Tuesday, February 23, 2016

3 hours in hell (well, not really....)

I got to the Department of Motor Vehicles' office in Hamden a few minutes before noon.

I was in Bern's truck, calling her, ready to leave, at a few minutes after 3.

It wasn't 'fun' by any means, but the longer I thought about that 3 hours, the less it seemed like hell.

I started out standing outside in a line that was a couple of hundred people long. A sign when I finally got inside said "THIS BUILDING CANNOT HAVE MORE THAN 200 PEOPLE". Since there were about 125 people sitting in chairs (and the line never got shorter) I'm not sure there was any time when there were 'only 200 people' in the building!

It took about 2 hours and 20 minutes to get my ticket to actually be waited on. That transaction took about a minute. I waited about 40 more minutes until my number came up on the screen. Getting a new registration and new license plates took maybe 3 minutes. So, of the 180+ minutes, only 4 minutes were consumed with my actual business for being there. That's 2.2% if you do the math!

Hurry up and wait!

Sounds like a nightmare, right?

But there were things in that 3 hours that give me faith in human beings. First of all, I didn't see any visible anger, though I was angry and I assume everyone else was two. There wasn't a riot--which, given the 97.8% of the time that was essentially wasted would have been almost righteous--and people were friendly and kind (letting people get out of line to go the the bathroom and come back without complaint).

I should have known this was a marathon when the first thing I saw once I got actually inside the main room was a snack bar. "Who would eat here?" I initially asked myself. Then, two hours in, I realized most of us were missing lunch! And all the kids were getting hungry.

And there were lots of kids--dozens of them, all pre-school--and, wonder of wonders, all but one little girl named Queen, were incredibly well behaved. Astonishing, really. And I saw or heard not one parent yell at or hit a child. That's better than at Stop and Shop.

And who were all these people? Not lawyers, I don't think, though 1/4 were, like me, middle class of the white, black and Hispanic variety. But many were not affluent. I talked to 6 people who work at night and were passing up sleep to come to the DMV.

I never thought I'd say this--but Smart Phones were helpful in keeping the social contract of kindness and patience. About 80% of the folks were looking at their phones while they waited. I had a book and read, standing in line, moving more slowly than a snail.

There were only 2 DMV workers giving out tickets to actually do your business and 15 or so doing that business. So the sitting was shorter than the standing. Not a bad strategy, if you think about it.

There was a level of politeness, patience, 'we're all in this together' that I seldom experience except at church.

I came to deeply respect all those people swimming upstream with me. I felt a connection...even a 'community' with them.

What could have simply been 3 hours of hell, taught me a respect and appreciation of my fellow humans.

What a gift in a time that could have been pure stress. I'm thankful to all those folks and to the DMV workers who were patient and kind as well.

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.