visit to the DMV is mostly described
as a thoroughly humiliating
experience and a topic of epic conversations
over adult beverages; very few of us have ever
had overtly pleasant times there. "I got my
number, went out for a run, had some lunch,
and when I went back, they still hadn't called
You'll hear stories like this from every other
person that has gone to the Louisiana motor
vehicle processing centers. They used to be
called the DMV, the Department of Motor
Vehicles, but now they go by the OMV, Office of
Motor Vehicles. It's a different name but same
dysfunction, if not worse. The more aware we
are of the advances in the outside world, the
more archaic the OMV appears, functionality
"I waited for two hours, and then they wanted
information that was not listed on their website
as necessary. And, literally, I had to camp out
and argue with them, quietly but firmly, for 45
minutes before they finally gave in and let me
have my license changed from Washington to
here." And other stories like that.
Everyone I've spoken to has a horror story
for when they try to do motor vehicle business
in New Orleans, such as getting an updated
version of your license when you change
address or registering your Nissan Hocus Pocus
or Honda Cilantro. Here's some advice… bring
a book and lunch, or people watch the circus
unfolding around you, asking yourself if it was
worth the wait and the two buses it takes to get
to this remote facility.
Here's some points: there is no clock on the
wall to tell you how long you've been waiting,
the time of 'your turn' ticket is stamped, and a
number for you to wait to hear announced for
your up-at-the-window portion of your visit;
the numbers are called in no particular order. I
sat next to a one-armed taxi driver that waited
five hours while numbers up and down from
his were called for service before his turn was
Also, the chairs in front of whatever window
you get to are lower than the one of the person
serving you. I think this is so that you feel smaller
than them-a typical alpha humiliation tactic
used often in job interviews.
There is a triage station where they weed out
the totally unprepared, answer basic questions,
and issue a slip of paper that assigns you a letter
and a number-E437, F585, G624, etc.
The high point of our last visit was when the
number I810 (pronounced by the loudspeaker
as, "Now serving Eye Eight One Zero, at counter
number seventeen…") was called; the entire
room waited with baited breath as the number
went up one time, and then two, for when it was
announced that window number seventeen
would be servicing number "I ate one too,"
a collective smile went around the room.
That's how boring it is there.
Oh, there are over twenty service windows
there, and, at any one time, I only saw upwards
to eight employees (wo)manning them; the
waiting area seats hundreds. Each time I've
been there, it has been at full capacity.
There are circumstances that, if not met,
you will be dismissed, out of hand. The first
condition on getting booted off premises
is to show up without your Social Security
Card-having a hard copy is a must. Why?
Who the #*@& knows? They want any proof
of employment to be on "official" letterhead
stationary, rental agreements have to be on
'official' rental forms (available at office supply
stores), and so forth; hand written anything is
pushed aside as irrelevant.
The office hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00
p.m. weekdays (excluding holidays), and it's
common to see parents arriving after 3:00 p.m.
with school kids to witness the mortification of
their elders. At 3:50 p.m., a uniformed security
guard, about as big as a refrigerator, announces
that the doors will be locked in ten minutes
and those still inside will be served-go out
that door after four and there's no re-entrance,
etc. That's when the efficiency of rejecting
customers goes into high gear, and you're made
to feel like they're now shooting fish in a barrel.
Guess who's in the barrel next?
I was with a friend who has just moved here
from Oregon and was changing his valid driver's
license from there to here. The first time he
waited four hours before he was rejected on
a technicality, and we went back the second
time with everything needed and got there at
the opening bell. There were a hundred people
waiting for the opening, and it took nearly an
hour to process through triage. He was then
given a ticket with the number 26 on it. It
took him six and a half hours to get seen and
I have made two observations. First, the
system I witnessed screams of letting people
who really don't like their jobs micromanage
their clients to near psychic suicide. Answers like,
"We don't have to do nothing here," when shown
what should pass for appropriate paperwork.
And when the question is rephrased, asking if it
"can be considered," then, the answer is, "That's
more like it; we can consider it, but we don't
have to do nothing." The semantics are crucial.
Secondly, folks are so pissed at the way
they are treated that subconsciously they vow
never to heed any traffic laws ever: when that
speeding driver cuts you off; when they make
a left turn from the right hand lane; when they
turn without a turn signal (or don't); when you
see someone speed through a yellow light,
ignore pedestrians in a crosswalk, or drive like
the bike lane is their lane; when they lay on their
horn because they think that you're not going
fast enough for them, even though you're going
the speed limit. Picture the abuse that they've
endured just to be on the road and wish them a
Being on the road can be hell; getting the proper credentials to get on the road is heller.