As you may have noticed, I like to complain – not just when I have been treated poorly by those who pay me to perform a job, but especially when I’m treated badly by those whom I pay to do theirs.
We’ve all had the experience of standing in some government office and wondering what sort of mental illness one must possess to be qualified for that job. But at the DMV, it isn’t mental illness, so much as personality disorder at play. Narcissistic Personality Disorder to be precise. After my latest adventure, I felt obliged to look it up…it’s a real thing.
Setting: In January of this year we had a house fire which destroyed almost all of my belongings, including things I thought were secure, like the title to my car. (Note to self: buy better safe). The insurance company moved us to a motel in our small KS town, then to some furnished apartments outside of town. Outside of the state in fact. Without the title, I could not get my car registered in the new state and my plates from my former state, Colorado, were about to expire, so I called the dealership where I bought it and they sent me a new one. In a little over a week, a company in Colorado managed to track down, obtain and mail a document vital to my recovery from this tragic incident. It was kind of them, I must say.
However, the story skews from there. Armed with the title and all of the documents I can ever recall needing at the DMV, my daughter and I proceeded to the office in Joplin, MO. We waited for half an hour and presented our paperwork at the counter. All I needed was a temporary license plate so I could drive my car for the next 60 days in their state. Then we were going back to Kansas.
I had brought everything: the title, my lease, my driver’s license, my paperwork from the house fire, the car insurance, and several other documents of identity as proof. The girl behind the desk fixed me with an appraising look as I dumped my paperwork on the counter. I began to explain what had happened. She, or course, interrupted me by pulling out a sheet of paper, circling items I would need, including, but not limited to a vehicle inspection and a COURT WAIVER stating I owed no in-state taxes. Then, she none-too-politely informed me I would be better off going back to Kansas to title my car. I informed her that was a 180-mile round trip, to which she gave me a half-smile and called the next number.
Kansas it was.
The next day, I took all of the above, plus my house’s recent utility bill and drove 80 miles to my destination. No one was in line, thankfully, and I approached the desk with something akin to hope burgeoning in my black little heart. Maybe the Missouri girl was right. Yes, this was much better.
“You need a KS driver’s license, first off. Please go to their office and have a seat. Do you know where it is?”
The fifth circle of Hell?
Had I really expected anything else?
After we received directions, off we went to the license office. It’s a quaint little affair, located on the bottom floor of a building painted the exact color of gangrene. They don’t hand out printed numbers from a ticket machine there – they have the letters A-Z handwritten on a hook. Very low tech.
Every seat was full.
After sorting through the stack of papers I’d brought along, cleaning out all the receipts my insurance company insists I keep for the fire from my purse and unsuccessfully rooting around for a Chap-stick for my daughter, it was finally my turn.
I approached the Asian man in training with my wad of papers and he began to cringe. Three sentences in, he put out his hands…”I am just a trainee. I can’t help you, yet. Maybe in a couple of weeks, I’ll know how to do this one.” I almost put my head down on the counter. Then a voice came to my rescue…or so I thought.
“Here, you handle this gentleman, I’ll take her,” he announced brusquely from behind his desk. My heart leapt. A seasoned veteran, returned from lunch to help me out? Somebody call Ripley’s. Quickly, I traded places with a man who had one piece of paper and spoke very little English. The paper didn’t even have his photo on it. Good luck, buddy, I thought, looking down at the stack of ID in my hand: driver’s license, SS card, tax papers, insurance cards, bills, and a letter from the Social Security Administration verifying my birthdate and identity.
How could this go wrong?
I turned to him with a smile…that instantly died on my face. This man was a cop. I mean it, a cop. A flat-topped, thick-necked, brick you-know-what-house of a man who looked like he wore mirrored sunglasses for the state patrol five minutes ago. Crap. But he knew his stuff. As I began again, he quickly interrupted me as well.
“Do you have your birth certificate?” he asked gruffly, giving all of proof a cursory glance.
“No, that was lost in a fire. The only other copy might be with my ex-husband in Colorado.”
Meanwhile, the Latino man standing next to me with one sheet of paper, got to proceed to the “let’s take your photo now” line. Hmmm.
“Well, you’re going to need it. Either that or a passport,” he added, passing me my stack of papers with yet another perched on top. You guessed it, the list with acceptable ID circled in red. “You are, after all, coming from another state.”
Yes, but not another COUNTRY, I was tempted to add. And point. But I didn’t.
“Go find it, then come back,” he barked and announced the next letter in the alphabet. “Oh, and we’ll need an inspection too,” he called out as I was headed towards the door.
Of course you do.