It was 7:24 AM and the bus for downtown was due in about 6 1/2 minutes. Despite being ill, I knew I had to make it to the DMV. Getting a new license had become paramount to my survival as a parent and this would have to be the day.
I knew from prior DMV experience that the weekday doors opened at 8:00AM and that if I stood a prayer at getting this done with both boys, I would have to be first in, first out, with a day of boy energy to follow.
The younger one had wrestled against his outfit going on, but after 15 minutes, I won out. The older one was lazily getting dressed and I hurriedly threw the rest on him, picked them both under arms and dashed for the bus.
During the 25 min ride downtown, I could tell time was of the essence. The day’s worth of energy was starting to build. The older one squirmed all around the seat and the younger one was yelling at everything. “Train!” “Truck!” “Bus!” The bus, filled with bleary-eyed morning commuters, was starting to look annoyed and vaguely sympathetic.
We got off the stop nearest to the DMV, and I was delighted to see from a distance that there seemed to be no wait. We pulled the string and I felt a collective sigh from the fellow riders and driver. As I collected the trappings of our little errand (bag containing a diaper, a train and a Scoobydoo backpack), I was elated to see the waiting room seats empty.
I was heart broken to then find the doors locked, and realized one day a week the office opened up at 9AM, and this was that day.
“Why are we waiting?”
“They’re not open yet.”
“When can we go in?”
“About an hour, but we’ll have to be here before that to be first in line.”
“Are we going to go home?”
“No. We need to go.”
“I need to go potty.”
I found a brief refuge in a coffee shop across the street. It was a pain establishment, clearly well used to the idea that is sole purpose was to serve irate, or soon to be irate, DMV customers. But they had restrooms, and Muffins. After setting up camp at a table and splitting a muffin the size of a papasan chair cushion, I could tell the troops we’re starting to unravel. My nerves started to snap like piano strings, and I started to get really frustrated at the DMV. Sure I could have looked ahead of time, but to have a late opening on Wednesday? Come on…
The younger took two handfuls of muffin, turned red in the face, let out a primordial scream and crushed them in his fists onto the floor. I could tell our welcome was worn out.
I re-packed and we headed out to the streets to wander and find a simple distraction. Normally in a city, there is something to see. A construction site. A freight truck unloading. A police car. But today was the day of “nothing going on”. A Postman smoking a cigarette on a loading dock. The freshly abandoned campsite of a homeless person. People going to work in overcoats, looking down at their feet as they walked.
It started to rain.
I hurried the children back to the DMV, where we found shelter in a small glassed lobby area. 15 min till opening. There was a stack of free papers that did nothing for them. They now were on level three of energy.
“Why can’t we go in?”
“They are not open yet.”
“What are we doing here?”
“Can we go home?”
Time started to slow down. The boys wanted to run. Then sit. Then be carried. Then wrestle.
The younger one discovered that the small space amplified his louder-than-average voice. He experimented with that. Other people started to come in and we crowded near to the door. The older one and I played “I Spy’ through the glass, and as we played, it was shortly discovered that everything in the office was either grey-ish, Blue-ish, or more grey-ish. The baby started to thrash his weight in my arms, because I had to hold him as to not lose our spot in line.
More people crowded in, and we all watched as the staff of the DMV jovially load into the desk area. Their faces filled with delight, laughing at some unheard joke, most likely about how slow they would plan to be that day. “Look at all those suckers!” I imagined them saying. “Yeah, I can’t believe we get to have a full breakfast every Wednesday morning!” One of them looked at us, the huddled and desperate mass, and looked at the clock. He gave a half smile, then looked at his watch. And went back to leaning against a wall.
My older one pressed his face to the crack of the door and yelled, “Open up the door!” a man behind us laughed. Sensing his opportunity for performance he began to pound his fists against the glass and chant it.
I heard the sound of all the wires that make up my patience snap like a harp falling off a truck.
3 min after 9:00, and the man rolled his eyes, sauntered over to the door and casually unlocked it.
I walked in with my two boys, looked at them, and simply said, “Have fun.”
By the time I walked to the counter, being first in line, the older one had thrown his backpack across the lobby and starting running laps around the chairs. The younger one found the rack of brochures regarding the importance of this or that, and worked on a new creative organizational system. I quietly filled out the first form, and began to casually pull out the 78 different things one must present to get a new copy of your license.
“Would they like a coloring book?” the woman asked me anxiously as the older one came up to me and asked me to hold onto his stick. I set the 8inch long stick he got form who-knows-where on the counter.
“Boys! You wanna book?”
They ran over and anxiously ripped them out of my hand, and proceeded to spread the pages on the floor in the front of the lobby.
To be fair, I was worried that unleashing this powerful destruction on the DMV would cause the other innocent patrons their sanity, but was pleasantly surprised to see people sitting, waiting their turn, getting full enjoyment from watching them make not one, but two staff rush all of my papers through. It was the fastest license reissued in Oregon DMV history. I packed them back up with a smile, and ran in the rain with them to catch the bus home.
“Are we going home?”
“Yes. You were very good”
“Can we have coco?”
(Then, confidence restored, maybe off to the Sears return department.)