondering if it is time for you to replace your trailer.  If things start falling off while you are driving down the highway...you're nearly ready.  If your sewer tank starts leaking on the campsite while your camping neighbors are outside eating breakfast...pull the trigger.  It just so happened that we were in Oregon when it became very obvious that it was time to replace.  We found a reputable dealer, a wonderful trailer, and a fair price.  One day of bargaining, one of transferring everything over from old to new, and we were new trailer owners.  The dealership did all of the paperwork needed to register the camper in California and gave us a stack of papers to give to the DMV.  Then they warned us, when you cross the border, stop at the first DMV you see and register it.  California can give you a ticket if you aren't fully registered.  I joked, "Surely you jest."  He said, "I could tell you horror stories...and stop calling me Shirley."

Sylvia and I, rebels to the core, decided to risk it and traveled the ten hours through our litigious state without even attempting to find a DMV.  When we got home, parked it in front of our house, and pried my hands from the steering wheel of the truck, I went to the DMV.  I carried in my stack of papers and the check that had been carefully calculated for us in Oregon.  To visit the DMV in our state we now need to make reservations .  It seems that people have been taking entire days off work to handle DMV problems and still managing to fail at their tasks.  I, again the rebel, decided to make a stealth attack.  I walked in the front door, grabbed my little take a number tag, and waited until someone called me to a window.  I thought that I could do this at one window since the paperwork was already completed in Oregon.  I was young and foolish.  Well I was foolish anyway.  When I finally got called to a window I presented my completed paperwork with an air of, your job has been done for you...please give me my license plates.  She took one look at my stack and said, "Where is the trailer?"

"At my house."

"I need to see it."

"Come by any time.  We're just cleaning it out from our trip.  Are you looking to buy one yourself?"


"I need to see it, to prove that it exists."

"Oh it exists all right.  It is large, white and blue, and at the moment a little cluttered. We could use some help cleaning it out if you are free."

**cricket**cricket**cricket**(DMV workers are not known for their sense of humor)
"I need to verify that it exists."

I gave up trying to be funny and then asked.  "Is this a big problem in the state of California?  People coming down to the DMV and volunteering to pay thousands of dollars for imaginary vehicles as a joke?  Besides the fact that it is thirty feet long and being pulled by a fifteen foot truck.  I had trouble finding a place to put our nine foot minivan.  Where exactly am I supposed to put it?"  (Given the general mood at the DMV there were several rude answers to this question...general apathy and malaise won out and I was spared a smart-aleck response)

"Bring it down.  Park it in the driveway over there.  Come to the counter."

"So you're saying I should just block 90% of the roadway?"

"Bring it down.  Park it in the driveway over there.  Come to the counter. Press the buzzer outside and we'll let you in."

I left, dejected, my dreams of the fastest trip to the DMV on record dashed on the jagged rocks of bureaucracy, and I got the trailer.  I, unbelievably, pulled into the driveway and proceeded to park it in the one straight area large enough for something this large, the driveway.  Sixteen-year-olds trying to take their driver's tests be darned!  I have to prove I exist!  I walked up to the door and they buzzed me in.  I half expected to be yelled at for taking up most of their available space but apparently lots of people have had to prove they weren't registering imaginary vehicles in the past.  A woman grabbed a clipboard from the counter, asked where it was (Seriously?...it's the big white thing that everyone is honking at right outside the big wall of windows), and began to shuffle off toward the trailer.  I began to follow her...sort of.  I took three steps and had left her three steps behind.  I stopped, waiting for her to catch up.

I am about to fail to describe how absolutely slowly this woman moved.  Speedy Gonzales she was not.  I am not exaggerating when I say that neither of her feet ever completely left the ground.  Sssshht ssshht ssshht ssshht Her feet scraped the ground!  I am not built for speed.  I have been told, at least three times a week, that I have the patience of a saint.  This woman was making me feel like running around her like a springer spaniel bouncing for her attention and trying to get her to throw the ball.  I could have moseyed, hands in my pockets, all the way around the parking lot before she got off the curb.  Sssshht ssshht ssshht ssshht  She kept plugging along.  Now don't think that I am making fun of someone who was impaired in some way.  From all indications this woman was 100% healthy and capable of walking.  She was not 117 years old.  She was about the same age as I was and while she looked like she hadn't missed a lot of meals (much like me), she was certainly not grossly out of shape.  And it continued.  Sssshht ssshht ssshht ssshht  A snail passed her.  ssshht  A glacier passed her.  ssshht  I looked at the hour hand on my watch...it looked like a propeller!  ssshht  The seasons changed, calendar pages started flying off the wall, my kids got married, had kids, and retired.  ssshht  And then their kids retired. ssshht

It would have been comical if she was trying to be funny.  She really worked and walked this slowly.  I was dumbfounded.  It was as if she were trying to make up for years of missed coffee breaks by working at one tenth the speed of the average octogenarian.  And she made no apologies or attempts to improve.  "I can do this and I dare the world to tell me different!"  It wasn't bad enough that we had to get to the trailer, she had a checklist!  Let's see: tires, check, lights, check, license plate, check, are there any reasons why this trailer should not be in California (You mean other than if I didn't own it I would never have to deal with the DMV again?  No!)  Then she pulled the trigger and made this unbelievable experience turn into a surreal nightmare.  I need to see the Vehicle Identification Number...

I screamed, "Noooooooooooo!!!"  You see with our first trailer I needed to find the VIN once before.  It was fifteen minutes of crawling, searching, scraping, flashlight holding, and scavenger hunting.  And that was with a person who operated at normal speed.  (I refuse to tell you that we finally found it stamped, in two in tall numbers, on the most accessible portion of the trailer.  Now I had to do it with the slowest human being on the planet.  I checked the same place as the first trailer...I'm not that lucky.  She came Sssshht ssshht ssshht ssshhting around the back.  I frantically searched and searched.  There was no way I would allow myself to be held hostage any longer.  After a few quick guesses I found it written on a sticker in the door...that meant she was only seventeen feet away.  I couldn't wait.  I started yelling out 1HN23!!  She was content with that and looked down at her clipboard.  76345L "mmmHmmmm"  C9807  That placated her and she started shuffling back toward the building.  I ran ahead and held the door for her.  I glanced at the other workers, people who were actually doing their work, and expected to see disapproving glares at their lackadaisical coworker...There were none.  Apparently this was a common occurrence and they had all been accustomed to her and her less than stellar work habits.  I was mortified.

To make a short story long, I proved that the trailer existed, I paid them the thousands of dollars that they felt we owed them, and we are now the registered owners of a new trailer.  I have often wondered why someone would work and walk so slowly.  There are many different reasons but the one I suspect is this.  If the world is ever overrun by zombies she will be safe.  When the zombies are shuffling off to attack...she will just fall in step and blend in...Sssshht ssshht ssshht ssshht

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