2012-04-26 / Editorial

Scattering Seeds

BY JOHN A. MURPHY

It’s an experience many will find painfully familiar. Fortunately for most, it occurs blessedly infrequently. But, collectively, taking into account all the citizens negatively impacted, the toll is enormous.

You get the notice in the mail. You are summoned to the DMV, colloquially known here as “the Registry.” You must renew your driver’s license.

The receipt of the notice doesn’t give rise to fear or anxiety. After all, isn’t the DMV making substantial efforts to improve its efficiency? Isn’t license renewal, as opposed to registering a vehicle, a task that local DMV offices handle well? At least, that’s been your experience in the past.

You arrive at the local office of the DMV. The new system of having a screener hand out numbered tickets seems to slow things down a bit. The old system of getting in line for license renewals, not needing a number, worked well. You begin to wonder. You note that the screener has difficulty logging on to the DMV computer. She has to walk behind the counter to confer with other clerks to answer what seem to be routine questions. The line of citizens behind you, seeking to check in, is growing.

Nevertheless, in about 10 minutes, you have your numbered ticket, one specially designated for license renewals. You note that of the five or six workstations, only three are open, and two are taking vehicle registrations. There is no clerk at the license renewal desk. However, the sign above the desk shows that you need wait only for five numbers before being served. You settle in, comfortable in the knowledge that license renewals take only five minutes or so. So, a 25-minute wait – not too bad. Read your paper!

After 15 minutes, the clerk handling license renewals returns. In that 15-minute wait, you have noticed how quickly one of the vehicle registration clerks handles his task, and how slowly the other. So, now, you begin to watch the license renewal clerk’s sign. How fast will those numbers change?

Frustratingly, it seems that he is taking about 15 minutes per license issuance transaction. And – the, coup de grace, after handling four customers, the clerk gets up and leaves his desk. You move closer, to try to see if another clerk will take his place. But, no, the desk remains empty, and the sign above, tantalizingly one digit short of your number.

After 10 minutes of waiting for the clerk to return, you overhear two ladies talking. One says, “Oh yes, if you are an AAA member, you can renew your license there.”

You look at the empty desk. You look at the still-lit sign above the desk, one digit short of your number. And you say to yourself, “I’m outahere!”

You enter the AAA building only a block away. The clerk immediately asks what can she do to help you. You tell her. Five minutes later you are walking out with your license renewed.

A person could get elected governor on the single-issue platform, promising to effectively reform the DMV.

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