I don't know if there's any errand more dreaded than the renewal of the driver's license at the Secretary of State's office. (Well, women, we also have that one doctors appointment out of the year to look forward to as well.) You walk in knowing you won't be walking out any time soon. There's no convenient time to fit it into your schedule. And, you can never be quite sure of the potentially creepy company you might be forced to keep.
Well, I had the day off, so today was my lucky day. I'd thought about bringing a book with me, but was trying to keep the positive notion that I wouldn't be sitting in the waiting area terribly long. I felt so optimistic about this that I didn't even eat lunch before I left the house (big mistake!) Stepping through the glass door, I was relieved to see only one person in line ahead of me. Good reason too. I had stepped through the wrong glass door. The woman at the window, obviously frequently witnessing the same error, simply held up a finger pointing to her left and closed the window on me.
Walking in the direction of the friendly woman's index finger, I pushed through the correct set of doors and, yeah... that seems about right. A hundred people, a hundred smells, this was definitely the correct place.
I wait in the line you wait in to simply be handed a number like at the meat market. I hear someone shout out "70!" and get a little excited, even though I haven't received my number yet. Knowing my jumping off point is the first check mark to this boring day. When it's my turn to be handed my number I walk to the counter toward a woman who is refusing to make eye contact no matter how hugely I smile in her direction. She fires off a question to the left of her personal space, which I assume is intended for me so I answer it. It was the right choice because this prompts her to hand me a form and my number with the air of a person who's thinking "this job's so easy, I can do it with my eyes closed." Reading her thought, I want to respond, "Well, lady. You practically are!" but I decide to peek at my number and walk away instead. I am number "04".
As I try to find a place to sit I'm pondering whether the number calling resets at 100, since they're on number 71 by now. It wouldn't be 1,000, would it?! I'd better pick a good seat.
I peruse the room and have the immediate thought that this waiting room looks just like the congregation at a Baptist church. The seats are packed except the fact that's there's not really anyone in the front row. To the front row I go! I choose my seat wisely, by leaving an empty-one-seat buffer on either side of me. I'm not a stranger lover. I don't want to make friends here, I don't want to wake you up when your number is being called or watch your kids while you run to the bathroom. I'm placed right in front of the tv. That's where I need to be.
The nearest neighbor to my right is slowly dozing off. The Christian side of my brain nudges me to look at his number, so I can be prepared to wake him when it's his turn. Not, seeing a number in his hand, my other half plots at the thought of jumping one ahead in line when he misses his turn.
Two seats to the left lies a book on a chair. Oh man, I should have brought one! A young man rushes back to the seat to grab his book territorially. I'm trying not to make eye contact, but notice that he's dressed in the way that a guy looking like that only dresses as a work requirement. I assume his street clothes mainly consist of worn jeans and concert t-shirts leftover from high school. He is gangly of build and his hair is overly greased. The cover of the book he's reading is purple and black, causing me to decide that it's probably some sort of Dungeons and Dragons tutorial.
This is my new home for the next hour or so. I hope I've chosen well. Being in the front row has hindered my people watching abilities. However, I can smell there's people all around me. One strongly scented of stale and heavy cigar smoke. On the tv plays a continuous loop of driving safety PSAs, Michigan tourism bits (hosted by local newswoman Lila Lazarus) and a cute commercial where a dad accidentally witnesses his daughter's first kiss.
The people-watching picks up as I realize that I'm seated right near the picture-taking station. I giggle to myself at the younger females who come to the DMV in full prom hair. I assume they're turning twenty-one and need to make this license picture count! There are some older women, too, who gave serious thought to their wardrobe selections. Why else would they being sporting sequins and glitter on a Thursday afternoon? Seeing that I don't live a lifestyle that prompts me to flash an i.d. card often, I gave much less consideration to my "look" with my mosquito bitten arms and butter stained top. Although I did choose today's top based on the fact that it's azure blue and universally flattering. (I just didn't intend to spill butter on it at the breakfast table.)
As the tv reel starts its second loop I begin to tire of Lila's Miss Know-it-All attitude about Michigan travel. I never really enjoyed her news broadcasts. She's one of those types that looks prissy, but thinks she's down because she rides a Harley. (She's also hosting the motorcycle safety bits.) She thinks she's so funny because she warns us not to sit down in the cactus atrium at Frederick Meijer Gardens. Hardy-har. I know someone who met her in person and they said she was a real snoot-a-saurus.
By now, I've privately nicknamed my neighbors Snoozy and Squiggy. After too long I begin to become jealous of Squiggy's book. I begin fantasizing of the crossword puzzle pad I now remember is sitting in my car. If only I had grabbed it! Then I realize that my Nintendo DS is in my purse and excitedly pull it out. Oh crap! The kids used it last. The puzzle game I thought was in there has been replaced by Super Mario Bros. I try to check my email on it, but soon lose wireless connection.
By, this point it seems I've become the object of the people-watching. Squiggy jealously peeks away from his D&D manual. Snoozy opens one eye to see what kind of toy I've produced (either that, or he began checking out my legs. I can't be sure.) The disappointment in my own limited use seems to spark an electronics frenzy. I hear someone turn on something behind me which is broadcasting some sort of sporting event. I hear someone behind Snoozy suddenly blip-blip-blipping on their cell phone. A mom programs her phone to a game setting and hands it to her fussy kid. A mass revelation is made that, "Yes, we're all grown-ups. But, we seem to each be carrying at least one device each that can multitask as entertainment!"
By the third loop of the television programming my number edges closer. I eat half a granola bar I find in my purse. By, then Squiggy has been called on and in his seat now sits a middle-aged mother and her kindergarten-aged son. I begin taking after Snoozy and allow my heavy eyelids to rest. I continually feel the child's shoe drop onto my foot. I peek once, they're a croc-type rubber sandal emblazoned with Spiderman's likeness. I don't get mad. If I were five and held hostage at the DMV, my shoes probably wouldn't find the will to stay attached either.
Number 03 is called, but doesn't show. I'm half-way to the teller's station by the time she says, "No number 3? How about number 4?" A blonde lady is there to help me. She too looks right through me as if I'm just the next check point on her way to quitting time. I'm not sure I even passed the eye test because she's asks me, "No contacts?" I correct her, "Yes. I'm wearing my contacts right now." She then sighs and hits a button on her keyboard. She doesn't want to deal with someone who can't tell an "O" from a "C". She hands me my temporary license, rattles off her required speech and informs me that "Black Sweater" will be taking my photo.
I feel bad for Black Sweater because Blonde Bore doesn't seem to know her name. Black Sweater is the friendliest face I've seen today. After two rowdy kids are chased away from the blue curtain and I'm standing properly in my box, two adults walk right in front of my shot. "Oh! So sorry!" they apologize. I giggle and accept (I'm just pretending I'm famous and everyone wants their picture taken with me.) Black Sweater finally gets her shot. She kindly asks me if it's okay or if I'd like another one taken. I peer at her monitor and yikes! It's anything but okay! But, I say "Yes. That's fine." because, although my bangs look too short, at least there is no granola in my teeth. What else am I going to do? Sit here until my hair grows a quarter of an inch? (Although, that's probably entirely possible.)
I run to the door before this place sucks me away into an eternal vortex. Safely in the parking lot, I don't even mourn this hour of my life I will never get back. Because, I knew even then that at least it earned me today's blog fodder.
And, so it has.