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Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

DMV: Department of Multiple Virtues

Yesterday, I spent the day at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Nearly four hours of my life, waiting, that I will never get back.  It doesn’t even matter if I tell you which state-level government office I went to, as they are all pretty much the same.  Non-descript, concrete block buildings where, appointment or not, you wait.  And wait.  And wait some more.

If you find yourself lacking for some light entertainment in the days to come, or you just like to watch people get their heart rates up, ask them about their last experience with the DMV or their thoughts on an upcoming appointment.  I find it best to ask this question after beverages have been consumed in polite company.  Once you do, buckle up and settle in for a long winter’s wrap – as answers are rarely abbreviated and often highly animated, depending on the choice of a.m. versus p.m. beverages (FYI this parlor trick also works for Jury Duty, too).

Should you up the ante and question people about the employees of the DMV, you are likely to get an even larger earful of opinions – none of which you should take seriously.  More often, than not, folks get up on their elevated apple carton and draw caricatures of an unsavory and motley cast of characters.  From the bottom of my heart, I’m going to ask you to be careful, because those opinions are like… well.  Go ahead and Google the phrase “Opinions are like” and see what you come up with.  It’s not pretty.

The folks who work at the DMV get a bad rap, in my opinion (yeah-yeah, I know what I just said about opinions) probably because they work for a government run office, a place akin to purgatory and the fact that there is no hot dog stand or cappuccino maker to tide employees and patrons over past normal meal/snack times.  It doesn’t help that there is no background music nor is there a single shred of cheerful ambiance in most DMV buildings.  In fact, the décor is usually soul-suckingly awful.  Imagine working there, day after day, week after week, blah blah blah.  Even a blacklight Elvis poster or creepy clown painting would be better than what those employees get to stare at every day of their workaday lives.

It doesn’t help the employees of the DMV that folks walk through their doors like they are looking for a fight.  Short of actually having their dukes up while standing in line, attitudes are combative, angry and all set for some kind of disappointment.  It’s just one more reason there ought to be face-paining or a balloon animal station near the DMV door. Get ‘em smiling before they remember where they are or what they came for.

Impatience seems to be the worst attitude of all.  Yeah, you have to wait when you go to the DMV, you know that before you get there – so embrace it and let it go, little bird.  Comedian Dane Cook said, “It would be great when you enter the DMV — someone is just hiding there — comes out and punches you in the face….. *Argh!*  Well, waiting in line ain’t so bad after the punch in the face.”  See?  Nobody’s going to hit you.  Be grateful.  You likely have some electronic device to bide your time with, so spend some time with those birds that are already angry.

Waiting around isn’t so bad if you are a card-carrying people watcher like me.  Then, the DMV is one of the most fascinating places ever (second only to amusement parks, when it comes to people watching).

Here’s a tiny recap of my entire day (because noon to almost 4 o’clock in the afternoon is the better part of a whole day) spent at the Newhall, CA Department of Motor Vehicles office and what I learned from my time there. —

I learned:

…about the incredible life of a very colorful and opinionated (totally OFF the above-mentioned Googled “opinions” list BTW) truck driver from Costa Rica while standing in the hour-long line of waiting outside of the building.  This guy was brilliant and entertaining and I never would have heard his story, if not for the DMV line.

…the phrase “Blue Hairs” (once used to describe senior citizens) must now be replaced with some groovy cool new expression.  The early part of the day at the DMV was a sea of Violet-heads.  Not my first encounter with them either, just my largest to date.  Have you SEEN this new tonsorial phenomenon?  Octogenarians sporting what looks like Spun Light Purple Fuzzy Cotton Candy on the top of their sweet heads.  Wow.  When did THAT come into vogue?  And what does this mean is likely in store for MY golden (Purple? Blue? Vermilion?) years?

…men now seem to have an incredible selection of fabrics to choose from when it comes to cargo shorts.  Shorts which, in the DMV, were creatively paired with a diverse array of footwear, like: work boots, sandals with/without socks, athletic shoes and one snappy dresser who chose to wear white cargo shorts with patent leather shoes and black dress socks (only one man did this, since this was a California DMV, not Floridian).

…people just should not carry on incredibly personal, loud cell phone conversations in public.  At least, not while (Warning!  Bad motor vehicle humor ahead!) parked in the middle of hundreds of incredibly bored folks without one note of bad overhead Muzak to buffer their not-so-carefully chosen words with their obviously not-hitting-on-all-cylinders girlfriend.  Buddy, I don’t even know you or “Baby” but as a classic with some mileage on her meter, I can tell you this relationship is going to end badly and you may never manage to hammer the dents out of your banged up heart.  Seriously, young man?  In less than five minutes I listened how you were upset with her cyberstalking, clubbing, partying, drinking, philandering and lying ways.  I honestly believe that pretty much everything she is ever going to do that ends in –ing is going to find you attaching the same suffix to words like Cry, Pay and Regret before you next renew the registration on your BMW (which it sounds like she is coveting and wanting one of her own).

… that there are not a lot of smiles to be found at the DMV, unless you start handing ‘em out first, among patrons and employees alike.

Maybe it sounds crazy, but I happen to enjoy my time waiting around the DMV and consider it part of character growth and further training in a few of the basic virtues we should work on as human beings (since virtues are not ingrained or part of our genetic makeup, but habits that must be reinforced).  I think of the DMV as sort of a…Virtue Boot Camp, if you will.  Allow me to provide, for those of us that need it, a quick refresher Cliff Notes on just a handful of the virtues available: Honesty, Courage, Compassion, Generosity, Integrity, Fairness, Self-control, Good Temper, Prudence, etc. (feel free to Google “List of Virtues” to add, it is a life-long pursuit, really).  I could tell you how I attempt to incorporate this list into my own virtue training, but I would really prefer that during your next trip to the local DMV –you tell ME how that worked for you.

Or, just let me know how entertaining your time at the DMV turned out to be, maybe seen through new eyes and that back pocket full of opinions.

– – –

The following are actual answers received on exams given by the California Department of Transportation’s driving school (read Saturday Traffic School for moving violation offenders.)

Q: Who has the right of way when four cars approach a four-way stop at the same time?
A: The pick up truck with the gun rack and the bumper sticker saying, “Guns don’t kill people. I do.”

Q: What changes would occur in your lifestyle if you could no longer drive lawfully?
A: I would be forced to drive unlawfully.

Q: What are some points to remember when passing or being passed?
A: Make eye contact and wave “hello” if he/she is cute.

Q: What is the difference between a flashing red traffic light and a flashing yellow traffic light?
A: The color.

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