Monday, July 19, 2010

dmv with a difference

My first visit last week to a Florida DMV office was hellish, both in temperature and in customer service. The DMV is universally recognized as one of life's worst experiences—right up there with route canal—but this office could give the most sadistic dentist a run for his money. This completely disorganized place had folks lined up, trickling out of the building. Yes, outside, in Florida, in ninety degree plus heat. And that was at nine in the morning. Just imagine what it must be like as the line snakes longer, in the baked-in heat of a long afternoon. Not to mention that they are running first-time driver's tests in the same parking lot. Really smart.

I had to wait in line for almost an hour before I could even say what I was there for, or get a number to  wait to be seen by someone. Almost an hour before being told I didn't have the correct paperwork. Some folks got to wait as long or longer to be told they were in the wrong office altogether. Apparently this office doesn't do car registrations, even though it's supposedly a DMV.

After coming from the land of forms to fill out, Washington, D.C., the paperwork required for a Florida license seemed a little heavy-handed, if you ask me. A potential Florida driver must show up with his/her social security card and/or current driver's license and/or U.S. passport, plus two proofs of residence, etc., etc. I guess the high amount of over-70 population coupled with the proximity to the edge of the country makes them a little more demanding or nervous. But as a civil servant I was more than a little surprised when they ignored or sneered at my federal government I.D. and D.C.  driver's license—D.C. uses a person's Social Security number as the driver's license number. But that's not good enough for Florida. But I tried to keep my cool as best as I could after standing outside in that heat, in that line, and gritted my teeth, shrugged and decided to return the following week with enough forms of ID to choke the disinterested clerk.

It was impossible to tell from their maddening website what services were offered by other Florida DMV offices not far away from this location, but I tossed the dice this morning and decided to try a different office—and what a difference. I walked across a shaded outdoor courtyard into an air-conditioned government building and was kindly directed by the security guards to the correct office. The smiling lady at the front desk immediately assessed my needs and gave me a number and asked me to take a seat and wait to be called. I pulled out my iPhone to settle in for some time-killing  web-surfing or solitaire, when a moment later I was called to window 4. The young woman who helped me was friendly and apologized for the wait as she processed my driver's license, registration, and temporary tags. After I posed for my photo she asked if I wanted to see it, and when I asked her if it looked OK she turned her computer screen to show me and said I had a very nice smile. I practically walked out of there whistling a happy tune with cartoon bluebirds tweeting around my ears.

I much prefer this Twilight Zone DMV and I hope I never, ever have to go back to the other stupid, mean and naughty one. Ever.

Whistles . . .
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