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Humor in the Imaginary Rings of Hell at the Division of Motor Vehicles: Everyday Magic, Day 585

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Both my sons had to go to the Division of Motor Vehicles — one to take his driving test and the other to get his permit (I know, we’re way behind the curve on turning out teenage or even college-age drivers at our house) — and so yesterday, we went there. I figured it would take an hour until I saw the line wasn’t linear but spiraled. A woman nursing one baby with a toddler at her feet told me it took her an hour to get to the fabled chairs along the edges of the room while newer arrivals curled the line into the center, only dreaming of one day moving ahead enough to the chairs. “You think it’s bad here,” a man told us, “but in Topeka it’s four or five hours.” “It’s the new computer system they put in,” the woman explained.

Daniel and I looked at each other and left, deciding we would try again late afternoon or early the next day.

Later that afternoon, I called DMV, only to discover the spiral of people was thicker, so this morning, we woke far early, got into the van with mugs of coffee, and raced to town, the gleaming white of layered clouds to our west. When we pulled up to DMV, it was exactly 7 a.m., opening time, and there were exactly 28 people waiting outside, a lot less than yesterday, but jeez!

So Daniel waited, Forest slept in the car, prompt-able when we were within two or three people of being called. I sat on the floor against the wall, just past the “No foods or beverages sign,” working on my computer and guzzling coffee. And it took two and a half hours from start to finish.

Yet despite Dante’s version of a driver’s licensing center, the crowd was in good spirits, joking with each other, smiling at little whimsies, and rolling eyes together at the ludicrous challenge of getting a permit, government ID or license.

Sometimes the crazo situation is crazo, and there’s no escaping it. With just a bit of research, I discovered this is the way of DMV throughout Kansas at the moment, and there’s no letting up in sight. Tim hit the brakes, and everyone there —  to quote a Beatles song, was happy to “Take a bad thing and make it better.” I kept in mind that this bad thing is what some of my friends would call “a first world problem.” In the grand scheme, it’s nothing like what most people struggling with falling apart bureaucracies, poverty, starvation and war face all the time. It’s not even a bad imitation of hell although from a distance it might look like one.

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