Why do lines still exist? feat. the DMV

I began my day at DMV, the Department of Motor Vehicles in Dallas.

Rather, endured the first 5 hours of my day, including driving there and back, at the DMV.

Looking back, the last DMV I visited was in Topeka, Kansas, so I naively thought one of the four main Dallas locations would be similar. 30 minutes in line. 10 to finish up business.

But of course I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, and didn’t have a fluffy terrier to keep me calm.

Let me break down the time lapse from today’s trip:

7:40: I arrive at the DMV. Doors opened at 7:30. I take a ticket and sit down. My ticket says L4048. The rows of DMV chairs are about a 1/3 full. I’m ready to take on the day and I smile toward a baby.

8:40: I figured I would have been picked by now. So I pull out the book Inherent Vice and start reading. My eyes start to droop after about 25 minutes. But a whiff of someone’s stale breath brings me back to my reality. I resume staring off into space and people watching. That keeps me awake.

9:40: I’ve only seen 4 numbers called that start with “L” this past hour. They are pretty much called in order according to first letter, and the last one I saw was L4020. Things are not looking up. I’m confused. Half of that confusion is for why I wasn’t called yet, and the other half ponders why I wasn’t confused/bothered by this sooner.

10:40: Pissy-ness sets in. Mild panic and anxiety attack episode comes and goes. I crumple my once-auspicious numbered ticket as tightly as I can to release my anger without making any kind of scene. Yet I keep up a good mixture of frowning faces and scowls of frustration toward the number screen. If anybody notices, they don’t care, think that’s how my face is on a regular basis or are feeling the same way, too. I flatten the ticket back out and the number is faded. Good. It feels my pain. To distract my anger, I set up my wifi hotspot so I can get work done. I briefly ponder the idea of having a bar in the middle of a DMV. A necessary paradox, I’d say.

11:40: The end is near. Or at least I can see it. A grandmother and her granddaughter sit down next to me. They ask what my number is and I tell them I’ve been here since 7:30 a.m. as if I’m wearing that as some kind of badge of endurance and suffering that I definitely don’t deserve. Those two have a long way to go but it will finally be my time any minute. L4047 is called.

11:50: I leave the DMV. It took seven minutes to fill out the paperwork, show the documents and complete the eye test. The man helping me asked how my day was. I slowly said it could have been better without a four hour wait. He said four hours isn’t bad. I couldn’t bring myself to respond to that. The other three minutes were my bathroom break. I’m dehydrated.

The result:

Four hours of waiting for 7 minutes of time.

I don’t really know why we accept this other than believing that we don’t really have a choice but to wait in lines. “It isn’t our turn,” “we can’t beat the system,” and so on.

If we can’t beat it, then where is the Elon Musk of our bureaucracy when we need him?

Probably waiting in a line somewhere.

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