Thursday, October 15, 2015

My Most Recent Trip to the NM Motor Vehicle Department

New Meico State Flag
My New Mexico Driver’s License required renewing this month, so I planned a trip to the nearest Motor Vehicle Department office in order to complete the process. Over the past few decades, a visit to MVD had been a time-consuming, patience-eroding, thoroughly unpleasant experience.

But in the past few years, the department has reformed itself and streamlined the process. The last two times I was at MVD, my task was accomplished in no more than thirty minutes. In and out with my mission successfully accomplished. Of course, that pleasant surprise was somewhat marred by dropping my new license two years ago somewhere between the agency’s front door and my car. I didn’t discover the loss until I was home, and by then it was too late. But I stray from my purpose.

I have learned that the key to such a benign experience at MVD is to get there early before a whole host of citizens clamoring for attention and assistance overwhelm the fragile system.

Accordingly, I rise early Tuesday morning in order to arrive at the nearest Motor Vehicle office before the 8:00 a.m. opening hour. Not too bad. I am the ninth person standing before the as yet closed and locked door. Now, some people will argue this constitutes standing in line to avoid waiting in line, but that’s their viewpoint, not mine. I figure an investment of a little time to avoid a larger investment of time is time well spent. (My writing class would shudder at the use of the word “time” thrice in one sentence. Note the neat way I avoided using it twice in that sentence?)

At five minutes past eight, the door opens. When I receive my number from the machine that spits out numbers, it is … appropriately … Number Nine. I take my seat and wait to be called. Within ten minutes, an electronic voice calls for Number Nine to report to Window Four. I lurch to my feet (okay, I crawl to my feet) and nearly run over a woman who looks a lot older than I am (but probably isn’t). Window four handles my application quite efficiently, hands back the appropriate papers, and instructs me to take a seat again and wait to be called to Window One for a photo and to complete the process.

I take a seat convenient to Window One and am only two numbers away from being called when some fellow with an officious voice comes out and announces the system has crashed. All over the city. In fact, all over the state. And that includes the private places that -- for a hefty fee -- provide such services on roller-skates. The longest period of time spent on their premices is taken up by writing your generous check to them.

System down. Computers not working. And I’m in the middle of the process. I can wait an indeterminate period of time for the nerds to correct the situation or leave and start the process all over again at another time. In other words, I can get up very early two mornings in a row to accomplish one morning’s worth of chores. Inasmuch as I do not have an early Wednesday appointment, I opt to wait.

The MVD staff apply themselves to decorating the office for Halloween with stuff that looks like spider webs (complete with spiders), jack-o-lanterns, and what-nots while I settle back to view my surroundings. As the wait becomes longer and longer, our crowd of forty or so people begins to dwindle. Other things to do or patience expended, people leave, including the fat, blustery loud-mouth who’s not shy about announcing in stentorian terms he’s never seen a state as disorganized, bungling, and … well, lousy as New Mexico.

The remaining crowd of around twenty includes one Native American and two Blacks, with the remainder about evenly split between Hispanics and Anglos. Why is that significant? It isn’t, but it’s what is, so I notice. Most are forty years of age or less, and the majority are overweight (ahem, including me). Two of the younger guys wear their trousers down around their hips, and I kept expecting them to lose the battle with gravity and head for the floor, but miraculously, that doesn’t happen.

At one point, I notice eight of the score of people have phones out with thumbs working overtime. I figure five are texting while the other three are playing some sort of game. Four more are actually talking on the phone. These are four people I understand. My little flip-phone doesn’t play games, and I don’t text. So it stays in my pocket.

Two hours and thirty minutes later, the system comes alive again, and guess what? We all have to draw new numbers. So I start all over with a new number. Thirty minutes later, I head home with my license renewed.

Oh well, I can sleep-in tomorrow.

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