Friday, May 25, 2012

"The Waiting Game"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
As a motorist who has been driving (people crazy) for four decades, I am used to sitting in traffic for hours at a time. But I didn’t think I would have to sit for part of two days when I went to renew my registration at the DMV, which stands for Department of Mass Vexation.

My adventure began on a Friday morning, when I drove to the DMV in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., and found that, because of budget cuts, the place was closed. Instead of looking on the door for the office hours, which would have indicated the place was closed the next day, too, I went back the next day and found that -- surprise! -- the place was closed.

My keen deductive powers convinced me not to show up Sunday. So I went back Monday morning and beheld a scene that was something out of a Cecil B. DeMille epic.

“I’m sorry,” said the nice woman at the front counter, where I was given number F-130, “but we’ve had a lot of layoffs and two people called in sick today. You’re looking at a two-hour wait.”

I sat down with about 100 other poor souls in the hope that her estimate was wrong. After 20 minutes, I decided it was -- the wait would be at least three hours. I left and came back even earlier the next morning.

Everyone from the previous day must have had the same idea because they were back, too. I went to the front counter and took a number. It was F-120.

“I think I know what the F stands for,” I told the nice woman.

She smiled and said, “Good luck.”

I sat down next to a guy who said, “I’ve been here for three days.”

“Your family must be worried,” I replied. “Did you bring a sleeping bag?”

“I should have,” he said. “I showed up Thursday morning and the line was out the door. I waited a while and gave up. The place was closed Friday.”

“I know,” I said.

“I came back yesterday and the woman at the counter said it would be a two-hour wait,” he continued. “I stuck around for about 20 minutes and left.”

“Me, too,” I said.

“So here I am for a third day,” said the guy, who had number C-411.

A disembodied voice announced, “Now serving A-004 at window No. 4.”

“We’ll be here forever,” I said.

A little while later, the voice announced, “Now serving C-411 at window No. 3.”

“That’s me!” the guy exclaimed. People around us applauded. I high-fived him. “It’s like winning the lottery,” he said as he scampered up to the window.

I sat from here to eternity, watching people text, surf the Web on their laptops, read books or look at the overhead TV, which featured the Motor Vehicle Network. Programming included a game called “Can You Guess the Celebrities?” and a commercial for a law firm that specializes in personal injury cases resulting from motor vehicle accidents.

Finally, I heard the disembodied voice say, “Now serving F-120 at window No. 8.”

“Yes!” I exulted as other customers congratulated me. I stepped up to the window and was greeted by a pleasant woman named Dotty. I told her that I had been to the DMV recently to get my license renewed and that I was in and out in no time. “Everything was very smooth and everyone was very nice,” I said. “The DMV gets a bad rap.”

“We do,” Dotty acknowledged. “But we’ve been extremely busy lately because we are short-staffed. I hope you weren’t waiting too long.”

“Just a couple of days,” I replied.

“That’ll be $196.50,” Dotty said. “Make out the check to DMV.”

“How do you spell that?” I asked.

Dotty smiled. “Now you don’t have to do this again for two years,” she noted.

I nodded and said, “I can wait.”

Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima


Dave Astor said...

After reading this great column, I'm thinking of giving up my car and walking everywhere. Might be tricky next time I go to Europe...

darev2005 said...

I guess that's one of the good things about living in a fairly small town. The only time there are long lines for anything is when tornado season hits. Then they all run the grocery stores for bottled water and Pop Tarts.

And since I work evenings and I'm off in the middle of the week, I can go to the DMV on Wednesday morning and nobody is there. Sweet! said...

Oh, Jerry, I can relate! One recent afternoon I went to IRS, Social Security and somewhere else (the location of which I have repressed like a root canal), only to find that each had closed 15 minutes before I arrived! How do you get jobs with hours like those?! I'm sure every taxpayer who reads your comical story will empathize!

Jerry Zezima said...

Dave, giving up your car would help you save money, though you might have to spend it on swimming lessons. Thanks for the great comment!

Jerry Zezima said...

I live in a small town, too, Darev2005, but on Long Island, even small towns have a lot of people, most of whom seem to be at the DMV, especially when I'm there. Maybe they say the same thing about me. Next time I go, however, I'm bringing Pop Tarts.

Jerry Zezima said...

Cathy, maybe the third place you went was the dentist's office and you actually repressed memories not only of a root canal but of waiting a long time to have it. Anyway, I'm sure taxpayers (like you and me) will empathize.

Heidi-"Heidi in Real Life" said...

So funny--so true. LOVED the "I think I know what F-stands for" comment. I bet your cracked everyone up.

Jerry Zezima said...

Thanks, Heidi! If you have to wait that long, you might as well entertain the people who are waiting with you.

Sharon said...

So funny - and realistic. On the rare occasions I need to visit the DMV I take a book, bottle of water and at least one granola bar. In VA you have to pay an extra $10 to renew your license plates at DMV office so that helps the crowds - a little. If you see someone with a briefcase, it is just a new driver carrying all the required identification.

Jerry Zezima said...

Thanks, Sharon. I should have taken a book -- "War and Peace." I also should have taken a bottle, but I don't think you're allowed to drink beer at the DMV.

Curious said...

If Stamford Ct. is your hometown, why are you at a DMV in NY?

Jerry Zezima said...

Curious, I was born and raised in Stamford. I won't say I grew up there because, as you must realize, I haven't grown up. My wife also is from Stamford. But we now live on Long Island. We both love Stamford, we raised our children there, we still have family there and we get back to visit fairly often. And I'm proud and happy to say that I am still writing for The Advocate, my hometown paper. Anyway, that's why I was at the DMV in New York, though I suppose I could have said it's because I'm a guy and got lost and refused to ask for directions.

Sheila Moss said...

The DMV here has joined the 21st century and you can finally renew both your driver's license and auto registration online. I sent them a love letter.

Sheila said...

Ummm, you can plead "traffic school" here and take the driving course online. Since I'm better at computers than driving the speed limit, it turned out okay.

Jerry Zezima said...

Sheila, instead of car keys, I should use computer keys. They will save me lots of time. Thanks for the suggestion!