Monday, July 25, 2011

"You are wrong, and I don't know what you're talking about" (Part III)

For the next few weeks I moved the X-Wing frequently so that it would not even be on a street being checked each day. I printed my receipt for the DMV appointment and taped it to the inside of my windshield next to the note requesting pity from SF parking enforcement. And then the day arrived.

The DMV is an incredible place that seems to be a a strange timewarp-delay of 20 years, no matter the decade. The technology in this office was clearly a product of the 1990s including large projection televisions with static, MSDOS running on nearly every computer monitor, massive copy machines, and a 4-foot stack of boxes filled with staples. I could see that the desktop behind the counter closest to me had an extension for zip-drive disks. Everyone was dressed in plaid or bright pastel blouses.

Everyone has to come here at some point. The DMV is one of those pieces of the American experience that still unifies the public with a shared identity and nemesis (read, "nation building"). And it has a remarkable capacity to strip even the most determined individual of the reason and patience they might exhibit in all other aspects of their life, so that you inevitably find yourself sputtering half-conceived nonsense in protest of just about everything. A line stretched out of the front door, everyone appeared to be either angry or anxious, and only 2 of the 30 windows showed any sign of activity. How this widespread phenomenon has persisted against all probability since Man first had to register the first wheelbarrow with his tribal accountant, I will never know. But I am certain that if we could make citizens at the DMV feel loved and appreciated, the quality of our entire political culture, national democracy and positive views of government would increase a hundred fold.

45 minutes later my number was called over the loudspeaker. I approached Window#19 with deep breaths and explained my predicament one more time. And then something new, and sweet, and unexpected happened.

"Oh, wow. That sucks. We should probably apologize for that."

"Oh my, is that.... is that an apology?"

"No, it was an observation."

"Oh," I considered. "Well, would you like to apologize then?"

He thought for some time. "Um, yeah, OK." And just like that, he turned back to his green-text computer screen to finish processing my request, his cheeks undoubtedly blushing behind his frightening scraggly beard.

I felt vindicated and light of heart. Within moments this man had produced for me the registration for which I had longed for so many months. With the X-Wing's legal recognition in hand, I left the crude place and pranced forth into the sunlight with great hope. I could now drive without risking arrest, and my misunderstood offenses would be forgiven. I was vindicated, and I was free.


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