Typically when people say “excuse me” it’s done in a polite manner, but I was at the DMV, a place where basic human kindness apparently goes to die.
I know I looked like an ignorant idiot, but I was only doing as instructed. The woman at the window who was helping me directed me to a computer terminal to fill out a form and then told me to skip the line, which I’d already stood in, and return to her window when I was done so that she could finish processing my request.
Skip the line? At the DMV? Blasphemy!
I’d already stood in the line once, and the woman at the window gave me a Chance card: “Advance to go; Collect $200.” Well, that is how it would have been if we were playing Monopoly, but I was granted a pass, and I was going to take it.
Unfortunately, the window I was returning to was just to the right of the main line, so it looked like I was either confused or trying to bypass the line. I knew how it looked, but I was going to stand my ground. Face forward, I told myself. You are doing as you were told. It’s cool.
And then came the “Excuse me.”
I turned to my left to see an annoyed woman. “Excuse me,” she said. “There is a line, and I suggest you get in it. The end is over there.”
Her words were laced with irritation as she crossly pointed to the end of the line, which was about 10 people deep. And I get it. I know what it looked like. Who was I to think I could just waltz up to a window and ignore the line process? I explained to her that I’d already been in line and was asked to return to a specific window. She huffed, but dropped the issue. In what I’m sure she chalked up to karma, the woman at the front of the line was directed to approach a window and was helped before I was summoned to return to my window. Several people were helped before I was helped again, and I was completely fine with that.
Trips to the DMV are just part of life. It’s routine like going to the doctor. Yes, you made an appointment, but you are going to have to wait, just like all the people did before you.
When I was initially waiting in line, a woman approached the line gatekeeper and said she had an appointment later in the week, but she was wondering if she could start the paperwork early because she’d only have about 30 minutes for her scheduled appointment.
Wrong! If you are going to the DMV, you should give yourself at least an hour, and don’t say you are in a hurry because everyone else is in a hurry to get out of there, too.
The only people who are excited to be at the DMV are teens who are about to get their first driver’s license. Everyone else is just going through the motions.
I don’t see why a trip to the DMV has to be such a soul-sucking experience. It’s as if people give up on the idea of ever being happy again when they walk through the doors.
I always go into the DMV with the same mindset: Be cheerful, but skip the banter, and do as you are told. And I’ve never had a problem.
I was actually impressed with the DMV’s attempt to entertain its unhappy guests on my most recent trip.
The TV screens were used to pass along the latest public safety information, but in between DMV ads and infomercials, there were feature videos.
While waiting, I was able to get the latest baseball scores and learned how to make butterflied coconut shrimp.
Neither of these bits of information is useful to me, but I was pleasantly surprised by the offering and grateful for the distraction.
In all, I was at the DMV office just over an hour. There are plenty of other ways I would have preferred to spend those 60 minutes, but it’s over now. I’ll get my stuff in the mail and move on with my life. I only hope my line-cutting accuser can do the same.
Samie Hartley is the Napa Valley Register online editor. Simple & Sassy runs every other Sunday. She can be reached at
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