Life lessons at the DMV

3 minute read
Take a number. (Photo of the San Francisco DMV by Omar Bárcena via Creative Commons/Flickr)
Take a number. (Photo of the San Francisco DMV by Omar Bárcena via Creative Commons/Flickr)

I dread having my photo taken for my driver’s license so much that I forgot about that step in the renewal process. I won’t say how long it took me after I received my camera card to muster the courage to visit the PennDOT Photo Center. I’m usually early, but in this case let’s just say I was more than fashionably late.

I don’t hate the picture. It’s a government photo, a mug shot for the rest of us, so I don’t check my hair in the mirror, which they have nearby, and request five or six retakes until I’m happy. As long as my eyes are open and I don’t look like I’m trying to catch flies, it’s good.

It’s the waiting. This chore I abhor always seems to involve lengthy waiting. To get through it, I decided to see what I could learn from the adventure, other than how long an hour really feels second by second.

1. The experience is what you make it. I stood for the whole hour, but not for lack of trying; empty seats didn’t stay that way long. I decided it was my cardio for the day — standing is hard work. It also gave me a good view for people-watching. I brought a book but never cracked the cover. For a writer, people-watching is fodder for future projects.

2. Humor is key. A goateed man having his picture taken agrees with me.

“Now, look at the blue dot and smile if you’d like to,” the PennDOT worker said.

“Wait! I forgot to put on my lipstick,” the man said and chuckled.

After hearing bing and letters and numbers being called for an hour, I started to fear I’d hear that sound in my sleep. Bing, bing. . .I couldn’t take anymore.

“B333 is now being served in lane 7,” the Siri-like voice said. “B333.”


3. New friends are everywhere. The lady standing next to me, who had the number after mine, laughed and our conversation began. We contemplated why more people weren’t working and why there always seems to be a few lanes closed. We also discussed what kind of ice cream we would reward ourselves with later for standing for so long.

4. Life isn’t always fair. The reason we stood so long wasn’t because there were so many people before us — the newly minted drivers, fresh off their tests in the parking lot, weren’t placed at the end of the line. “If I’d known they get preference,” I told my new friend, “I’d take the damn test again.”

5. Cherish every experience. An hour is long, but I met a nice woman, had a fun chat. And when my holy grail moment finally arrived (BING! A141! Hallelujah!), the worker, who was a sweet young man with curly hair and freckles, gave me a thumbs up when we were done.

Not so bad. Of course, I know I won’t have to do it again for five years (give or take a few months). Bing! Think positive!

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