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A Day at the DMV

DMV: Under a sweltering heat, people are standing for hours to get into the DMV. Matthew Hynes

Two weeks ago I stood in line for hours in the hot sun waiting to get into the Department of Motor Vehicles. (A fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy…well, maybe my worst.) I hope the following is amusing to you because thank God it wasn’t you and cathartic for me because hopefully I’ll never experience it again.

When I rode my bike up to the DMV there were two lines, one for those with appointments and one for those without them. The “appointment” line was invitingly short whereas the non-appointment line was so long I gasped. (Due to Covid they weren’t booking new appointments.)

I parked my bike and went to the back of the non-appointment line which one person dubbed the “loser line.” It stretched south from the DMV and west down the sidewalk on Colorado Avenue. It was 2 pm so I anticipated three hours of standing before I would get into the building. They surely wouldn’t shut the door at 5 pm after all that time in the heat. Would they?

Practically everybody in line killed time by being glued to their phone but, as I confess sheepishly I’ve never owned a cell phone. Fortunately however, at the back of the line were a few people who also didn’t have cell phones. That left us eager for any chat, however mundane, that might make the time fly. (“Crawl” is more like it.)

I had brought a John Grisham novel in my backpack but I discovered I couldn’t read standing up, especially in that heat. So I listened to the conversation in front of me, which admittedly didn’t resemble a Mensa Meeting. The most animated character was an outgoing 30-something gang banger type who had tattoos up his neck. (Not my favorite look, but it’s his neck.) He seemed scary and yet oddly charming. Among his more bizarre claims was that he had actually seen Bigfoot.

Normally I wouldn’t necessarily engage in conversation with someone who claimed they’d seen Bigfoot but since we had hours of waiting in front of us I made an exception. Thankfully he enjoyed my joke speculating why Bigfoot was so camera shy. Soon he took out a thick, round wooden club-like object that he used to massage his neck but also used it to “beat the sh*t out of anyone who gives me grief.” (I complimented his “multipurpose club” and added that he should warn me if I ever got close to giving him grief.)

As he worked his way up the line chatting up primarily pretty women, a skinny 20-something guy who looked like a meth head came out of the DMV holding a bicycle tire indicative that bike thievery in Santa Monica has become a cottage industry. He skillfully put his tire back on his bike while the guy ahead of me began conversing with him. Before I knew it, they had exchanged bikes. Say what?

Beyond curious, I asked the guy if he’d ever met the younger guy before and he hadn’t. As “meth-head” was leaving he warned the guy who now owned his bike, “If anyone claims your bike was stolen, tell ‘em they’re full of sh*t!” Suddenly it was obvious the guy was a damn bike thief! That said, at least the line was getting closer to the front.

In fact I was about six people from getting into the front door when, to my horror, a heavy-set female DMV employee, like a bouncer at a bar, bellowed “If you don’t have an appointment it’s highly unlikely you’ll get in so please come back tomorrow.”

Desperate, as she passed me I stopped her and pleaded my case. It seemed she took pity on me as she whispered like I was getting a special favor, “Can you be here tomorrow at 7 am.?” I said “Sure,” asking “What time will you be here?” “9 am,” she replied. So much for “special favor.”

OMG. I couldn’t believe all that time in line frying in the sun would be for naught. But Bigfoot’s BFF theorized, “She said ‘highly unlikely’ which means we still have a chance.” Good God, was he going to use his club to bash us in?

Actually, I can’t explain it but somehow we got in and I quickly had my paperwork approved. From the other side of the room a smiling Bigfoot gave me a thumbs up. I even saw the “bouncer” lady to whom I triumphantly flashed my completed paperwork. Clearly she wasn’t exactly thrilled.

In closing, if you have to go to the DMV do whatever it takes to make an appointment, hopefully it will be on a cloudy day and other than during the tail end of a 100-year pandemic. If not, have fun talking to strangers.

Jack is at: facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and [email protected]

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