Sometimes you need to tell a story just to get it out there. Because otherwise you really would think that you were actually living in a Kafka novel.
Just opened a new bank account.
First time inside a bank branch for years.
Such a depressing place.
Now I remember why I stopped going to them.
A clue as to how depressing that bank branch was … the next stop was the DMV and the feeling was comparatively joyous and then over the next 2 hours, well, not so much. Slowly I felt my life ebbing away.
Turns out that the DMV is a 20 minute drive from the bank … 20 minutes, added to the expected half hour wait in line was going to absorb too much of my time, so a quick check of their web site and a minute later I had booked myself a slot. I needed to be there in 25 minutes … perfect timing and already 30 minutes ahead of the curve.
Except of course, my passenger was Murphy.
L.A. = Traffic. The 20 minute drive took 26 minutes. Appointment missed by 1 minute.
My number was still on the board - so I dutifully stood in my line of 1 waiting for the lady who slipped in front of me to complete her business.
I finally got to the counter and the DMV guy looked at me.
… “can I help you?”
I explained .. to the increasingly blank stare.
Apparently I had lost my place and needed to get a new number.
“But the number is still …”
“You need to get a new number.”
Pointing towards a line at the front of the office.
I start again.
I walk to the line of 4 people. I can fix that. I jump onto the web site like earlier, got a new number and sat down. Another 20 minutes apparently. Still - better than the half hour I had thought.
15 minutes later (under promise - over deliver) I am being served. First question …. can they have my application form?
Confused … sorry … what application form? … nobody told me about an application form.
The lady points me over to a new part of the building … where you go to ‘fill in your form’. I walk over. According to the sign, you can’t take cell phones into that part of the building. So where can I leave it I asked someone standing near me who ‘looked official’.
No idea … I should go talk to ‘someone at the counter’.
I move to the counter.
“Go to terminal 18, complete the application, take a picture of my confirmation number …and then get a new line number."
But, the sign says ”no phon .. “
“Oh - just ignore that …”
I completed the form, got the confirmation number and didn’t even bother to go to the line to get my new number. I just hopped on to the web app … but clearly, they were on to me.
This service is currently unavailable to you.
To me? Not ‘generally unavailable’. But unavailable to me.
I move across to the ‘line’ waiting to get their number, stand behind the one person who was in the process of wrestling with the machine. (Does 1 person constitute a line?)
My turn. I follow the instructions. ‘Computer say no’. It is clearly in cahoots with the web app … ‘this service is currently unavailable to you.’
I clearly had made a mistake. I mean this is where you get your number. I tried again.
‘This service is currently unavailable to you.’
I looked around and seeing nobody ‘looking official’ - wandered back to the lady that told me to fill in my application and take a photo of the confirmation number with my phone - that the sign clearly said I was not allowed to have with me. She clearly understands how to bypass the system.
“Have you completed the form?"
I showed her my confirmation number on my illicit phone.
“Ok - you need to get your number from ‘over there'." … pointing to a totally different place to where I had been trying to get my number.
I looked and in the distance there was yet another counter with a line and a very nice sign above it that read ’Start Here’.
“But, but … I’m not ‘starting’ I’ve been here …"
“Just go there sir."
I did as I was told and got into the line behind 4 people who were clearly ‘ready to start’.
One was served.
Then the next.
Then the next.
Then the next.
This is great - I am clearly the next, failing to observe how a second line had built up in parallel to mine - and as I moved forward towards the counter - the hand was raised - and as deftly as any traffic cop I have seen in the streets, the person from the front of the other line was waived forward.
I stood back. I waited.
And then it was my turn. Even though there were still two people in this mysterious second line - they clearly would have to wait.
“Have you completed your application form?"
“Can you show me your confirmation number?’
I dutifully obliged - at which point the gentleman played that Keyboard as if he had a full orchestra behind him and was performing a Rachmaninoff piano concerto.
A whirring noise emanated from the printer and … no - of course there was no printer, it was just a whirring noise. Meanwhile, ‘my man’ carefully transcribed a number that was displayed on his screen to a form in front of him and with a final flourish handed said form over to yours truly, as he did so said, “take a seat and wait until your number is called."
I looked at my number and up at the screen - only two in front - great.
I sat down and shortly, the numbers moved - I was next.
It was then that a totally different number was called. And then a different number again. And then once more. My sequence was clearly no longer part of the sequence.
Until it was.
The number was finally called and I presented myself at the desk to finally solve for the problem I had come to solve.
The process of renewing was relatively uneventful, although I do need to make an observation.
1) Life is currently running through a series of challenges and changes, with one being that I am not currently of any fixed abode.
“What is your address?” I give them my ‘official, paperwork supported’ address.
“Is this where you want us to send your license to?” … no it isn’t actually. As you can see that address is in NorCal - I am living in LA at the moment - can you send it to an address in LA?
We can indeed. I give them the information.
All good - until this zinger.
You should know that the address we send the license to is the address that will be printed on your license.
Seriously? Apparently, yes.
So, for the next ten years my license will have the address of my friends house on it. An address that the DMV are not validating in any way has anything to do with me, other than this is where they are sending the license. Meanwhile, my official, fully validated address will - to all intents and purposes - be ignored.
2) I wanted to get the RealID option on the license. Not yet absolutely necessary, but wanted to get ahead of the curve and it makes in country flight identification a lot easier.
You need bills, statements and the like to ‘prove who you are’ - and of course the address they want to use is the address where they are sending the license - not the official address that they have in their system.
Clearly, I have no paperwork for that address.
C’est la vie. Another day.
But, eye test, payment, no questions as to why my license had been expired for the last 6 months, All this was pretty smooth.
I am given two pieces of paper, temporary license and receipt and told to ‘go over there’ and show them my receipt.
Over there. Pointing at the desk with the lady who knows how to bypass the system,
Thank you I said - and moved towards the counter on the other side of the
On arrival, I was given a quizzical look..
”They sent me here and told me that I had to show you my receipt.”
”Oh not me.”
”There” - pointing to a desk that until this point in time I had not been aware of.
I move on and another lady asks for my receipt.
I hand it over.
My thumb print is required. Again? Hadn’t the other lady just done that as I went through the renewal process?
More orchestra and told to stand back. I obliged.
”In from of the camera.”
Oh … that’s what is going on. Got it.
“Is this all you have?”
“Is this it. Don’t you have any other papers?”
I showed her the other piece of paper.
More orchestra - “ok - you are done.” - transferring the two bits of paper back to me.
I headed to the entrance - which by now should be called the exit. Looking around wondering if anybody else was going to need talking to.
I wandered out into the sun - expecting at any moment to be stopped and asked whyI hadn’t ..
But I wasn’t.
I now had my temporary drivers license.
As for my life - that’s an afternoon that I will never get back.
But at least I had a starring role in a Kafka novel.