2008-07-10 / Letters to the Editor

A Rhode Island DMV odyssey

By coincidence, I went through the amazing experience of attempting to transit the DMV process of registering a boat trailer in the Middletown office this past Thursday.

I had attempted to call the DMV, however their automated answering system seems by design to prohibit any member of the public from actually succeeding in any attempt to speak with a live employee. Maybe that's called "customer service" in the vernacular of DMV. But, I call that no service. I then went on to the DMV Web site and determined that I needed multiple documents from the seller of the trailer that I was attempting to register. After obtaining all of the required info, I departed for the DMV Odyssey in Middletown.

Upon arrival at the DMV at 8:45 a.m., I found myself to be the lucky recipient of machine issued ticket number A034…in a queue of what appeared by accurate count to be a line of only twenty people ahead of me.

I wanted to ask a few questions but there was no information window in sight. Perhaps the first tickets had been issued on the previous afternoon? Thus I made myself comfortable and wondered why I hadn't realized that I could have read at least 10 to 15 chapters in my current book during the following four and a half hour wait. This is what I learned: Rule No. 1, Bring a thick book, No. 2, bring at least one meal, and No.3, bring some extra clothing just in case you are in the afternoon check-in queue and find it necessary to spend the night in order to complete your task the following morning.

There were three customer service windows in the registration section of the reception area. Only two were staffed, and intermittently at that. Coffee breaks, powder room and other inexplicable disappearances seemed to be to standard operating procedures for those two employees.

I pondered why the huge revenues that flow through the DMV were not sufficient enough to permit three employees to be on duty at the same time. Tight budget maybe, but not that tight. I pondered the employee coffee breaks which varied in length from 12 minutes to 24 minutes each and which seemed to occur often. Union Rules no doubt… The coup-de-gras was that at least three people waltzed through the front door, whisked right by the electronic ticket issuing machine and proceeded straight to a window and hovered until the person at the counter departed; each seemed to be known by the employee and was allowed to 'jump the line' sans ticket and take care of their business. Had they heard the comments that I overheard in the waiting gallery, they'd have been well advised to retain armed bodyguards for their respective exits from the lobby.

I thought that number A032 was going to use one of her spiked heels to stab each and every one of them as they departed. Fortunately, no blood was spilled. It averaged anywhere from 7 to 24 minutes to process each customer. Sharply at noon lengthy lunch hours ensued. Finally, at 12:59 p.m., my A034 was called. Nineteen minutes later with boat trailer registration and plate in hand I concluded my mystical trip through the DMV Magic Kingdom of inefficiency. David E. Cain Court Street

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