The Department of Motor Vehicles has a reputation of being where souls go to die in an endless nightmare of paperwork and waiting in line. Even the employees seem to have been damned to their work, creating an atmosphere of agony, suffering, and despair.
My own experiences at the DMV could never really match this description though. I’ve been in and out whenever I have to go there, and the employees have been beyond helpful on more than one occasion.
However, I have found a place that makes even the most disturbing interpretation of the hell that is supposed to be the DMV look a lot like a theme park with no lines and free admission.
Enter: The Department of Civil Service.
I was scheduled for a physical and psychological exam, both required by the state to make sure I was physically and mentally capable of doing the job I’ve signed on for. The HR person at the employer sent me an email that basically said “Your appointment is at 9am. Expect to be there until 4:30. Bring food.”
er….okay….How long could it possibly take for me to turn my head and cough, pee in a cup, and fill in a few bubbles on a scantron sheet?
Today me is shaking my head at Tuesday me. “Oh…you poor, foolish sap. You have no idea.”
I arrived at 9am having poured several cups of coffee into me, and driven an hour and fifteen minutes to get there. When I got into the office, there were about a dozen people already there. Some in nice clothes, others in workout clothes, as they would have to take an agility test as well as a physical. See, there were employees there from all over the state and from numerous different agencies, all of which requiring different things from their applicants.
The tone was set for the day when I got there and walked up to the front desk. The lady, very nice, took my name and license, and told me to fill out a form. As I did, she wandered around looking for other paperwork I needed. She had no idea where it was, where I needed to go, or what I needed to do when I got there. Around fifteen minutes into my stay, her coffee must have kicked in because all of a sudden she came to life. I was given a key to a locker, told to empty my personal belongings, and follow her down a hallway that smelled so sterile that I think a fart would have triggered an alarm somewhere. The smell of rubbing alcohol and sanitation was so strong, I was getting light-headed….and this wasn’t even for the medical portion of the testing.
She led me to a meeting room and gave me two exams. I proceeded to fill out over 500 true/false questions that were designed to determine psychological health. Many of them were in regards to my relationship with my father as a child, some asking about my social habits, and one peculiar one that asked me if I’d enjoy fixing a door latch. (Read that again if you like. It is what it says.)
By the end of it, I was starting to wonder if the test hadn’t been designed to PUSH one towards psychological instability, rather than measure the level of crazy that was already there.
Those things over, I go back to the front desk where there’s a new crop of people waiting to be….’processed.’ It is now right around 11:30. I’m told to wait, my next appointment was going to be at noon. So, I sit. I can’t even play with my cell phone, since that’s locked in a locker.
Noon comes and goes, and I’m informed that they were running behind, it could be closer to 12:30.
As I wait, I take notice of the others in the room.
Readers, I’ve observed wakes and funerals with more energy and exuberance than I saw here. There was no life in the room. The brightest thing around was the vending machine next to me which hummed cheerfully, asking me for my dollars in exchange for various candy and drinks. They’d made me lock up my wallet too, so the machine was out of luck. As was I.
I ended up striking a conversation with another cop who had driven FIVE AND A HALF HOURS to be there. He and I talked and joked about the psyche exams, all the while getting glances and glares from the other patrons of the establishment. “How DARE you exhibit mirth while I suffer?!”
Finally, we were called in as a group of ten to the medical portion of the show. Mercifully, I get called first, except it was only to collect the cup I’d pee in, and take my glasses off until I was told to put them back on.
I sat back down, holding the cup, and damn near completely blind. My new friend was at the other end of the room, so we couldn’t talk anymore. They called me up for the drug test. I couldn’t take the maudlin silence anymore and HAD to crack a joke. I just…..had to. I stood up and proclaimed loud enough for the room to hear.
“That’s me…but lady, you’re going to have to lead me around unless you want me to start crashing into things.”
A twitter of life came from my comrades in waiting. I turned to them and said “I’m blind as a bat, and they want me to pee in a cup? This could get interesting.”
Laughter from a few now they WERE alive.
I did what I had to do, then went and waited some more. Still blind.
I took a drug test. They drew blood. I took a vision test. I took a hearing test. I took an EKG. I sat with a nurse who gave me an actual physical. Then….kicked out and told to wait again.
When I came out of the physical with the nurse, that was the last time I saw anyone. Back in the waiting room, I was all alone and it was after 2PM. I was hungry. I’d eaten nothing all day. They told me that the psychologist would see me shortly.
I started to get nervous. I’d never met a psychologist. I don’t even know WHY I was nervous. Perhaps I thought he’d look at my psyche tests and determine that I was completely insane and all this time…I’d never known it.
Maybe the hunger and exhaustion were just taking their toll on me, as well as it being my nature to try to prepare myself for the worst.
I finally went in to meet with the doctor in a room whose thermostat was set five degrees lower than every other room I’d been in that day. That’s not an estimate either. I’d had so much time to wait around, I had observed the temperatures in all the rooms, and this one was cold.
We talked a few minutes, he asked me to clarify a few of the answers I’d made on the psyche tests and some of the informational packets I’d been given to fill out while endlessly waiting.
There was no couch, no inkblots, no nothing. I really don’t know what I’d expected.
He asked me a few hypothetical questions and seemed rather pleased with my answers. He was a very nice, straightforward guy, and when I left he shook my hand and said “Good luck with the new job.” I’m no detective, but I think that was a good sign.
I left there an hour earlier than expected. It was 3:30. It might as well have been midnight. I was exhausted. I think, overall- I’d spent less than two hours actually testing or meeting. Everything else from 9am to 3:30pm was waiting for something….ANYTHING to happen. The drive home was brutal, and completely ruined by the fact that I made up my mind I was going to try the A1 halloween burger from Burger King. After the hell I’d gone through, I deserved a little fast food, and I’d been looking for an excuse to get one of these. I anxiously anticipated the burger and pulled into a place.
…..only to find out that after only a week, demand for the damn burger I’d started to crave had far outweighed corporate expectation and they’d discontinued it already.
I ate a regular hobo burger in the car on way home and immediately spilled ketchup on my pants. One last kick to the jimmies.
By the time it came to end the day, bed had never, ever felt so good, and i looked forward to the next time I had to go to the DMV.