One of the joys of moving to a new state and starting over is the opportunity to get new licenses-- for driving and for the cars. This meant spending some quality time at a favorite place of mine: The DMV.
Here I learned all about the beauty of the bureaucracy of my new state.
I started out optimistically that morning--Andy had already done his time at the DMV and had the paperwork partially done on my car. I just had to take it to get "Smogged" as they say around here and bring in the proof that it passed the very strict California Emissions Test.
So I showed up at the local DMV, (which happens to share the same strip mall as our local Wal Mart) with the "Smog Report" in hand and stood in line.
I was handed some paperwork to fill out and told to come back when I was finished.
"Don't get in line again, just come over here and I'll give you a number to wait for the next step."
There were going to be steps? This did not bode well.
It seemed my desire to obtain a Driver's License AND Car License was a little too complicated for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
"What!? This woman wants to save time? Where does she think she is? McDonalds? Hahahahaha!"
So I sat and waited. It gave me time to study the manual for the Driver's test so it wasn't TOO BAD. But I actually had the crazy notion that I would finish and get back home in time to pick up the three youngsters and make it to the Bishop's Storehouse in time for us to fulfill our commitment to volunteer that afternoon/evening.
I finally got called up and was told to take some more paperwork and go fetch my car, park it in a certain space reserved for inspection, put the hood up and wait there for a professional VIN # writer-downer to come out and write my VIN number on the paperwork.
I dutifully followed directions. I sat in my car with the hood up and waited.
Did I mention it was 90 degrees out?
Although my car had passed it's emissions test, I didn't think they would want me running the engine for air conditioning right in front of the DMV.
So, I waited and sweated.
And waited some more.
After about 45 minutes, someone pulled up next to me and opened the hood of his car.
He sat in his car about 5 minutes.
Then, here comes the DMV worker.
He did have the intelligence to do the paperwork of the sweaty, angry-looking middle-aged woman first. But, then he immediately turned to the guy next to me and did his.
Next, I had to park my car away from the special reserved spots--but there was not a parking spot in sight. I circled the parking lot and then ended up out in the north forty in the Wal Mart parking lot.
I trekked back to the DMV and got back in line for STEP 3.
By now the line was a mile long (thus the full parking lot). I waited patiently and enjoyed a little 'people watching'--a favorite pastime of mine.
I counted three people with black eyes.
One with stitches in his lip.
What does this say about my new community?
I finally worked my way back up to the giver of numbers. She asked me what I was there for. I explained that I hoped to accomplish TWO tasks: A driver's license for me, AND a license for my car. This was baffling for her. She finally picked a number and wrote something cryptic on it. I think it said: "Trouble-maker"
I settled in for another long wait.
When I finally got called up again, I was lucky enough to get the one worker in the whole place who was new on the job. She had no idea what she was doing. She kept waiting for the guy next to her to pause in his efficient helpfulness to ask him what to do next.
We got through the confusion over my Washington License:
"Where is the number? Oh, your name is part of the number? Weird."
Then through the confusion over my passport.
"Where is the number?..."
And the confusion over why the heck I was there.
"You want a license?
And for your car?"
Then, she decided I could have the plates for my car, which she had locked right there in her desk. But first, I had to go remove the Washington plates from my car and bring them to her.
"You MUST SURRENDER your old plates before I can give you the new ones."
Well, I happened to know that Andy had removed his old plates at home, and they were sitting in the garage. I had the audacity to mention this to the DMV worker.
"OH NO! You MUST SURRENDER your Washington plates!"
I was starting to feel like a criminal. Those contraband plates from out of state were apparently verboten.
I immediately tried to placate her with humility and apology.
"Of course I will remove the plates and bring them back to you. But... do I have to get in line again? Please don't make me get in line again."
"You can get a screwdriver from the front desk over there--"
THEN, suddenly, her heart grew THREE SIZES and she said:
"You don't have to wait in line. Here are your California plates."
She started to hand them to me, then pulled them back.
"BUT YOU HAVE TO PROMISE that you will surrender your Washington plates!"
"Oh, I will! I promise! Anything you say, just don't make me wait in line again!"
Then, I was entrusted with the glorious plates of California.
And I walked over to the testing counter and stood in line again.
I had plenty of time to study for the California driver's test. I had been in the DMV for 3 1/2 hours. But they have a few quirky laws that I hoped would not be on the test.
Of course they were.
Yet, it came to pass that I passed!
The corrector of tests even gave me a little bit of encouragement:
"You did well."
"You did well."
I had considered the fact that the picture on my license would be there for the next five years. I took some extra time with the grooming that morning with that in mind. But, alas, I had now sweated, and waited myself into a mess. But I didn't care, I just wanted to get it over with.
At least my eyes are open.
I was given a Temporary California License
But I still had one more quest in my Odyssey of Licensing.
I had to get the screwdriver from the front desk and go remove my old plates.
I must keep my promise to the Lady of Recent Hiring.
I was handed a giant phillips and also a huge flathead screwdriver--because, silly me, I didn't know which type of screws were holding my evil Washington plates in place.
I crossed the vast wilderness that was the Walmart parking lot and located my car. I pried off the "BYU Alumni" plate holder and unscrewed the plate on the back.
Then did the same with the front. The plates carried the dirt and grime of much driving.
I attached the glorious plates of California to my car.
Then made the return trek to the DMV with the screwdrivers and the dirty plates.
I turned them into the giver of numbers. And she did thank me.
And I did travel again in the wilderness for the space of many minutes, back to my car.
And thus we see, that it is better to pass through sorrow at the DMV that we may appreciate our lives and be filled with gratitude that we only have to do that once or maybe twice in our sojourn here on earth.