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The DMV as an Allegory of American Decadence

It’s often been noted that petty bureaucrats, than whom none is more petty than the bureaucrats at government agencies like the DMV, delight in adding some little quota to the woe and inconvenience of their victims, er, their clients. This is true, as yesterday’s experience reminded me. I cannot express the subtle gleam that came into the eye of the female who got me for a plaything when she learned that I wanted a verified license but lacked the requisite paraphernalia. Mostly, it is true, I was mesmerized by her fingernails — I say “her” fingernails, but these inch-and-a-half talons cannot really have been hers. No human being could have generated such claw-like extrusions on her own. Each boasted an elaborate, colorful paint job of unspeakable hideousness, and no one was quite like another.  I wondered if she moonlighted as a hypnotist, for I noted that she keep those glittering prostheses in constant, attention-grabbing motion.

Still, captivated though I was, I also noted the glint in her eye, the thin smile of satisfaction that suddenly registered like a sine-wave across her countenance when she discovered she was going to be able to disappoint me.

This was my choice: 1. go home, scrounge up the rest of the required certification, come back for another 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5) hour stint at the DMV or 2.  be content with a “regular” license, i.e., one that entitled you to turn the key in your car but was otherise worthless.

I played the theme from Jeopardy in my head for a moment. I’d just spent two hours in two separate holding areas on a glorious summer morning.

I took the “regular” license.

OK.  “Go over where it says ‘CAMERA.’”

A short wait. Another female calls out “Roger” (what ever happened to “Mr. Kimball"?) I trudge up to the window. “Receipt!” snapped the preoccupied functionary, otherwise ignoring me. I handed it over. She gave it a suspicious look and then barked that I should stand by the curtain. “Chin DOWN.” she said, snapping my picture. “Wait over there.”

A few minutes later I was called over and handed my new license, a snazzy-looking piece of plastic emblazoned with the legend NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION. Thanks for that.

A couple of points. I can think of plenty of people who are going to have trouble coming up with the requisite slate of verification when it comes time to review their driver’s license. Do you know anyone over the age of about 20 who still has his Social Security card?   So how about the housewife who doesn’t have her Social Security card and also doesn’t have a W2 or 1009 form? What then?