A Lifetime at the DMV – Hour One

My driver’s license expires this year on my birthday, which is in February. Bill thought it would be a good idea to go earlier and get it over with. I’m not sure why because no matter when you go to the DMV you can pretty much count on spending at least an hour. So, on the third Thursday in January we decided to donate 60 to 90 minutes of our day to the Arizona Department of Transportation. It ended up being three and a half hours.

They problem is they fake you out by quickly getting you through the first two steps, the eye test and the picture taking, in about 20 minutes. Then they trap you at the third and final step by making you wait for the actual driver’s license for the remaining three hours and ten minutes. You can’t leave or you’ll lose your place in the queue and have to start over at step three with a new number on another day. And that’s if they don’t misplace your paperwork and make you go through the entire process all over again.

On a more positive note, however, you can meet some really interesting people at the DMV.

We were sitting next to a 40-something man who spent the first half hour talking on the phone to business contacts. At one point he turned to me and apologized for disturbing us with his calls. He was an ex-Marine and a self-employed husband and father, he said with pride as he scrolled on his phone to a picture of his two kids. He contracted with property management companies and oversaw the upkeep of rental properties all over the state. His life was spent on the road and his driver’s license had expired that day, so he had to get it renewed or stop working, which wasn’t an option.

“Thank you for your service,” I said, after listening to his story. “And happy birthday.”

“Thanks,” he replied. “How’d you know it was my birthday?”

“Because your license expired today,” Bill chimed in with a smile.

“Oh, duh,” he said with a lopsided grin. “Is it your birthday too?”

“Nope,” I said. “Not until next month.”

“So why are you here so soon?” he asked, absently rubbing his smoothly shaved head.

“We came early to save time,” Bill replied. “Wednesday and Thursday are supposed to be slow days, but you sure couldn’t prove it by this place.”

“It might be the Dreamer’s,” I added. “They can get an Arizona driver’s license now and I think it’s temporarily flooding the DMV offices.”

The three of us paused and glanced around the large room, mentally trying to guess ethnicity and age in the sea of people that were sitting and standing and milling around the cavernous waiting area.

“I don’t know,” Bill finally said. “It’s really hard to tell.”

“You’re right,” he agreed. “It’s like the United Nations in here.”

“Yeah, maybe if it was in a nursing home,” the young black man sitting on the other side of Mr. Handyman interjected with a befuddled shake of his head that set his dreadlocks swinging gracefully back and forth. “I never seen so many old people in one place before.”

Bill and I looked at each other, both of us trying, and failing, to suppress our laughter.

“You need to visit Sun City,” I said with a chuckle. “It’s all old people. Miles and miles of them.”

“Really?” he asked, truly mystified that such a strange and possibly frightening place existed somewhere his city. “What do they all do there?”

I leaned forward so I could look directly at this naive young man and said, “They go to lots of estate sales.”



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