Doing My Time at the DMV

Today was one of those days almost all of us face every three years; the visit to the DMV to renew your driver’s license. We so don’t want to participate in this process. But if you intend to be an active citizen, drive, get a job or travel on a commercial airline, this little ritual is pretty much part of your life.Now you have probably launched back into time and are reliving the greatest hits of these experiences in your own life. The day it looked like the process was an underwater tai chi class with seniors in slow motion. Or once when you arrived the line was out the door and down the sidewalk. Here in Illinois we had a licenses for bribes scandal a few years ago. Hundreds of people paid off the Secretary of State clerks to give them the licenses. There were some ugly consequences as a result.Although it took me almost 80 minutes to navigate the process there are some bright spots. First the place was extremely well signed in both English and Spanish (excellent job). You knew exactly where to go for what, road test, written test, renewal, etc. The system was pretty well organized. A clerk determines what you are there for and presses one of seven buttons on a machine. Out pops a small paper receipt that details the date, service you need, and a big bold number. Mine was B266. So far so good. But then you wait in the sea of plastic chairs, surrounded posters promoting becoming an organ donor, fighting road rage, using car seats for kids and on yes, a friendly reminder that there is a stiff penalty for trying to bribe the clerk. Here is the display used to indicate what number is being serviced at what counter.


In addition, to the read out, a friendly voice calls it out. Quite efficient. Of course there are not enough people at the counters, and they move very deliberately, never in a hurry. But their motions are compact and efficient. Nothing is wasted, but nothing is urgent either. The main reason it took so long was due to volume. So hats off to the process, but I still wouldn’t want to do it more than once every three years.


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