*** Originally appeared on the blog Quarter Life Catastrophe***
Nine days after it expired, I headed to the DMV to renew my driver’s license. I would have done it sooner, had the boys at the Capitol gotten their work done on time. I pulled into the parking lot, which wasn’t incredibly full by any means, and parked my red Jetta between two of the yellow painted lines. I twirled my keys around my finger as I headed inside.
I followed the sign that pointed me to the basement of the AAA building. I peeked over the edge as I went down the first flight of stairs. There were about six chairs up against the wall, all with people sitting on them. This won’t be so bad, I thought. As I turned ninety degrees and began down the second flight of stairs, a sea of people came into view and I nearly stopped in my tracks. They were all sitting… waiting… staring at the clock on the wall.
There were three clerks working behind the counter. I looked at the neon sign behind them. “Now serving 72” is what it told me. I pulled a number from the dispenser. 102. Neat.
I found an opening amongst the rows of chairs and sat down. I still had my keys in my hand, so I opened my small black purse and dropped them inside. I tried to zip it shut, but this purse is so small, everything needs to be strategically placed. I took out my cell phone and wallet and shuffled things around until I got it closed.
My eyes wandered around the room. It was nice and cool, almost chilly. Compared to the 95-degrees it was outside, it was very nice. There were about a billion signs hung on the walls. Instructions for pretty much anything you can think of. There was a trash can that said “Trash” on the side of it. And above it there was a sign reading “Please place trash here” with an arrow pointing into the can. Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done.
I read the renewal application I had previously filled out for about the tenth time. Yep, everything’s still correct, I nodded to myself. “Now serving 74.” Awesome. That only took about twenty minutes.
Person after person came down the stairs, each pulling a number from that evil little dispenser. And each had the same expression on their face when they saw how many people were ahead of them in line. A girl about my age came down the stairs and sat down next to me without pulling a number. She started laughing to herself.
“I sat here for about fifteen minutes, went to the bank, sat in traffic on my way back… and they have only moved four numbers.” She whispered to me.
“Are you serious?” I laughed. She nodded and whipped out her cell phone. After discussing it with someone, she decided to come back another day.
“Do you want my number?” she asked me. “I have 89.”
“Yes!” I replied jubilantly, “Thank you!”
She laughed and handed me the gold ticket and went on her way. Score. I slipped ticket 102 into my purse and waited contently with my number 89.
“75?” the clerk asked. No one moved. “76?” he went up to 79 before someone stood up. I smiled, wondering how many other people had left. An old man sat down behind me and started talking to this kid who couldn’t have been much older than 18. He started rambling on about golf and asked the kid if he wanted a golf magazine. The kid hesitated and changed the subject when a woman in her thirties began talking to the boy. It seemed as though she knew he didn’t want to talk to the old man about golf anymore. They struck up a conversation about colleges and the like. I quit listening after awhile.
Oh thank you Lord, they are up to 82. A portly man walked out of one of the offices with a young man carrying an armful of signs. He pointed to the wall, and the other man started fashioning the signs to where he had been directed. I was wondering why that piece of wall didn’t have any signs on it. It really looked out of place.
The large man surveyed the rest of the walls, probably trying to figure out what else was in need of a sign. How about a sign explaining why there are so many signs? My thoughts were interrupted by the sweet sound of the number 89 being called, two hours after I set foot in the building.
Five minutes with the clerk and I was back outside in the heat and on my way home.