The DMV Experience

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Helaine and I drove to Santa Ana this afternoon. It’s California’s closest DMV office and we had an appointment! That’s right. You can make an appointment at the DMV.

Be still my beating heart.

IMAG0446-w1200-h1200Because we expected workers making noise near our house, we brought Doppler. The sign next to the door said service dogs only. I’m sticking to my story Doppler’s in the Secret Service.

Thankfully, no one asked and she sat patiently in her bag as we worked our way through the system¹.

Good news for anyone planning to move to California from out-of-state. The DMV office looked like a DMV office. You will not suffer culture shock!

The building is squat on the outside, spartan on the inside. It looks as if someone went to Costco, got a large box of people and just poured them in. As with all DMVs everywhere, nothing looks friendly. No one looks happy.

A clerk I dealt with told me he had to leave for a minute. He asked me to wait. Then he took out a key and locked his desk drawer before disappearing.

He was back a minute later, unlocked the drawer and picked up where we left off. Who was he protecting against?

IMAG0445-w1200-h1200Connecticut and other states could learn a lot from the California DMVs appointment system. We thought the line we were directed to was long, but it moved quickly and we were called at our scheduled time.

No sense coming early. 1:15 appointments are taken at 1:15. “Get a cup of coffee,” one early applicant was told.

What’s troubling was another, longer line which ran through the building and out the door. It was mostly brown skinned people wearing work clothes. A computer oriented appointment system leaves out those too poor for computers or those unable to navigate the system. That seems unfair.

“Do you have a passport or birth certificate,” the woman behind the desk asked at our appointed time?

You’re kidding? No one mentioned passports.

Though we’d both studied the California written test that awaited us, we hadn’t planned for this. We went 0 for 2 on licenses!

“Are both cars here,” she continued?

We came in Helaine’s car. Both cars had already been smog tested. We came with proof of insurance and our clear titles for both. We didn’t realize there was also a physical inspection at the DMV to make sure our cars were our cars.

Helaine got her plates. I did not. 1 for 2.

As soon as we got home I made another DMV appointment–another two week wait. This time we’ll come with everything we can think of.

No one wants too much DMV.

¹ – Click the photo to see a larger version. Look carefully on the floor and you’ll find our pup.

8 Responses to “The DMV Experience”

  1. Donna Wilson says:

    It does look familiar =)
    How does Doppler do in the carry bag? Does she try to jump out or anything. Just curious because I was thinking about getting one for my little man but I think he would bark at everyone.

    • Geoff Fox says:

      Doppler likes being with us… and by us I mean Helaine. Being in the bag is fine with her. She doesn’t balk or bark or try to escape. She is a low maintenance puppy.

  2. Reisa Miller says:

    It’s much easier here in AZ. Walk in, go to the desk to tell them what you need, they ask a few questions and give you a number.You sit and watch the numbers board. An automated voice announces the numbers, loudly, clearly and twice, then tells you which numbered MVD person to go to. Didn’t need to take a test since we had valid CT licenses. Turned them in and got our AZ licenses, all for ten dollars. We were done within an hour and a half. And everyone we came in contact with was pleasant, friendly, efficient and welcoming. We had instructions to have our car inspected, which we did. Then came back with the report and turned in our CT license plate for the AZ plate. No hassle, no problem.

  3. Evi from Danbury says:

    Loved the Costco reference. A clear visual…I loath going to the DMV..

  4. Cherie says:

    It’s so funny you mentioned how they all look alike – that was my first thought looking at the photo! Nothing good ever comes from going to a DMV…somehow you feel like you need a shower when it’s all done!
    I loved Doppler’s photo. If you hadn’t told me to look, I never would have seen him!
    So, I guess this California thing is for real, huh??

  5. NancyB says:

    I had to take a test when I got my California license too – freaked me out! But since I was only 10 years removed from taking my CT test (unlike you haha!) I passed, but just barely.

  6. Sue Schaff says:

    In Vermont, well at least in Bennington, you are in and out within minutes. Plate renewal registrations take 3-4 days after you send it through the mail.

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