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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Originally published April 30, 2010

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

I admit it. I was scared. It was time to renew my driver’s license in person at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

It wasn’t the reputation of the DMV – long lines, endless waits, bureaucratic service – that had scared me but people’s reactions when I mentioned I was going there. “Oh no,” a friend responded, her eyes doubling in size, resembling the hubcaps on my SUV. Similar reactions from others had persuaded me that the actual experience might be even worse than the reputation.

“What a nightmare,” I muttered, as I pulled my SUV into the DMV parking lot on Claremont Avenue in Oakland, packed with so many cars that it brought to mind the number of Toyotas recalled recently. My eyes began flitting left and right in search of a place to park. To my amazement, I spotted an open parking space right in front.

Stepping out of the car, I glimpsed the long line of people snaking out the front door. “Horrible,” I groaned. I went to the end of line and strained my eyes to read the sign ahead. It indicated that anyone with an appointment should go to the window on the left. Following the recommendation on the DMV’s website, I had scheduled an appointment, so I headed to the other window. Surprisingly, no one was in line there.

Standing at the window, I looked warily at the woman working behind it. “Do you have an appointment?” she asked politely. I replied affirmatively and she quickly found me on a sheet of paper in her hand. She gave me a number and said, “It shouldn’t be too long.” Catching me off guard, she gave me a big smile.

Looking for an empty chair, I surveyed the overcrowded waiting area. “Awful,” I grumbled. But I spied an empty chair with a big man on one side and a woman with two young children on the other side. The chair was hardly visible between the bulk of the man and the children who were playing in front of it. I hiked over to the chair and started to sit down. Unexpectedly, the man slid his chair over to give me room, while the woman pulled her children out of the way and gave me a warm hello.

I began focusing on the numbers flashing on monitors. B051, F028, G011. The odd combination of letters and numbers didn’t suggest an obvious sequence, so I had no idea when my number would come up. “Oh boy,” I muttered. Unbelievably, my number started flashing on the screen.

Another friendly and efficient person was ready to help me. It took all of three minutes, and then she sent me to another line to get my picture taken. When I saw the five people in line ahead of me, I mumbled, “This should take awhile.” But in a matter of minutes, I was at the front of the line and ready to have my photo taken. As the woman operating the camera took the photo, she said “That’s a great picture”.

I was starting to really like this place.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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