The Harlem DMV – waiting at the Gates of Hell…

The very three letters conjure up nightmares. D – M – V. It is nationwide. People have a grave fear of this ominous place for a reason – it is going to test your will. But I had my bike, parking secured, and my insurance was in order. All that was left was get the tag. It was about 1:15pm in the afternoon and I figured it might be not too crowded. How wrong I was. Entering the room brought back memories of the Who’s tragic 1979 concert trampling. I could not believe the sea of humanity. I hunkered down and walked up to the information window but in a Christmas Story moment the gentleman at the counter kindly informed me that I needed to get into the line on the right – it was out the door. I sighed and skulked to the end.

The line moved quickly though. I hoped that all of my paperwork was in order. I approached the desk and I was missing a proper bill of sale form. They handed it to me and said I could just come back to the window when I was done filling it out. Upon return of the form I was handed a number: C636. I had no idea what this meant but I was about to find out.

I took a seat on one of the wooden benches that reminded me of the pews in church – bolt upright and hard as stone. I believe they were designed to break your spirit. A quick way to weed out the weak. I looked up at the numerical board. There seemed to be letters A – G followed by a three digit number. 25 windows served the customers so I thought it might go quickly. I saw C567 pop up on the board. Did this mean there were 69 people in front on me? No, because of all the other prefixes the number was actually 7 times that. I began to cry on the inside a little bit. I had band practice with The Hornrims that night and didn’t want to be late.

I waited like a champ. I had my trusty iPhone to entertain me with emails and websurfing so I wasn’t too bored, but 10 minutes into the wait a girl behind me took a phone call. This had to have been the most profane phone conversation in recorded history. Alexander Graham Bell surely was rolling in his grave as this 20 something girl rattled off expletives regarding her adventures over the past weekend, all to an unwilling audience that included elderly and young children. I did not get upset by this. I was genuinely entertained. The girl was a master of profanity and she recited her words with the bravery of a performance artist. She talked for a solid two hours.

The clock ticked and the numbers flashed. A man next to me decided to play a video game on his phone and scream and cheer with every alien destroyed. That killed another 30 minutes. I was still not upset. My number moved closer and soon I would be in the saddle of my bike. At 4PM the doors were locked. No one else was a allowed into the DMV but the people waiting would be served. As I sat caged, I thought in my mind how lucky I am to have a great job with decent hours.

With 10 “C” digits to go the children of waiting parents started to get cranky. About 4 or 5 of them started to wail at the top of their lungs. It created a din like I have never heard. The tone seemed to have a harmonic resonance that could crack the building in two. Poor kids, they have been waiting longer than I have. They wanted their mom’s plates. The customers all braced themselves – we were all too close quit now.

Then the heavens opened. My number flashed on the board. As I walked “Pomp and Circumstance” played in my brain. I was soon to be anointed with a New York State license plate. I was as kind as I could be to the woman at the counter. Sugar dripped from my “Hello! How are you?”. She was so pleasant after such a long day and replied “I’m doing great”. She had no undertone of sarcasm and I thought what a patient person she must be. She ran my credit card and handed me my plate. After the 3 and a half hour wait it seemed to glow like an angel’s halo.

I exited the DMV and a guard said “After hours, no re-entry”. I smiled as I knew all of my registrations could be done online from now on and I might never have to return to this place again.

I made it to band practice 45 minutes late but I explained to my band mates that once I was so far along in the line there was no turning back. They supported my decision and we rocked out in style.

So the letters D – M – V no longer spell H – E – L – L for me. They are simply a reminder how lucky I am to have great things in my life like a motorcycle, a great job, and a band I get to jam with once a week. Great perspective…

The Gates of Hell or the path to Enlightenment?


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