Today I was faced with one of the most dreaded chores required of modern man: a trip to the DMV. Everyone has a horror story to tell about being at the DMV for a mostly routine reason and having to spend many hours trying to get it done.
My reason was the need to replace my handicap card which I stupidly left in our rental car in California a couple weeks ago. So I screwed up my courage and entered the abyss that is state government beaurocracy.
I was pleasantly surprised at first when it seemed I would only have to wait maybe fifteen minutes or so to be taken care of. I was only four numbers away from being called to the counter when I first arrived and checked in. Two of those numbers were called within the first five minutes I was waiting, so you can imagine how smug I was feeling. It looked like I was going to get out of there without sacrificing valuable hours to the gods of inefficiency. But those same gods were messing with me, leading me down the path of frustration.
I arrived there at 9:45 this morning. Bad timing. It seems that a fifteen minute break for the counter staff is mandated each morning at 10:00 and today they were right on schedule. So instead of my projected and hoped for fifteen minute wait, I had to wait for breaktime to be over before getting my turn at the counter. Still, I figured with only two more numbers to be called before my magic number came up, I still could be out of there in only 30 minutes.
Why is it that I get in the line that always moves the slowest. At the supermarket, the hardware store, the line at the mens' room, I always find the slowest moving line to get into. It is my fate to wait longer than anyone else no matter where I am or what I am doing. My number was 432. The guy with number 430 apparently had some kind of esoteric transaction that no one in the entire world, let alone the minions at the DMV, had ever encountered before. I swear the guy was at the counter, using my valuable time, causing unimaginable complications for the woman behind the counter, for at least 30 minutes. There was a growing murmuring tension among the people waiting with me that threatened to boil over into an ugly mob action if Mr Complication didn't resolve his problem soon.
There was an audible sigh of relief when he finally concluded his business and number 431 was called. Now I am only one number away and feeling some hope that the butt cramp I have from sitting too long on those uncomfortable institutional chairs that only seem to appear in government offices will be relieved when I finally get to move. Of course I was worried then that my muscles would fail to respond in a timely manner when my number came up or that I would fall on my face when I tried to walk to the counter since I had waited so long that I would forget how to walk and then I would lose my place in line and have to start from the back of the line once more and my wife and children would forget about me lost in the black hole I had been sucked into.
When my turn finally came, I somehow managed to summon the strength and determination to walk upright once again and shuffled my way to the counter. I was debating whether to make some scathing comment about the ordeal of waiting so long, but the woman behind the counter had such a pleasant smile and ingratiating manner when she asked how she could help me that I believed she meant it, and all thoughts of complaining vanished into the sunshine of her smile. How she managed to maintain such a cheerful disposition in the face of all those angry people is a matter of speculation. I'm going with the theory that her breaktime was used to ingest a fistfull of happy pills. No normally sane person could be that nice and pleasant in such a job without some medicinal help.
Luckily my business was concluded swiftly and efficiently so that the people behind me were not tempted to rip me limb from limb for delaying them unnecessarily. My elapsed time spent in the bowels of the beast was actually only an hour and twenty minutes, though I could swear I passed another birthday there while waiting. And best of all, now I can once again park legally in the handicap spots at the supermarket and hardware store. But please don't begrudge me that privilege, since you know I will still end up in the longest and slowest moving line at checkout time.