Posted by: ritagone | August 22, 2012

A Place Close to Hell



It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s really not.

If anyone doubts that hell exists, they need only go to the local Department of Motor Vehicles to be persuaded of the truth.

The prequel to hell is the DMV.

I know.

I was there this week.

I even had an appointment!

I was picking up a personalized license plate for my new car, turning in the old plates.  A simple procedure, which should have taken all of a minute or two to accomplish.  Hand over the old plates, prove who I am with the registration and my driver’s license, pick up the new plates, out the door.

Not so fast.

And I mean that, literally.

Having an appointment beforehand with the DMV apparently assures you of an hour-long wait instead of a “bring your lunch and knitting and sit for half a day” wait.  I wish I had thought about bringing my current reading material with me.  Silly me: I actually thought having an appointment and a rather simple task meant I would be in and out in a rather short space of time.  But instead, I sat there and watched numbers and letters being called out as if I were an unwilling participant in a hellish and macabre bingo game: F017, A042, G032, and on and on it went.  I began to wonder what the letters in front of the numbers meant. (Remember that I had no book.  You look for something…anything to do to occupy the time as it crawls by.)   Were there categories of window assignments that went with the various letters?  F for vehicle registrations, G for license renewals, A for everything else?  (I was an A.)  Should I even ask?  Did I even care?  I looked around at the people in limbo with me.  Some of them had a glazed look on their faces, as if they had been sitting in those uncomfortable plastic chairs for hours or even days.  Was this to be my fate?  Should I call Michael and have him bring lunch?  My heart started racing.  Would I ever see my kids or grandkids again?  Was this the end of me, a sorry, sardonic fate, to be lost forever in a Dante-like purgatory otherwise known as the California DMV, left there because my ego had gotten the better of me and I had insisted on …of all things…personalized plates?  (Is this the 2012 version of pride going before a fall?)  It was all very surreal, like an old episode of  “The Twilight Zone.”

So finally, finally my A046 number gets called, and I go to Window 5.  Now, picture this: a clerk who has somehow discovered how to move in slow motion.  I’ve found her: a woman who is reduced to moving at the speed of a turtle on its last legs.  She takes about four minutes to read the (what seems to me) very simple document concerning my transaction: take back the old plates – which I’ve laid down on the counter in front of her – and retrieve from a file somewhere the new personalized plates which the state of California has notified me are somewhere in this building.  That is after all why I’m here.  Then hand those new plates to me so that I can actually get on with my life, which I’ve forgotten the details of already.

But no,  of course it’s not that simple.

She opens her desk drawer and stares into it for a minute or two.  I don’t know what she’s looking for.  She doesn’t say.  She just stares.  And stares.  I can feel myself aging.  My stomach growls.  My feet hurt.  Still she stares.  I want to ask her if she’s all right.  I think maybe she’s gone into some kind of catatonic trance.

I notice that two other female employees of the DMV are standing nearby having a friendly conversation.  My worse fear is that my lady at Window 5 is going to come out of her trance and decide to join them, because they are obviously having a wonderful time.  At least someone at the DMV is having fun.  It’s certainly not the customers, who are wondering if they’ll ever see their next of kin again.  These two ladies are laughing and chatting, and my clerk is still staring into her drawer.  Finally she finds whatever it was that she was looking for.  Oh, it was the tags that go on the license plate.  They were apparently hidden in her drawer, and she stared into that space in the hope that they would leap out at her.

I’m thinking of moving out of California.  If this is what our state-run bureaucratic departments are like (and it is), we are doomed (and we are).  I want to get out as fast as I can, but I still don’t have my personalized plates, so I’m not allowed to leave the DMV yet, because I would be plate-less.  And the irony would be that efficiency would finally set in somewhere in the DMV parking lot, where I would be arrested for driving without California plates, personalized or otherwise.

And so I wait some more, while she gathers her paperwork together and finalizes my transaction.  It only takes a few more minutes, minutes I will never get back in my life.

When I get outside the doors of the DMV, I breathe deeply.  I take my wallet out of my purse and look at my driver’s license to see when it expires: 2015.

I’m hoping Jesus will come back by then, before I have to step back into that horrendous place.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.


  1. Thanks Rita! We have all been there……a true test of our patience!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: