Ahh, DMV, how I despise thee

Since I couldn’t schedule an appointment at the DMV, today I decided to drop in and renew my license. Interestingly, the last time I was at the DMV was to get a marriage license in 1996. The last time I went through the process of getting a driver’s license was in 1995 after moving to Colorado. In those days, licenses were valid for ten years and I could renew it online. So I’ve renewed it twice online, and didn’t have to see the inside of the DMV for almost twenty years.

I arrived at the building at precisely 8:00am, when they open. There was a line of at least 40 people– maybe up to 50– standing on the sidewalk waiting for the doors to open. Holy cow. I turned right around and headed to the office.

After a couple of hours, I went back with the hope that the initial crowd had thinned. Indeed, there were maybe 20 people waiting for their ticket number to be called. I used the little touchscreen device near the door to get my ticket, and compared it with where they were in the queue. The ticket machine was nice enough to tell me the expected wait time: one hour and eleven minutes. I hung around for maybe ten minutes to see if perhaps the estimation algorithm was wrong, but in those ten minutes I think one person was called. I walked out and went back to work at the office again.

Just shy of an hour later, I came back to the DMV. I figured I had maybe 10-15 minutes to wait. Alas, I had just missed my number being called. The number right after it was shown on the big board in the office. Argh. But surely I could point out that I had just been missed, and jump back in the queue?

I waited for a few minutes until one of the workers was free, and showed her my ticket. “I just came back and noticed that my number was called a few minutes ago. Would it be okay if I go next?”

She looked at me with a look that only a government bureaucrat could have. “Sir, you’ll need to take a new number. But don’t worry, the line is moving quickly today.”

Quickly! Ha ha! Thanks, helpful DMV lady!

Dejected, I went back to the touchscreen and printed another ticket. Estimated wait time: 38 minutes. Okay, it’s not the end of the world, and I suppose I kind of cheated by leaving the office for an hour, so I settled in to wait.

An hour passed.

I noticed on the big board that the estimated wait time for new customers coming into the office was now 1:20. As I watched with growing impatience, I spotted several ways their process is just frightfully inefficient. But then again, these people have absolutely no incentive whatsoever to speed up the process. They work their eight-hour shifts and go home, and frankly they probably don’t really care how many people they serve or how long those people have to wait.

Finally I was called to the counter. I presented all of the right paperwork and finished in about 90 seconds. No kidding. Yay, I was finished! No, wait, I had to go to another area to wait for them to take my picture for the new license.

45 minutes passed.

The woman who had been manning the camera station while I was waiting earlier had simply vanished. Maybe she was on a lunch break, or really had to go to the bathroom, or was just in a back office crying as she contemplated her career choice. Regardless, the line of people waiting for their pictures continued to grow. Eventually a guy standing next to me commented about how the line of people waiting to do the paperwork portion had shrunk to almost nothing, while those waiting for their pictures had grown. Sure enough, there were probably 3 people with tickets in hand, and 20 standing around waiting for the camera lady.

At long last the camera lady called me to the counter. She asked for a fingerprint, and I told her I’d like to opt out. (Colorado is one of only four states that requires a fingerprint for a driver’s license, and I think it’s a ridiculous requirement. I’m not a criminal, and I don’t see how my fingerprints have anything to do with driving a car.) She told me I couldn’t opt out, and that was that. I placed my finger carefully on the scanner, setting it sideways so she couldn’t get a good scan. Unfortunately she saw through that little ruse, and after a few more tries and gruff instructions about placing my finger flat and in the center and all that, she was satisfied. Click, picture, and finally I was finished.

All in all, I spent over two hours to do something that actually required a little over two minutes of my time. Absurd. I think going to the dentist is actually better than the DMV, because at least at the dentist they’re doing something.

Five years from now, when my new license expires, I sure hope I can renew it online. Twenty years between visits isn’t enough.