The nice thing about living in Illinois is that for the most part I don’t have to deal with the DMV very often. It’s possible to renew your license plate tags via mail, and the emissions testing locations are located throughout the city, and have nothing to do with the Secretary Of State facilities. But, once every four years, you have to go in to renew your driver’s license. I’d been dreading this for months, and took it upon myself to go in over my lunch hour today to get it taken care of. The last time I’d needed to go into my local DMV it was a harmless 15 minute trip to renew my tags*, so I figured it’d take about the same about of time this time.
Not so much. As I sat there in the waiting area, I developed an appreciation for how much the DMV is like my old social studies classes. Back in high school, almost all my classes were broken up according to the abilities of the students. So there were honors classes, regular classes, and then the remedial stuff**. But the one class every year that was the great equalizer was social studies. No matter how hard one tried to get away from the thuggish rednecks, one was always confronted with them in social. In a way, maybe that was the intent of the whole thing – to remind the honors kids that the rednecks were people too. But what ended up happening was that the rednecks slowed down the class and basically passed via copying answers of the smart kids during exams.
After graduation, I didn’t really experience anything similar to the great “universal experience” of social studies until today. Sitting there, the first thing I noticed was that the “now serving” numbering system they use is designed intentionally to make sure nobody has any idea how long it will be until their number is called. Unlike the deli, where they just use numbers 01-99 and then repeat, at the DMV they use bizarre combinations of letters and numbers (e.g. A047 was my number). Since the letters change seemingly at random, I had no idea how long it was going to be even when A046 was called***. This system also had the effect of separating the smart people from the remedial people. Most folks were able to figure out what they needed, but there were a few to whom not only was the numbering system confusing, but every step of the entire process was a puzzlement. Granted, most of them were pretty elderly. I couldn’t help but think “If you can’t figure out how to use the eye test machine when there is someone there to instruct you, should you really be operating a vehicle?” and immediately promised to turn in my license the day I couldn’t renew it in 20 minutes.
The process after that was pretty quick and painless. But it still took freaking forever. The worst part of it is that the picture guy took pretty much the worst picture of a human being ever taken by man, beast, or rock. Instead of a relatively normal looking fellow, my driver’s license picture now resembles one of those pasty, lumpy, sweaty men who live in their mother’s basement. And being a Minnesotan (i.e. taught not to complain about the crap life gives you) I didn’t request a re-shoot. Besides I don’t want to be “that guy” all up in arms about how my driver’s license picture doesn’t look like it came from Glamour Shots.
Now I’ll just have a whole new reason to look forward to 2011. Or if I can’t hold out that long, I’ll just have to move again.
* When the mailed renewal form mysteriously never made it to my house
** Which for me included anything to do with welding or car repair – but in retrospect I kind of wish I’d taken some of those courses back then, just so I could say I know how to replace stuff. But I suppose OAM wasn’t really looking to boost its share of freshmen with experience replacing the serpentine belt of a ’71 Dodge Dart…
*** Mercifully, not long at all. Of course it took an hour to get from A041 to A042.