Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Big City Rules: Always Act Like You Own the Place (Even If That Place is the DMV)

Even though I have a perfectly valid South Dakota driver's license, I've decided to get a California one in an effort to make my life a little easier when applying for jobs and getting parking permits and the like.  Plus, I'd rather not explain the climate and geography of South Dakota every time I enter a bar (although, I admittedly got much more incredulous reactions to my North Dakota ID). 

When I announced my intentions to become a real card-carrying California resident, I received many a warnings about the difficulty of the written exam.  Well, shit.  The last time I was given a test about traffic laws I was 14...and I barely passed! And that exam didn't have any crazy questions about what to do if you're parked on a steep hill (North Dakota isn't necessarily known for it's large hills) or the protocol for bike lanes (again, not a lot of bicyclists in LaMoure).  Clearly, some studying was in order.

Unfortunately, studying for the driver's test require that I make a trip to the DMV.  I've watched TV.  I've heard the jokes.  DMVs are not fun places to be.  Especially DMVs in large metropolitan areas.  I was fairly certain this trip was not going to resemble my last trip to the DMV in Sioux Falls when I was the only customer there and a sweet old woman asked me about my Christmas plans.

When I entered the DMV parking lot there was already a line stretching out the door and around the building.  My heart sank before I noticed a sign indicating that this was a line for people taking the driver's test.  Awesome, I just needed a study guide. However, in the back of mind it did occur to me that I'll soon be waiting in this terrible line and I remind myself to bring a book that day.  I find another entrance at the other end of the building and quickly discover a table of California Driver Handbooks in the entryway just waiting to be studied.  I grab the first English handbook I see and speed right out of there.

Proud of my accomplishment, I snap a picture of the handbook and send it to Lew, only to get this response:

Shit.  I guess I'll be heading back to the DMV.  For the second time that day.  So I repeat the whole process again, only to find that there are no regular Driver's Handbooks available in English.  I could learn all of the CA traffic laws if I spoke Sudanese, Mandarin, Spanish, or Tagalog.  Unfortunately, I don't speak any of these languages so I now have to actually enter the DMV.

The actual DMV is as terrible as portrayed on television.  There are lines everywhere, people look very annoyed, and there are signs in 5 different languages indicating where I should go.  Sadly, none of these signs say, "Stand in this line if you need an English language Driver's Handbook." Since I'm being given no direction, I decide to stand in the middle of the room and look lost. 

Surprisingly, this works for me because I am quickly approached by a black woman about my age who abruptly says, "I need a handbook." I still don't know why she approached me because I clearly had no idea what I was doing and she seemed like the kind of person does NOT suffer fools.  Anyway, I quickly replied, "Yeah! Me too! There aren't any English ones in the entryway!"  (I said all of that with that weird combo of excitement and panic)  She looked at me like the idiot I surely resembled and said, "Yeah.  I know." I then watched her walk up to a desk and rummage through the things on top of it.  This was a not a table set up for the public.  There was no sign indicating that handbooks could be found here.  This was someone's actual desk!! Where they do actual, important work!

 I'm a little perplexed (to say the least) as I watch her, nervously waiting for someone to start yelling at her.  Before I know it, she turns around, says "Here ya go" and tosses an English language California Driver's Handbook at me.  What. A. Boss.  I clearly have some lessons to learn if I'm to continue living here.  In the meantime, I have some studying to do.


  1. So I just read this laughed out loud so had I had tears in my eyes and preceded to read it again to Danielle and laughed the whole time. I could picture you in this entire situation!

  2. Haha! You would have loved it. I was not in my element, to say the least. Miss you guys!