Because I have super sharp powers of observation, I quickly realized that things probably were not going to go well.
You see, as I pulled into the parking lot, it was jam packed with cars. Most of the cars were missing hub caps, some had windows covered with garbage bags secured with duct tape and others were missing the passenger seat. And their owners were loitering in the parking lot smoking cigarettes. Not that my car is new and fancy by any means. But it does have hub caps and windows and all the seats.
So I artfully wedged my car into the last remaining spot, sucked in my gut and then I turned myself sideways and slithered out of my car and into the parking lot of loiterers, ostensibly there hoping to do business with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Just like me.
I got a letter several months ago saying it was time to renew my drivers license! I put that exclamation point there to imply I was on a fun adventure. Did I convince you?
I procrastinated for two months but finally I could procrastinate no longer; I had to go.
I checked the website to make sure that I knew exactly where I was going and that I had everything I needed. I needed ID, I needed proof of my social security number or a passport, and most importantly, I needed to pay them $25 either with a check, cash or a Visa credit card. Check, check, check. I had all those things.
I did not need proof of insurance or vehicle inspection or voters registration or any other hoop-jumping papers. I realized that I would have a long wait, but I didn’t want to wait an hour (An hour! Hahaha!) and then have my number called only to have some clerk tell me I needed some sCrap of paper that was at home. So I made every effort to secure all the required documents as specified on the web site. I think ahead.
I made my way through the dirty parking lot and into the dirty building which was at or near the maximum occupancy rate. There was not a teaspoon of air to breath that had not already been breathed by someone else. I am more than a little claustrophobic and I felt myself getting a little woozy. But this had to be done. Finally it was my turn to get a number. It was number #80.
With pleading eyes and a wavering voice that implied I could go postal, I asked the young man behind the desk, please sir – is there was any way, any way at all, that I could do this any other way? I was on both knees in the prayer position, head bowed, hands clasped, begging for mercy, intercession, a miracle, anything, anything at all. He looked at my letter and my driver’s license and yawned. Yes, he said, I could make this go away over the phone and then he wrote a number down across the top of my official DPS letter and handed it back to me.
“Really?! Are you sure?” I asked incredulously.
I was elated.
But I also knew, deep in my heart, that he was wrong.
Nonetheless, I was going to enjoy my delusion and false elation for as long as I could.
I took my paper with the phone number, waded back through the icky parking lot of discarded diapers and cigarette butts and wedged myself back into my car and went home where I dialed the number, followed all the prompts and was told I could not complete my transaction over the phone and that I should present myself in person at my local DPS office.
I groused and stomped about and heaved heavy sighs of exasperation that my false elation was false. I whined and complained to AD (who is immune to my whining and complaining). And then I cursed the DPS and all of big government in my head. And then I got back in my car and drove to another DPS office 20 miles away. I believe that is the definition of psychosis – when you do the same thing hoping for a different result.
When I got to this DPS it was much better! The parking lot was reasonably clean and I was able to get out of my car without first vaporizing. I peeked in the windows of the building and there was hardly anyone there! This was going to be GREAT! I followed the signs which pointed to the entrance several doors down. When I walked through that door there were 632 people inside all of whom either a) were talking loudly in a foreign language on their cell phone or b) had a screaming baby standing in their lap, or c) both.
So, once again, I made my way to the front desk and got a number – 49! That was pretty good, much better than 80. I would just have to wait it out. A chair even opened up; no one made a move for it, so I snagged it and sat down. I pulled out my iTouch and started a game of Scrabble. An hour later I looked up and they were on numbers 986, 343 and 299. Clearly I did not understand their numbering system, but then again this was a system engineered by the same people who bring you the IRS, so it made sense in that it didn’t make any sense.
I looked up another hour later and they were on numbers 37, 461 and 128. At about that time, I noticed a message flash on the screen that said they only accept cash at THIS location; no checks, no credit cards. That was not mentioned on the website or by the person at the window who gave me #49 two hours ago. I panicked for a moment wondering how much cash I had on me. If I had waited there two hours and couldn’t complete my transaction because I had $24 but not $25, I might blow an artery. Luckily I had the dough and so I breathed a sigh of relief and went back to playing Scrabble for another hour.
Finally, three hours from the time I arrived, #49 was called. I jumped out of my seat and fist-punched the air. Woo-hoo! I ran up to the window like I was on the Price Is Right. Come on down!
The gal behind the window found all my documents to be in order. She asked me to take a vision test which worried me a little bit because after playing Scrabble on my itty bitty iTouch for three hours, I was just about cross-eyed. She apologized that she didn’t have any Clorox wipes to clean the eye machine. I was disgusted to have to press my face into the same machine that everyone else had pressed their germy noggins into but I just went to my happy place and read the fifth line as requested, which is hard to do when you are holding your breath.
She then had me stand behind the blue line and smile for the camera. I didn’t even bother to put on lipstick. I wanted the DPS to see what they had done to me. I forked over $25 and I was outta there. If I was lucky, I would get my official license in the mail in six weeks.
I hold out little hope that will happen efficiently or timely or even at all, because you know, the postal service, DPS and the IRS are all brought to you by the letters U, S and A. But I choose not to think about it for six-weeks.
I went home and took a Silkwood-style shower and prayed that Jesus would come back before my license expires again.
* * *
I love my USA I do, I do, I do. I hate the exasperatingly inefficient bureaucracy.