First I must remind you that Brooklyn, (one of five New York City boroughs), has a big enough population to be our country's fourth largest city. That meant that daily, untold hoards of people converged on the DMV’s office in Downtown Brooklyn...making the waiting line enormous.
The “Division’s” space was made up of several offices in the same building. So it was criminal, the way they cut through walls to accommodate the ridiculously long lines. In larger rooms, serpentine lines, (similar to busy amusement park rides) packed the most people in. At its worst, the line went down a flight of stairs that was exposed to weather extremes and back up the other side.
|THIS LINE AT TOKYO DISNEY GIVES YOU AN IDEA OF LIFE AT THE BROOKLYN DMV.|
Anytime you pent-up that many frustrated Brooklynites in a tight space, for long periods of time, they are liable to lose their tempers. It was almost a guarantee that arguments arose that led to fights, (primarily over personal space and selfish bastards cutting into the line).
If being stuck for an hour or two in that powder keg environment wasn’t bad enough then the nirvana of finally getting served was wrought with its own potential for disaster. Please bear in mind that the impatience and idiotic mentality of those waiting in line was easily surpassed by the desensitized Brooklynites who worked there. What a horror it would be if you stepped up to the window with the wrong form filled out or your work was illegible or so dramatically incomplete that it couldn’t be simply adjusted. Because then at the whimsy of that representative, you would be cast aside, told to redo your papers and be exposed to the possibility of being excommunicated to the back of the line. Fortunately, that never happened to me.
A few years later in Las Vegas, my understandable fear of DMVs kept me from applying for a Nevada state driver's license, (once, I even received an added traffic citation for not having one…and I didn’t care). But once my future wife Sue moved out west, we got new licenses together.
Upon entering the crowded the football field-sized Las Vegas DMV, we could see how a little twentieth century common sense propelled this agency away from the Stone Age. It seemed so calm and natural to be properly handled in a pleasant and expedient manner, (albeit that municipality had only a tenth of Brooklyn’s population).
The huge air-conditioned space had Muzak pumped in to lighten the mood.
A large sign directed in-coming DMV visitors to take a number. A separate information desk further assisted people with specific questions and individualized problems. Then a long rectangular waiting room with a gazillion (mostly in use) chairs faced the two dozen service counters, (fifteen were actually manned). These stations were equipped with a little light and a soft door bell-like sound-effect that signaled the next eligible in line to approach.
We felt good, the gigantic “now being served” sign displayed a cheerful light blue #22. I whispered to Sue, “This won’t take long. Twenty-two is my lucky number and we’re #37.” Then I counted the service windows and added, “As soon as each representative serves one person, we’ll be next.”
My prediction came true in ten minutes. We scurried up to the window with big smiles. The agent was a toad-like who woman who did not return our smile! She snapped, “I am now serving blue 37…YOU are red 37!” Farkle! This system sucked too. There were a hundred people ahead of us.
In retrospect, if you were caught-up in those old days then you are as thrilled as I am that most DMV issues can now be resolved by computer or by mail. In my case, I have three cars (mine, Sue’s and my son Andrew’s). So something like renewing a car registration is a simple matter.
Overwhelmingly, a week after sending out a check, the renewed registration appears in my mailbox. I always start the process early and I’ve never been disappointed…until this year. This time, (mine and Andrew’s renew in April), I was about to research the delay when (after six weeks) they arrived, (with two weeks to spare).
Andrew was still away at college at the time. I called and found out he had no plans to come home before the first of May. So, it was no big deal to mail his registration to him. Two days later, he had it. Coincidentally, he surprised us with an impulsive overnight visit the next day. In the afternoon after he was kind enough to let Sue do his laundry he was leaving when I joked, “You remembered to put the registration in your car, right?” I really thought he was giving the business back to me when he said, “I lost it.” Guess who wound-up in the friggin’ DMV to apply for a duplicate?
I was annoyed that I had to drive down there and it was worse inside. The throng of seedy folks reminded me of a waiting room at an insane asylum. So only the dopiest of the moronic didn't have access to a computer or wasn't clever enough to know that most issues could be done by mail...and now, I was one of them.
Luckily, the wait time wasn’t awful but because there was certain information I needed…and didn’t have, I had to come back the next day. A dopey father must do what a moronic father must do. This time, my wait wasn’t too long and when I mailed the duplicate out, we still had ten days leeway.
During that day's fifteen-minute wait, the time passed quickly because I bumped into an old friend (MT) who had retired two years ago. I told him how the old Brooklyn DMV system took hours...or could have been an all day affair. Even in Las Vegas, the way they did it was a million times better but although we were comfy, it still took an hour.
TM said, “You should have used a stink bomb to clear out the long line up and down that staircase.” I shook my head, “Heh?” He said, “Maybe I should say anything...but I guess they can't do anything to me because my stories are so old and I don't work there any more..." I was confused as he lingered in thought before starting back up, "Remember back on ’95 there was a rumor that employees weren’t going to be able use the shortcut stairway next to the security booth?” I shrugged, “No.” “Well," he said, “I dropped a stink bomb in there. The whole place swarmed with investigaters and weasels in hazmat suits and the whole place was paralyzed. In the end, I proved how important that passageway was to everyone so banning the employees from it never happened.”
I thought MT was a character. A likeable free-spirit who never grew-up. Others thought he was a knucklehead and one guy I respected used to say that his initials are just like his head…M-T. So to support his detractor’s case, while we waited at the DMV, he added in a dopey, moronic manner, a couple of other true confessions.
“Steve,” MT said, “do you remember the great meatloaf mystery?” I said, “No.” “Back around ’99, I silently protested the crappy food they gave us. Every day, one way or another…chicken…chicken…chicken! Then one day out of the blue, they put out a meatloaf with ceazy rainbow-colored streaks in it. Ugh! It looked so bad all I ever wanted after that was chicken. Well, I took some of the meatloaf to a private corner of the lunchroom, cut away the strange colors and molded my own, all-brown masterpiece. I then took this artwork and left it on the toilet seat in the main employee men’s room.”
MT paused for a belly-laugh and went on, “The EVS staff closed the whole room. Guys were running all over the place looking for a different place to pee. Then security came in full body condoms and used fancy equipment to analyze the toxicity of the meatloaf. You might think I’m nuts…but right after that, they opened the employee carving station and we ate fresh turkey, pork loin, glazed ham and flank steak every day, for years!”
I wasn’t sure if MT was kidding or not. Then he added, “If you don’t believe that… everyone knows this one. When I was living in Chatsworth, it was about an hour ride home. Maybe I had a bad piece of pork loin because when my shift was over, on my way to the parking lot, my stomach seized up on me. I hate using the filthy restrooms at work, even the 'customers only' ones but I realized there was no way I was going to survive an hour without relief. I was rushing to the second floor public men’s room by the big chandelier when I couldn’t hold back a small fart.” TM stopped, locked eyes with me and said, “We all know, you can’t trust a fart after forty.” I was nodding as he continued, “Son-of-a-bitch, it was a wet fart! I knew something wasn’t right as I limped to the first stall. I took down my pants…what a
At the same time that MT's phone rang, the DMV rep signaled me forward. I waved good-bye and got the duplicate. I drove straight to the post office and mailed it to Andrew...thus leaving us ten days wiggle room. Two days later, I followed-up to make sure my boy got the second duplicate. He didn't. After seven days, it still hadn’t arrived.
To avoid the potential of Andrew getting a summons for not having a valid car registration, on the morning of April 30th, Sue went to the DMV herself. After a decent-sized wait with the dregs of the earth, she was informed that the registration was in my name so I had to sign for everything. She came home and dragged me back there so we could wait around psychopath central, together.
Afterwards, she drove the seventy-five miles and hand-delivered the third duplicate, (as of May 18th, the second duplicate was lost in the mail. It never made it to Andrew and was not returned to sender...me).
At least Sue made practical use of her time and brought home a ton of Andrew’s clothes which lightened our load two weeks later (May 9th) on college move-out day.
The moral of the story is, the DMV in Brooklyn, Nevada or South Jersey (probably every town) hasn’t become a love-fest in the last forty years. Always remember its hell-like qualities and do whatever you have to do to avoid going there. But if you must, dot your i’s and cross your t’s…and where ever possible…let your children do their own waiting…trust me, it builds character.