Wednesday, January 28, 2015
My driver’s license was up for renewal. In the past they’ve let me do that online. Not this time. I guess they figure my picture is so old it looks more like my son than me.
Every time I go to the DMV I can expect confusion, crowds, and the wrong forms. I can also expect it’ll take the entire day.
Now in California they let you make appointments, which is great… except you have to make them months in advance. My license is up in a few weeks. The first appointment I could make was for early March. So that option is gone.
At this point it becomes a challenge to see if I can beat the system.
The first question is which DMV to target? Are any less crowded? Are any more efficient? Which has the fewest number of crack heads sitting in your row? For the answer to that I went to check Google reviews of the various Westside DMV’s. These proved to be no help. Culver City, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood all seemed to get the same mixed reviews. Half the people thought they were fine, the other half thought they were Guantanamo. Some said they waited for four hours. A few said they were in and out in five minutes? Unless the DMV was open during Monday's East Coast blizzard I can’t imagine how that could be possible. If Obama showed up to renew his license it would still take forty-five minutes because the computers would be out.
I decided on Santa Monica. I just figured I’d be mingling with a higher class of crack heads and gang members.
Next question: When is the best time to go if you don’t have an appointment? If you wander in at 10:30 in the morning or 1:30 in the afternoon you’re a blithering idiot. You’ll be there longer than it took to film BOYHOOD.
One reviewer said to show up at the very end of the day. If they close at 5:00 and you get there at 4:30 it’ll be clear sailing. He may be right, but it’s a schlep to get across town. And if he’s wrong then I’ve wasted an entire afternoon for nothing.
At 8:00 they opened the doors and we charged to the START HERE counter. Within seconds the back-and-forth line looked a TSA checkpoint. By force of habit I started taking off my shoes. I was assigned a letter and a number and told to go to the waiting area and wait to be called. In only ten minutes I was called. Sweet, except I had already been waiting an hour.
As expected, there was confusion. I was there two minutes and someone else approached saying they were called for this window. Actually, they had been called but never responded so the clerk moved on. They didn’t understand the system. You have a number. They call your number. How difficult is it to understand that system? But apparently it was. They were sent back to the START WINDOW and I’m sure, never heard from again.
Sure enough, the computer wasn’t working. I asked if this happens often and the clerk said he didn’t know. How long had he been working there I wondered? Several years. So… sitting at the same computer for a several years he didn’t know if the shutdown was a regular thing or an anomaly? Ohhh-kay. After about ten minutes it slowly returned to life.
Maybe it’s because I was in the army but I’m always nervous when talking to government employees at windows. He’s going to check the wrong box and I’m going to have to repeat Basic Training.
I didn’t have to take any driving tests or written exams, but I did have to take an eye test. There are eye charts placed periodically behind the windows and I was asked to read one (which I did fine). But depending on which window you were at the top line was either 20/30 or 20/80. I would not use this system to determine your prescription.
I had to take a thumbprint of my right thumb. I just placed it on this electronic pad. I had to do it four times. It wasn’t working. This must be the same company that made the thumbprint software for iPhones.
Finally, I was given my form and sent to get my photo taken. Here too there was a line, but only three ahead of me. There was a problem with this computer. It took twenty minutes before I reached the front of the line. Seriously, if you arrive at 10:30 you’re at the DMV until Haley’s Comet returns.
I had to take a thumbprint of my left thumb. This electronic pad didn’t work either. Three times was a charm. For the photo I was told to take off my glasses. I always wear my glasses when driving, but whatever.
And that was that. A grand total of 1:45 hours, counting my wait outside the building. I felt like I had won THE AMAZING RACE. For the DMV that was lightening. As for my review, I have to say that all the clerks were very pleasant. It can’t be easy processing all of us nimrods for eight hours a day. Which takes me to this, one of my favorite scenes of all-time. It’s from TAXI. Reverend Jim goes to the DMV to get his license. It was written by Glen & Les Charles. I bet, in real life, these clerks have seen this and worse.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM