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Patience: virtue or survival skill? 

A trip to the DMV

click to enlarge Its a long way to 90 at the DMV.
  • Its a long way to 90 at the DMV.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines "day-tripper" as "one who takes a trip that does not last overnight" (remind you of a bad beginning to a high school graduation speech?). By that definition, many of our daily errands, or even our jobs, qualify us as day-trippers.

However general the title "day-tripper" may be, it is widely assumed that an authentic "day trip" needs to consist of a long drive, scenic subject matter and something that gets you away from city fuss and responsibility. Not true. Remember, Webster's is never wrong. A day trip can be a trip to anything, anywhere, as long as you don't sleep there. Say, for instance, going to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew a registration -- that sir, is a completely viable day trip.

Ask anyone who's visited lately; they'll probably nod their heads in agreement.

I recently day-tripped downtown to my local DMV to confront some paperwork and spend part of an afternoon. Contrary to gut instinct, I went sans survival gear, bringing only a book and hidden water bottle in my daypack. My trip began as I descended the stairs (notice hell symbolism) to the basement level DMV offices, complete with bright fluorescents, rows of somber faces in seats, and nearly a dozen cubicles that house the objectives of my mission: live people that can help me get a change of address.

On the way in, I take a number and fumble for my calculator to learn what all the commas on my slip of paper equate to. Strange crusty men in dark raincoats approach me peddling black-market numbers to get ahead in line, followed by blank visages begging for news of loved ones and relatives. I brush through quickly and miraculously find an open seat near a corner -- oh, no wonder, it's next to the dead guy. A sack of bones with cobwebs and loose clothing clung to rib grooves still clutches a tiny, white, numbered tab in its death grip. I check the number -- slightly better than mine -- it comes loose from thin bone fingers with a little tug and I slip mine in its place. The waiting begins.

Conveniently, a television tuned into CNN is turned toward our swelling crowd, so that those of us awake or conscious can do our part to fight the war on terror -- gaining the proper daily dosage of fear and propaganda via conservative media. If only every state could have a budget crisis and cut vital state services so that more people could wait in line in front of televisions, then Bush might just have a chance come November.

Above the television is an electronic billboard flashing all kinds of tantalizing offers and instructions aimed at getting some people to use the postal service rather than come to the DMV in person. Every few minutes the message starts over again with "In a hurry?" in large, red letters, just to remind you, in case you've forgotten, that, indeed, you are tired of waiting. Another small electronic sign hangs next to the larger one, counting up through numbers with the speed of a drunken turtle (which is nearly as fast as our mayor's office is rushing to recognize benefits for same-sex partners). Between these two displays, the eyes tend to wander with a longing that only a true lover understands. Deep, heart-aching desire, the whole soul crying, "Get me the hell out of here please."

In fact, it's rumored that people actually become more religious through DMV-inspired prayer. I, too, found myself closer to the essence of the divine at the DMV -- when I finally saw my number flash on the overhead monitor, I would swear that angels themselves took a break from reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code to escort me to the proper desk, and when the nice lady said that I was finished it was like being born again.

Total time of visit: a little over half an hour. Not as bad as I was expecting. Though consider that duration of wait-time for many other industries and services we count on daily. When food doesn't arrive at a restaurant after 15 or 20 minutes, customers regress to primitive behavior and four-letter words. Maybe Qwest can get away with lengthy waits, but imagine waiting half an hour in line at the bank or grocery store -- there'd be riots. The services provided at the DMV are quick and easy once you reach the counter, and the employees do a wonderful job; the catch is making it through the line to receive the service.

There's no benefit in whining without suggesting positive and constructive ideas for change, and there's no sense in relating what you probably already know regarding Tabor, Amendment 23 and other factors that led in recent years to state DMV downsizing. The best way to sum up this day trip is with some sound advice: Ride a bicycle, walk, or do whatever it takes, but never, ever, ever go to the DMV for a day trip unless you absolutely have to.

-- Matthew Schniper

capsule

State of Colorado Department of Motorized Vehicles

200 S. Cascade Ave.

8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays

520-6240

  • A trip to the DMV

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