One of my least favorite parts of international travel is dealing with the various bureaucracies necessary for me to obtain a ticket, visa and proper permissions that assure the powers that be that I am a harmless citizen. Dealing with all of this whilst on my medicine subinternship and then in Haiti has been…challenging. I will have you all know, however, that I am improving. I only cried once on the phone to the visa office!
The machinations of this process are obscure and each and every governmental office seems to espouse a similar credo: no transparency at any cost! More paperwork is better! Don’t tell the customer which forms they need…it’s far more fun to simply repeatedly deny them when they don’t provide the forms that we seemingly make up at random!
These bureaucratic gymnastics brought me to the DMV today so I could renew my license. Why? Because even though it is valid throughout my entire trip to India apparently some unwritten (but strictly enforced) rule states that it must be valid for 6months in order to obtain a visa. OK fine. Once there, I was given a number and waited for 30min- only to discover that they had given me the wrong KIND of number which put me at the back of the line again. While I didn’t receive an apology for the error, I did receive an impressively surly glance… which is pretty much the same thing in DMV world. While there I did what I always do when I am frustrated: I tried to make it seem funny. So I decided to compile a list of The 5 People You Always See at the DMV
- The loud complainer: this guy was out in full force today- whining about how he felt that the numbers were being called out of order (they weren’t) that he’d been there for hours (he hadn’t) and that the DMV was chock full of idiots (no comment)
- The attempted line cutter: this person is pushy, obvious and generally only successful in pissing everyone off.
- The cute old person: this person usually comes with a folder full of carefully hand lettered paperwork that documents their existence from cradle to future cemetery plot. Need to see a receipt from their first pair of shoes? No problem- they just need to open up their dusty portfolio and sift around a bit.
- The uncomfortably friendly person: this person generally smells of cheap cologne (or BO if you’re really lucky) and sits on the bench at a distance that is both socially unacceptable and unnecessary. They fail to understand that “silent martyr-like stare punctuated by occasional sighs” are the only acceptable forms of facial expression at the DMV and insist on hitting on you/talking to you/bothering you for the duration of your DMV experience.
- The non-English speaker: inevitably this person doesn’t simply speak Spanish or Portugese- we’re generally talking along the lines of a native Kinyarwanda speaker. And even though they hold up the line for an impossibly long time, your heart goes out to this individual because the DMV doesn’t even make sense in English.
After an hour of waiting, I finally got to renew my license and they took my picture which virtually ensures that I will be stopped at any and all security checkpoint due to my uncanny resemblance to an angry, hardened career criminal (albeit a sort of coy one, don’t you think?) Lucky for me I don’t even get my new license for 7-10 business days which virtually ensures that I won’t get my visa on time!
But, my dear friends, there is always a silver lining. Once I arrived home I noticed that the lovely old crone at the DMV had spelled the name of my street wrong. Which means that I got to go BACK and relive the wondrous experience.