Democracy at the DMV



I wonder what the now means in this context.


DMV is the Department of Motor Vehicles for the few of you who may not be familiar with the aconym.  It is probably the  best place to see Democracy in action.  All of us (no matter what age, race, ethnicity, dress, income level, with children, friends or alone, with or without cellphone in hand) stand in the same snaking line that seems to inch forward s-l-o-w-ly.

9:20–Arrive at the DMV but can only get through the outerdoors. (The line snakes in front of the innerdoors.)

9:22–Finally able to actually get into the DMV.  Can immediately tell that the aging man in front of me with the grizzled thin ponytail straggling down the back of his work jacket is a heavy smoker.  Wonder what the chances of suffering from the second (or would that be third) hand smoke scent that rises off his jacket.

9:35-The  woman in back of me recognizes the ringtone on her phone and answers it.  From the conversation that is impossible to ignore, I deduce that she is a very concerned caregiver for autistic individuals.  One child is suddenly afraid to walk outside alone and she wonders what may have changed.  Another individual on a group outing needed someone to escourt him to the men’s room (no family room being available, otherwise she would have taken him in there herself. ) The only male employee with the group was reluctant to take the individual to the men’s room and seemed to have taken an inordinate amount of time when he finally escourted the individual to the bathroom. She wonders why and was he dissing her with his attitude?

9:40–A man on the opposite side of the snaking line lays his license plate down on the floor adjacent to every pole that supports the plastic line dividers that mark our faltering path to the information desk.  Every few minutes, he reaches down to pick up the single rusted, dented license plate, retrieves it, shuffles a few steps and lays it back down at the base of the next pole.

9:44-  The line inches ahead but the three ladies of a certain age are chatting so enthusiastically that they fail to notice that the line has moved.  No one says anything and eventually they shuffle forward

9:47-The couple, a few people in back of me, softly talk in Spanish about the license plate they need to get for a car.

9:50- A middle aged man in a UVA sweatshirt walks through the door (which has had nobody standing in front of it since I got to the end of the slowly advancing line).  He sees the line (which is now actually shorter than it has been since I got there a half hour earlier) and says to no on in particular, “This line is too line.  I’ll come back tomorrow.” I think that line will probably be longer then.

9:53-The two teenaged girls near the end of the line strike up a conversation, ignoring the man standing in between them.  “I like your hair,” the second girl says to the blue haired girl standing in front of her.  “Thanks,”  say blue haired girl.  “I keep the color by only washing my hair once a month.”  I wonder if the pimples on her face are a by-product of the monthly hair wash (or is that just an old wives’s tale?)  She tells the other girl that she gets it done at a salon near the Downtown Pedestrian Mall.  The other girl says she will have to visit the salon.

9:55-The two young women pushing a remarkably well behaved little girl in a stroller, finally reach the front the line.  I’m not sure which one is the girl’s mother, they seem to care for her equally.  Although the little girl seems to favor the thinner one more than the one with the beautiful thick blonde hair and the thick sturdy thighs straining her black pants.

9:58-My legs and hips are starting to hurt. I wonder how the man standing on his prothetic leg is doing and hope it is comfortably padded.

10:00–The man with the smoking work jacket finally gets to the head of the line and is summoned to the information desk.

10:02-After two deliciously smoke free minutes, it’s my turn to go talk to the lady at the information desk.  No one has taken any pictures, no one has gotten irate, no one has broken line, although a few people had their places held by neighbor as they left to use the bathroom or duck outside to make/take a phone call.

11 thoughts on “Democracy at the DMV”

  1. Not bad and at least it was indoor and nobody was obnoxious. The one thing I have to give California credit for is the ability to make a reservation at a DMV. If you get one early in the morning, sometimes they let you in early and you are out by the time your actual appointment would have been. The lines of people who were unable to plan ahead and had to stand in line had to wait a long time. I felt sorry for them and wondered why they had not made reservations too.


  2. Among the many blessings of living in small town Middle America is that I spend very little of my time standing in lines. It’s hard to find enough single-minded people in many places to create a line. The grocery store and the bank are the only true exceptions that come to mind, but even there the wait is no more than a few minutes — hardly long enough to work up a good fidget. The last time I had to deal with a license issue, I walked into the county courthouse, found a clerk who wasn’t absorbed in something inspiring on her desk, and was out the door 15 minutes later. I hear about ghastly lines elsewhere (and I remember them from an earlier life on the east coast), and I smile. The down side, of course, is that I don’t get to overhear tantalizing conversations and watch bizarre behavior the way you have. It’s all pretty ho-hum here in Sinclair Lewis country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The plusses and minuses of small-town life. The plusses are fewer people in line and much less traffic. The minuses are fewer choices on movies, restaurants, and stores. Thanks for the reminder that almost any place has its ups and downs. Compared to Northern Virginia or San Diego, Charlottesville has faster grocery lines, less traffic, but equally long DMV lines. (There may be some nearby small town DMVs that have fewer people in line, but would probably take longer to reach, and may not offer full DMV services.)


  3. Very British-like, an orderly queue. Though actually that myth is dying with queues becoming more of a free-for-all these days, where there are no controls. And once you reach the front you can almost feel the glares on the back of your neck from those still queuing.

    Nicely observed EQ.


    1. Sorry to hear about the erosion of the famous polite British queue. Glad you liked the post. The line was remarkably civilized for America these days. At least we are all treated the same.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.