A trip to the DMV, and other hell-worthy stories

It is appropriate that on today, 6/6/6, I descended to hell.

Well, the Department of Motor Vehicles actually, but same diff.

I needed to register my car and receive my new-and-improved South Dakota  license plates, now with even more faces on rocks.   The result is a story of torment and horror the likes of which would have put even Dante himself off his lunch.

I entered the Rapid City courthouse, went through the standard security sweep (metal detector, bucchal swab, am I now or have I ever been a Communist, etc.), and made my way to the second floor, where DMV’s automobile registration takes place.   I settled into the notorious line.   Time passed, and the long shadows of morning shrunk.

And I paused, took a deep breath and thought to myself:  Be cool.  This is the DMV, you expect this kind of wait.

When I made my way to the DMV employee at the desk, I told her I needed to register my car,  paid the DMV  $40 in cash, got my license plates and registration tags, and was about to leave when I  noticed that the address on them was incorrect.   “Um, this is not my address.”

The  DMV representative replied, “It’s the address on your driver’s license.”

Dang it!  I never changed the address on my license after we bought our house.

“I can’t change  your address in the system  without confirmation you live there,  so you need to  get a new driver’s license.”

And I paused, took a deep breath and thought to myself:  Be cool.  This is the DMV, you expect this sort red-tape problem.

“No problem, my bad.   Where should I go?”

“Across town.”

I trembled a little bit, but paused, took a deep breath and thought to myself:  Be cool. Find out what’s going on.

What was going on was this.   In California, where I am from, the DMV is complete entity unto itself, a veritable  9 circles dedicated solely to all things automotive.    At the DMV  the patrons (lovingly referred to by employees as the damned) wander in torment as they stand in a never ending procession of lines that move with glacial speed in the hopes that, at some distant time, they might be able to pay their $783.16 to have their address changed on their driver’s license and get their registration tags renewed in one transaction.

The situation in South Dakota, however, is nefariously worse.   Here, the DMV has been disemboweled and disembodied, and its essence spread  with a healthy dose of goat’s blood and dark incantations so that it permeates all aspects of the governmental bureaucracy,  much  like the cancer cells  of a malignant tumor  metastasizing in a human body, or the incessant nonsense of the  Black-Eyed Peas in every commercial on TV.

The result is that, if you wish to register your vehicle, you must go to one location, but to update your address, you must go to a different location, often in a different time zone.   So I go left the courthouse and headed across town to the driver’s license building, which is located literally next to a giant steaming hole sunk into the earth.   I shit you not.

Upon arrival, I took a number and stood in line to talk to the DMV agent seated at the dubiously named “Information Desk.”   Time passed, and the short shadows of late morning all but faded away.

And I paused, took a deep breath and thought to myself:  Be cool.  This is the DMV, you expect this kind of wait. And I was cool.

Finally I came to the Information Desk.   “I need to change the address on my driver’s license.”

The employee seemed unperturbed.   “You’re in the wrong line.   You need to fill out the Change-Of-Address Form from that queue there” — he pointed in the general direction with his pitchfork — “and then take a new number, and stand in  that line over there to pay.”

I twitched slightly, but took a deep breath and thought to myself:  Be cool.  This is the DMV, you expect this kind of paper work. And I was cool.

So I filled out the Change-Of-Address Form, took a new number, and stood in the new line.   Time passed, and nonexistent shadows of noon turned into the short shadows of   the afternoon.

Deep breath. Be cool.  This is the DMV, you expect this kind of wait. And I was cool.

Finally I came to the Payment Desk.   I gave the DMV employee my paperwork, paid the man $6, and was told to take a new number  and stand in a new line to get my photograph taken.

“That one next to the lake of brimstone?”

“Yes.”

So I took a new number, stood in the new line.   Time passed, and the short shadows of afternoon turned to the long shadows of evening.

But I paused, took a deep breath and thought to myself:  Be cool.  This is the DMV, you expect this kind of wait. And I was cool.

Finally I came to the License Desk, whereupon a different DMV employee took my picture with a digital camera and printed out my new and improved driver’s license from an official DMV laser printer.   The picture is terrible —  my face is as bloated as Marlon Brando after an all-you-can eat buffet, and  has the same color and texture  as a grapefruit — but the address is at least correct.   A little kid behind me took a look at the picture, screamed in terror,  and began to cry.

Deep breath. Be cool.  This is the DMV, you expect this kind of driver’s license photo. And I was cool.

With my new license in hand, I took a number and stood in first line to talk to the information agent again.   Time passed, and the long shadows of evening stretched ever further.

Deep breath. Be cool.  This is the DMV, you expect this kind of wait. And I was cool.

At last I returned to the Information Desk. “I need to change the address on my car registration.”

The information agent remained unperturbed.   “You’re in the wrong building.   We can’t do that here.”

A dull thumping began behind my temples.   “Where should I go?”

“Across town.”

Deep breath. Be cool.  This is the DMV, how can you not expect this anymore? And I was cool.

So I left the licensing building and headed across town back to the courthouse, went through the standard security sweep (metal detector, DNA profile, cavity search, and so forth), and made my way back to the second floor, where I settled into another line.   Time passed, and the sun became as blood, and the angels wept.

Deep breath. Be cool a little longer.  This is the DMV, you expect this kind of wait. And I was cool.

And finally,  I at last  returned from whence I had come so long ago.   “I need to change the address on my registration.”

The new woman at the desk smiled politely, and said it would cost 4 dollars.    My wallet now emptied, I  wrote her a $4 check and weakly passed it across the counter.   She looked at me and seemed genuinely concerned for my health.   “You look a little worn out.”

I sighed and coolly gave her a recap of the day’s events.

“Oh my, you poor thing,” she said, an oasis of caring in the barren desert of apathy and frustration that had been my day.   “You know,” she added, “you have your correct address right here on your checks.   You could have just pointed that out to them that this morning, and you wouldn’t have had to do all that today.”

And I paused, took a deep breath, and thought to myself: BITCH!

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