Life Lessons from the DMV


The time I’d dreaded for so long had finally come.  I was up against a deadline that I couldn’t escape.  Yes, dear friends, it was time to renew my driver’s license at the DMV.  The “I’d rather have a root canal than stand in that line” Department of Motor Vehicles.  Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.  I’ve been to other states and stood in other lines to get a driver’s license.  Nothing, in my experience, manages to come close to the mess that is the California DMV.

I’d tried to make an appointment in advance, but even weeks before my birthday those time slots were already taken.  I had only one choice.  Stand in line and wait my turn!!  (Cue horrified screams).

My husband also had to renew his license so together we headed out to face the beast.  We tried to time our visit in order to get in and out as quickly as possible.  We reasoned that the line might be shorter when the office opened first thing in the morning.  Wrong.  We arrived 15 minutes past 8 am.  The line had already formed out of the door, past the storefronts next to the DMV, turned the corner and continued along to the curb at the edge of the parking lot.  I took my place at the end of the line, dug in my purse for the book I’d brought along, and tried to lose myself in a good story.  (On a side note, I am re-reading the Mitford Series by Jan Karon.  I love this series!  I love the fictional town of Mitford.  I want to LIVE in Mitford – probably because they don’t have a DMV.  But I digress.)

The line slowly snaked along.  Fifty minutes after getting in line I was nearing the front doors!  I could now see the screen that informed the crowd that the wait time was 87 minutes.  That’s 87 minutes AFTER I am handed a ticket and told to take a seat.  My husband, who had been talking on the phone to a friend this entire time while pacing back and forth in the parking lot, joined me at the head of the line.

Our turn to get a ticket had finally come!  We waited in anticipation.  The lady behind the desk was just turning to wave us over when her phone rang.  My heart sank.  I could tell by her face that it was not good news.  Due to complications beyond her control, the entire computer system that processed driver’s licenses was down.  Until further notice.  Until someone could get it fixed.  Until the cows come home.

I have to be honest and tell you that my flesh, the stinking part of me that wants to demand my rights, was ready to tear into this poor woman.  Everyone in line, all 5,283,907 of us were staring at her as if she had kicked a puppy at a PETA convention.  Blood was in the water, folks.  Rather than blowing a gasket, I calmly asked for the forms that I would need to fill out once I returned.  Inquired one more time if she had ANY idea when the computers would be fixed.  Then I smiled.  Sighed a deep sigh.  And walked out the door.  To be honest I grumbled a bit.  I have to admit that I also said less than flattering things to my husband regarding my opinion of the state of California, which he’d heard anyway, so no big deal.  Then we got back into our car, 65 minutes after we’d gotten out of our car, and went for breakfast.  After that we stopped at Starbucks for coffee and free wi-fi.  We decided to make it a fun morning together despite the DMV and its computer issues.

A couple of hours later we returned to the DMV just in case.   There was a long line outside, AGAIN, so I decided to check with pseudo-puppy-kicking woman to see if those pesky computers were up and running.

Now here’s the good part, there is a moral to this story after all!  The now very sweet and cheerful woman answered my query with a quick “yes, they are up!”  She then glanced my way.  As I turned to walk out the doors, to once again take my place at the end of a very, very long line, she stopped me.  “Weren’t you here earlier this morning?  “Yes, we were!” I replied.  “Then stand right there at the front of the reservation line and I’ll be with you in a minute.”  Score!!  My husband joined me in line as the super cute, awesomely competent, absolutely non-puppy-kicking state employee called us to stand before her.  “You and your husband were so nice to me this morning.  I remember thinking how cute you two were.  I’m going to mark you down as having a reservation and put you at the front of the queue.  Here are your numbers.  Have a great day!”

Excuse me?  You are moving us to the front of the line?  You mean IN FRONT OF ALL 10,438,994 PEOPLE CURRENTLY WAITING IN HARD PLASTIC CHAIRS? 

I am not kidding when I tell you that within two minutes of sitting down my husband’s number was called.  One minute later my number was called.  No written test.  No hoops to jump through.  Only a cursory eye exam, which I crushed, thank you very much!

So, the moral of the story is this.  You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!  I’m sure there is an equivalent Bible verse, but you get the idea.  Being kind to strangers, acquaintances, friends, co-workers, and family doesn’t take a Herculean effort!  It does take self-control at times, though.  Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.  How do you develop good fruit?  Hangin’ out with Jesus, of course!

For the rest of the day I marveled at God’s goodness and for the teaching moment he so cleverly devised.  I had a choice to make that morning.  A choice to do what is God honoring or a choice to do what my flesh was screaming for me to do, which would most definitely NOT be God honoring.  I am SO glad I chose the right path.

I’m also glad I don’t have to step into the DMV for another five years!  God is good!


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