Sunday, July 10, 2011

How to Lose Half a Day or Marina Goes to the DMV

Well, it finally happened. Marina has a learner's permit. I am still a bit dazed by all of this. Not so much because she has reached another milestone on the road to adulthood (ha!), but because I'm still getting over our trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

I know what you're thinking. Making fun of the DMV. How cliche! I felt the same way on Thursday. That was the day I went to our local office. We happen to like our local DMV. The employees smile at you, I don't ever have to wait long and they are helpful. That day, they helpfully told me they didn't give the written test there before we waited on line. We had a choice of either driving 30 minutes north or 30 minutes south to take the written test at one of the bigger DMV buildings.

Now you would think I could have checked online before we wasted our time and six quarters in the meter at our local office. I did. I couldn't find anything about the written test on the New York site. Every time I searched the site, it gave me information about making an appointment for the road test. OK, no big deal. Marina had to work that day and I wasn't sure where the other offices were, so we went home to look it up and decided we would go on Friday after she finished work at 1. I looked up the information on a much more useful site,, looked at a map, planned my trip, and we left right after Marina finished at the library on Friday.

And we got lost. The half hour trip turned into an hour as we overshot the exit, backtracked through the city streets, and ended up parking several blocks away. I kid you not, the entire street in front of the DMV building was being dug up. Because the building was in the middle of the block, we ended up walking an extra block around, then picked our way through the maze of construction cones and orange tape. I told Marina this was her first test. If she could find her way to the building she was sure to get her learner's permit.

Finally inside at around 2pm, we stand on the first line for a half hour. At the end of the line, she gets a number for the line for the written test. At this point, we're humming Paul Simon's The Afterlife and wondering if Paul was sure he was on his way to heaven. By 3:00, we reach the counter, Marina's application and vision are checked, but only one person can verify her identification. About now I realize the the one person who can do this is the same person who is calling over people who passed, taking their pictures and photocopying their identification. Time seems to slow down. I keep checking the clock. I had two hours in the meter and the building closes at 4pm. It's now 3:05. Once the doors are locked, no one can get back in. No one! Not even the mom with the credit card! I decide to leave Marina so I can add more time to the meter.

Except the meter didn't want to give me more time. I head back and find her taking the test, which she finished quickly. OK, maybe we can get out before the meter runs out. If nothing else, I can leave at 3:40 and try to feed it again. We sit and wait because the security guard is getting nervous by the amount of people standing near the counters waiting for results. At 3:38, I'm getting antsy because it is so crowded and noisy we can't hear if her name is called. We stand closer. 3:40. Should I stay or go? 3:41. I ask the guard if I can just give Marina my credit card if I get locked out. No! I have to be there if it's my card. I decide to take the chance of a parking ticket. At 3:43, her name is called. She passed! Hooray! She hands over her ID to be copied. Her picture is taken. I ask where I pay.

And we get another number. Number 112, to be exact. At the one counter accepting payment, the "Now Serving" sign flashes 096. At this point, I'm certain I'm going to go back to a parking ticket. Now serving 097. Wait a minute. I remember that girl and her father. She had her photo taken when we were waiting for Marina's ID to be hour ago! In the end, we were at the DMV until 5:00. Three. Hours. Three hours that felt like much longer in the timeless, windowless world of the DMV office. My theory is this was all part of the test. I think they use long waiting periods to weed out potential road ragers. If they can't sit patiently for three hours, they would never be able to withstand NY rush hour traffic.

As we walked through the turnstile, past the point of no return, Marina showed me the temporary learner's permit. The cashier had mistakenly written that she had declined voter registration. She hadn't. Sigh. We left the building to the flash of lightning and thunder rumbled as we raced to reach the car before the downpour. It was an escape worthy of Indiana Jones.

By the way, I didn't get a parking ticket. This was a welcome miracle after the trials we faced!


DavidofOz said...

Nothing has changed since we went to the DMV in 2004. (
I am stunned at how inefficient the DMV is. When we returned to Australia and were able to rearrange our licenses and registration and were out in 30 minutes I wanted to hug the person behind the counter.

~*~The Family~*~ said...

Congratulations to Marina! How exciting. Your story sounds like the kind of things that happen to me.

flmom said...

With the downturn in the economy, we are down to only 2 DMV offices. There used to be many, many more and the process was quite fast. Our county is 72 miles long with one office located at the northern end and the other at the southern end. I had to renew last year, and that alone took a couple of hours even though I made an appointment. There were teens there getting their learner's permits who had been there for about four hours or so. To top it off, the a/c was out and it was the middle of summer. Sounds like you and Marina had quite the adventure as well. Tell Marina congrats!!!

Inner Elder said...

Sounds like my DMV experience in 1962 in Downtown Brooklyn and about every experience with a state office since. Are you listening, Albany? Love, Mom

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