You can learn interesting things in unexpected places from time to time. Today with my sweetheart at the DMV, while filling out the many forms for a Commercial Driver’s License, the DMV clerk told us some thought-provoking stories, and there were some curious observations to be had as well.
In the observations category, the first thing I noticed was that the numbers being issued to those waiting were not in order; in fact they seemed to be completely random. At one point while we were waiting, the clerks were assisting numbers 17, 302, 16, and 501. I thought that perhaps this is designed to avoid the possible frustration that can occur when you’re number 303 and number 302 has been at the counter for over ninety minutes repeatedly cleaning his glasses and arguing over the accuracy of the vision test. Then I noted a yellowed chart on the wall that detailed the sequences of numbers that served each type of request. Heaven help you if you are in the 950 – 999 range, which signifies “Special Attention.”
I also noted that the décor in this forty-something year-old building was likely the same as it had been the day the office had opened. The faux ficus trees in each corner carried a patina of dust and cobwebs that spoke to their long tenure, and each had a circular stain peeking out from beneath them, betraying occasions when they were unnecessarily watered over the years. Even the Christmas decorations seemed to have been hanging for at least the last dozen holiday seasons.
The décor at the DMV office isn’t the only thing that doesn’t change. The clerk told us that often when people come to renew a license, they compare their picture from six years ago with the one they take that day and notice that they are wearing the same shirt. I asked if this was typically some sort of work uniform, but she said no, that it was just a shirt they wore every day or maybe one they thought they looked good enough in to take a picture.
As he was preparing to take his test, the clerk asked my sweetheart to give me his cell phone. We asked why. It seems that people actually try to cheat on their driving tests by texting answers or reviewing their notes or the Driver’s Handbook on their phones. She said that people also bring the manual into the test with them, make hand signals out the window to an accomplice, or actually “phone a friend” while taking the test. The test proctor, an angry looking bald man who vaguely resembled Mr. Clean or a retired professional wrestler, kept a close eye on those taking the test. The clerk said that when the proctor catches someone cheating, they make a note in their file that is distributed throughout the state so that they are labeled a cheater and can’t take the test anywhere else.
While waiting for my sweetheart to complete the test, I couldn’t help but notice that an older lady behind me at the counter was having a little difficulty completing the vision exam. When I say that I “couldn’t help but notice”, I mean that she was so hard of hearing and addled that the DMV clerk had to give the instructions to her repeatedly and at high volume while being echoed by a friend who had come with her to the DMV.
DMV Clerk: I need you to read line four, from left to right!
Friend: READ THE FOURTH ONE DOWN… ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR!
Test Taker: A… H… M…
DMV Clerk: Are you reading it from left to right? Or right to left?
Friend: READ IT FROM LEFT TO RIGHT! FROM THIS SIDE TO THAT SIDE! THE FOURTH ONE! ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR!
Test Taker: A… H…
DMV Clerk: Ma’am, I need you to start on the left, please!
Friend: THIS SIDE! OVER HERE! READ JUST THE FIRST ONE!
Test Taker: A… H…
Friend: WHERE ARE YOUR OTHER GLASSES? YOU NEED YOUR OTHER GLASSES!
The clerk had also mentioned to us that it is a frequent occurrence that people are arrested while there applying for their license or ID. How frequent? Two or three times a week, she said. Apparently, in order to pay fines for tickets (including those for driving without a license) one must have a Driver’s License or State ID. And if you have an outstanding warrant for not paying a ticket, you will be arrested when you come into the office to get the ID you need to be allowed to pay the fine. You’re kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t! I found it hard to believe that anyone who knew they had a warrant would voluntarily walk into an office full of State Troopers and identify themselves, but as I was watching a young lady all decked out in her best apple bottom jeans and high heels that defied the laws of physics, wearing at least six or seven pounds of jewelry and carrying a purse festooned with an enormous Coach logo was called aside by a Trooper. There was indeed a warrant for her arrest. She was quickly escorted into the back after having been searched and cuffed, while spouting a chorus of, “This is bullshit! This is bullshit!” The young man who had accompanied her into the office actually shook his head and chuckled as they led her away, as he quickly exited the building, presumably before they could check up on him as well.
UPDATE: Just as I had submitted this blog post from my seat in the DMV waiting room, the same State Trooper who had arrested the young lady in the apple bottom jeans approached a couple who had just completed filling out their forms. He told them point blank that he smelled marijuana on them and that they had to undergo a sobriety test. They protested loudly that they had just been “hanging around” with someone else who had been smoking marijuana, but had not smoked it themselves. They summarized their argument with the statement, “We ain’t high!” In a stern tone, he asked them, “Why would you come in here to get your license stinking of marijuana?” The female replied, “What-evah!” to which the Trooper responded, “If you’re going to cop an attitude we can do this the hard way,” efficiently cuffing both of them and leading them into the back room. This place is a gold mine for blog fodder.
UPDATE #2: The mother (well, some sort of maternal figure anyway) of the couple who were just arrested for smoking marijuana just showed up. She’s raising holy hell! She is making a big stink about getting the Trooper’s badge number and telling the couple to shut up while she “handles this.” The matriarch keeps saying, “You wrong! You wrong! They ain’t smokin’ nothing!” The Trooper is doing an excellent job of calmly explaining that smelling marijuana gives him probable cause to search them and to have them undergo a sobriety test since they drove to the DMV office. It seems the young man may have bigger troubles though, as the Trooper asked the matriarch for the phone number for his parole officer. The young woman has been released, and the matriarch and she are in the lobby comparing notes on how what the Trooper is doing is “Jus’ wrong!” The young woman is arguing that “I could smoke up every day eighteen hours a day and he won’t smell nothin’ on me. This is bullshit!” (A familiar refrain. Perhaps she is acquainted with the woman in the apple bottom jeans.)
UPDATE #3: Now the Trooper is telling the matriarch that he needs to have a “Come to Jesus” talk with her, too, because she also smells like marijuana. He’s cuffing her as she protests, “Don’t you tug on me! I got the arthur-itis!” Looks like she’s in for a search as well. If any more family members show up, there may not be anyone left to bail them all out!