For years I dreaded going to my state’s Motor Vehicle Administration; in my mind it was worse than having major dental work done by the TSA. The MVA didn’t hurry for anybody so there were always long lines. Getting there early could save you several hours so I’d arrive at 7:30 to try to be one of the first to experience their disdain, err, uh, I meant be helped. Regardless of when I arrived there were others there already. To be first I think you had to arrive the night before. At least in inclement weather they had a sheltered area to wait – NOT. You either waited in the rain and thunder, shivered in the blowing snow or fanned yourself to cool from the heat and humidity. Some dared to wait in their cars but had to eventually get behind the growing line and stand outside anyway. Cameras covered every inch of the parking lot from multiple angles. I suspect the MVA workers compiled videos of people slipping on ice or having their umbrellas pulled inside out and watched it later as some have done with “predator porn”.
This government agency of the people, by the people, and for the people oozed contempt and control. After waiting to get in you had to wait in line inside; not to be helped but to be given a waiting number. A tall state trooper or two always stood nearby, hands moving towards their holsters if anyone began to frown or, worse, disagreed with an MVA worker. About half of those waiting to get a number were turned back for any one of thousands of reasons. I was once sent home since I dated a document as 09/01/1983 instead of writing it as September 1, 1983. When I asked if I could simply change it and initial it I was told no, I needed to mail in a request for a new form and fill it out correctly. I think I heard the holster clasps snap open when I said “this is ridiculous”.
There was no small talk between the sheeple and their masters; no good mornings, no how are you today sirs. The number issuer’s faces seemed locked in a trance of bored contempt; the citizens faces varied but all contained this uncertain fear. Many fingers were crossed, as if this were a lottery and you never knew if your needs would be granted until you were safely out and headed home. I looked at the numerous and demanding signs posted about but never saw one that said no smiling. Still, to be safe, I usually refrained.
If you were lucky enough to get a number you could take a seat and wait again. You needed to watch the neon sign because if your number appeared and you didn’t respond quickly enough you’d be bypassed. One time my number appeared and I went to the assigned area to be processed. The MVA worker had a spread of Cheetos before her at her workstation. She didn’t acknowledge me when I approached but simply added a few more bites to her cud. Hesitantly I asked if I had the right station and she simply replied “I’m on break, wait here”. I did, as I suspected that this was a just a test to see if I’d get angry so the troopers could get in a little target practice on my skull.
If everything was just right with your documents and you were either crying, sweating or had blood running from an orifice and the MVA employee was in a good mood you would either be sent home for any number of obscure reasons, or given what you needed along with a bill. You were then instructed to get into the bill line. This line did actually move a little faster although there always seemed to be somebody on the phone desperately trying to get a friend, family, or neighbor to bring them some more money. I remember hearing things like “yes, I know, but I had no idea that I’d need to apply for a loan”, or “OK, OK, I’m just not going to get back in the line again”.
The MVA cashiers appeared to make up arbitrary rules like “we don’t take Discovery cards, coins, or money orders. Personal checks must have your full address and by notarized by your senator. We don’t take bills larger than $5 and we don’t take $1 bills. All cash must be face up and oriented in the same direction”. Once you managed to find a method of payment you would join a group in a mad dash for the exit. This was usually snarled with people, trying to get in, who were tired of standing outside. Little children were always crying by this point, refusing to move as some parent(s) promised Xboxes, trips to Disneyland, ice cream or whatever it took. Other parent(s) simply pulled the child across the floor on their little butts in a frantic effort to escape. I suspect that the MVA has added a Child Protective Services agent near the troopers since my last visit. Just getting outside created a rush of Euphoria; I’m free, I’m free, thank GOD almighty I’m free at last!”
Then, one day, about a week before I needed to go to the MVA again, I was discussing my dread with a co-worker. They asked me if I had heard of Terry’s Tag and Title. They proceeded to tell me about a small business that would do everything the MVA could do except for Photo Id’s. They said it was quick and cheap so I decided to give it a try. So the next Saturday I walked into Terry’s. There were two employees with wonderful smiles who greeted me. I looked for a line but I was the only person there. I was in, and out – I kid you not – in less than five minutes. It cost me $8 and they even had lollipops free on the counter. I made a bit of a fool of myself as I lavished them with praise. I still remember their response as I left “our pleasure, have a great day”.
Who was this wise and wonderful Terry and how was this possible? I found out on a subsequent visit that she was just a regular lady who wanted to start a business and hated how she was treated at the MVA. So this was privatization of government I thought. Wow. But to me Terry will never be “just a woman who wanted to start a business”. To me she was and will remain Terry, the slayer of the MVA dragon!!!