One of the many steps for us to become full-fledged, official residents of Georgia is getting a Georgia Drive’s License. And, no the DMV here is not surprisingly more fast and efficient than the one in California, it’s just bigger. The DDS (Department of Driver Services) is where you go for licenses, registration is by the County you live in; so we will have to endure another bureaucracy when the time comes to register the vehicle.
The local office of the DDS is in a might-as-well-close-it-down-it’s-so-empty mall in South Decatur. We arrive at 9:00am without an appointment. I had tried to make an appointment the day before by phone, but after being on hold ten minutes past the “anticipated wait time of 15 minutes” I said fuck it and hung up.
To their credit, they do have 11 windows, most of which were actually manned by someone to provide the denizens of Dekalb County with their special services. Just having 11 windows does not, however, mean that the lines move any faster as there are about a hundred people waiting when we arrive; and “Sense of Urgency” is most definitely not the buzzword of the DDS Staff. One guy is demonstrating just how long it can take to attach a new pen to the end of the chain at his window before actually beginning to serve the waiting masses. We are given our numbers, fill out a short form and park it in the plastic chairs.
My wife and I have come here together under the “Misery Loves Company” rule. We both need to get this done, so let’s just do the Band-Aid thing and get it over with quickly, even if it’s going to be painful. But as I look around, I can see groups of people where only one of them has actual business to transact; the others are just hangers-on. You have to be a really good friend to go with someone to the DDS just to keep them company. For me, it would rank just below going to the airport with someone just to “ride along” on the Scale of “Sorry, That Is Some Shit I Just Won’t Do For You”.
“Hey, I got to go renew my license today. Wanna go?”
“Uh, no thanks, man, I gotta stay home and scrub something…”
But there they are. Groups of three and four; and it can’t be an “Entourage” situation because anyone important enough to have an entourage would certainly not be sitting in a DDS office, ever, for any reason. They would most likely have someone from said “entourage” sitting there in their place.
They have a service system where a computer generated female voice calls out the number of the next person being serviced. It’s kind of like the bakery, but kind of not as each three digit number is proceeded by a letter, and certain windows only seem to serve certain letters. “Now serving B 112, at window number 5. Now serving B112 at window number 5…” goes out over the PA system, and the lucky winner jumps up. It is impossible to predict how long your wait will be because they seem to call the numbers in a random order, and there are way too many people to look around and say “Hey, we were here before him…” With this system, you never get that feeling of superiority of knowing you are “next”. Whenever I am in a line, whether it be at the bank, the deli, whatever, I always savor that feeling of being “next”. I mean, I could even let you go in front of me and I’d still be “next”. But I am robbed of that here. The only reward I get here is the few seconds when I’m actually walking to the window, to look around at all the people still waiting and give them a fleeting, “Yeah, I’m all that…” look.
So we are sitting there in our plastic chairs, rapidly becoming so bored that I am actually reading the Driver’s Handbook they have given me. Huh. You can actually pass someone on the right legally here. Good to know. Nothing in the Handbook, though, about how many cars can cram their way through an intersection when the light is turning from yellow to red. As far as I have been able to tell, that number is ambiguous.
As their numbers are called, most people respond quickly; but there are a few that get their number called and just sit. Then, after the number is repeated, say five or six times, they finally look down at their ticket and realize, “Hey, that’s me…” Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had been waiting for almost an hour, and all I have in front of me to look at is a little receipt that says “F-509”, when they call that puppy I am jumping up like there’s a poisonous snake on my chair. But so many of these people are just ambling up to the counter, fishing in their bags for all the tattered scraps of paper they need to conduct their business after they get there. These are most likely the same people that, when the clerk at the Publix is done ringing their groceries, after they have waited in line behind six other people, seem surprised that they need to find some sort of tender with which to pay. “Oh, yeah, guess I’m gonna need that wallet now…” Then they have to figure out how to work the ATM keypad, and you just want to step up, shove them out of the way and do it for them.
Thankfully, our number is called, we get our photocopy temporary licenses. I used to think the DDS was “all that” because the last time we went through this, they printed the actual hard copy and handed it to us. But, no more. We will have to go home and wait until the Postman drives up and calls our number again.