Have you ever tried to imagine the worst place on earth? Is it the steely dungeon of a penitentiary? The grimy, claustrophobic confines of a coal mine? Walmart on Christmas Eve? I think not. I would like to posit, ladies and gentlemen, that the very worst place on earth is none other than the Department of Motor Vehicles. Yes, the good ol’ DMV.
I mean, think about it. No one ever goes to the DMV expecting a pleasant experience. No one ever says over coffee, “Hey Sue, I just took the kids for french fries and a long sit at the DMV and it was fantastic!”
I always walk into the DMV with a hardened pit of fear and dread nestled firmly in my gut. I’m always afraid I’m not going to have the right documents in the right order with the right dates and the right signatures. I’m afraid I’m going to look the wrong way at the snarly woman with the beehive hairdo who holds my driving fate in her hands. I’m afraid I’m going to have to take a test. And it will be hard. And I will fail it. I’m afraid someone is going to misinterpret my nervous twitching, my stuttering and my sideways glances and decide that I’m a shady character and summon the policeman I’m sure is hiding somewhere to come whisk me away. Then I really won’t get my license.
The DMV offices feel like they’re designed to induce misery. Nothing says “welcome” like piss-colored, barren walls, grimy floors that look like they haven’t met a broom or mop since 1973 and hard, plastic seats you’ll inevitably have to sit in for the span of one good viewing of Gone With the Wind. There’s no semblance of art hanging — unless you count the dozen or so framed postings of all the rules one must follow in order to become a possessor of a driver’s license, no plants save for maybe one drooping, dying, dusty thing in the corner, no hope on the glazed-over expressions of the men and women whose derrieres are growing sores from sitting in those hard, plastic chairs for so long. And there are never, ever windows. Because why would there be? They wouldn’t want you to know there is sun and laughter and air that doesn’t smell like the contents of a 17-year-old boy’s gym bag in the great beyond.
And really, there’s nothing I’d rather do than inject a little happy into the lives of those who work at the DMV. I’ve never met a more gloomy bunch of people in my life. I mean, I’m sure dealing with the array of humanity America has to offer has its drawbacks, but really, would it kill you to crack a smile once in a while? I feel like the men and women o’ the DMV are glaring at me with hatred in their souls. Like I’ve told them their mother’s cooking tastes like crap. Or their kids are ugly. Or that they will never, ever be the next American Idol. I always feel antsy as they review my 27 forms of documentation that verify I am in fact who I say am and that I live where I say I live. With each piece of paper, I feel the prying eyes searching for the misplaced comma that’ll let ’em send me away license-less so that I may forever be forced to walk or bicycle my way through life.
Then, as I fumble through my purse for that very last scrap of paper that will surely, surely convince them it’s ok to let me drive in this state, I hear the yawn, the tap-tap-tapping of a pen, the snapping of bubble gum. Oh, I’m sorry, have you become impatient with me? Is this an unpleasant experience for you? Don’t worry; there’s no way it’s worse for you than it is for me.
It is with great pride that I announce I survived the doom and gloom, the psychological taunts and the scrutinizing glances and am now a legal driver in the state of Wisconsin.