My stomach is already in knots. Thomas and I are headed to the Arleta DMV for his 8:00 AM driving test. I choke up as he quietly lists his “rules of the road” while merging onto the 170 freeway. He is sixteen and already the best (unlicensed) driver I’ve ever ridden with, but there is still a whirling dervish in my belly.
It took us over two months to book this appointment. We tried the online route, only to discover Thomas’ license number and/or information was “invalid,” so we called the “help” line. Try that sometime when you’re bored, have nothing but time and a real hankering for the sound of a ringing phone. It’s fun.
Next we get a visit to the “no-appointment” line at the DMV, yay!
And WTF is UP with the Anaconda-like “no-appointment” lines? Is this a Black Friday thing? Is the appointment option some secret back door? One day last week, I asked Wendy (daughter #2) to take Thomas to the nearest DMV after picking him up from school to clear up the mess. They managed to escape unscathed with today’s appointment.
We pull in fifteen minutes early behind the twenty-seven other 8:00 AM appointment holders. It is in this line we get our first of a series of congenial incarnations.
DMV Guy: [taps on glass and motions for Thomas to roll down his window] Are you checked in?
Me: [frantically emptying the glove compartment in search of the current registration and proof of insurance] Not yet. My daughter will wait here while I check him in.
DMV Guy: Nope. You have to move your car.
Me: We want to keep our place in line. Can’t we check in while she waits here?
DMV Guy: Nope.
Me: Please? There are lots of cars in front of us. Why can’t we keep our place?
MEAN!! DMV Guy: Because you can’t. Move the car.
We chose Arleta because friends told us the staff was “friendlier.”
We park the car and push our way through the no-appointment zombie line-up. It is now 8:15 and we are directed to Window 30 where there is yet another line and I am starting to stress about how late I will be arriving to work. Donkey’s years later, we face a “live” person at Window 30.
DMV Gal: [monotone] Paperwork?
Me: Here’s his permit, completion of driving school certificate, registration and insurance. Do you need a picture ID?
DMV Gal: No. [fingernails clickity clackity on her keyboard] He’s not in the system.
Me: What do you mean, he’s not in the system? We tried scheduling this appointment online for two months. We tried calling and NEVER reached a live person. These two made an office visit last week to clear this up and schedule this. Please check again.
DMV Gal: Be right back.
Thomas looks crestfallen. I keep telling myself that in the whole scheme of things, this is no big deal, but my son was very excited. And now he’s upset. My “Mama Bear” is beginning to show.
DMV Gal: I spoke to my manager. He’s not in the system. You have to make an appointment.
Me: We DID make an appointment.
DMV Gal: It’s not in the system.
Me: I would like to speak to the manager.
DMV Gal: Go to Window 20. She will meet you there. NEXT!
As we stand at Window 20, I watch the manager making molasses movements at her computer while smacking her gum. She saunters towards us just as I am about to reach over the counter with a grizzly paw and begin swiping left and right like a Tinder maniac.
DMV Manager: [blank stare]
Me: Will you please help us with this?
I launch into the old appointment fiasco spiel.
DMV Manager: He’s not in the system.
Me: Yes, but he SHOULD be. I just explained it to you. He made a special trip to a DMV office last week for specifically the task of scheduling today’s appointment.
DMV Manager: But, he’s not in the system.
Me: This was obviously the mistake of that DMV employee!
DMV Manager: I don’t know. I wasn’t there. He’s not in the system.
…but you can make an appointment.
Is this some freakish secret parent hazing nobody told me about? (Dad, stop laughing). These people are Stepford Wife / Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey combos.
Is there required “unpleasantness training” with a handout of “No, in fact, I CAN’T help you” nametags? Why are they all so miserable? And what is it about stepping foot in a DMV office that sets me off and stresses me to the point of a headache? Maybe it’s the simple fact that they popped my child’s balloon and delayed his eagerly awaited rite of passage. Perhaps they are unhappy because the absence of independence and a sense of power in their jobs are the same qualities they are turning over to enthusiastic, wide-eyed kids. Maybe obstructing those qualities, if only for a short time, creates the illusion of power.
We now have printed confirmation of his next appointment.