Dougal Campbell's geek ramblings

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The DMV Secret Society

Those of you who have read my past writings know that we recently moved our family from Alabama to Georgia. Of course, this necessitates a lot of bureaucratic tasks such as change of address forms, setting up utilities, changing our drivers licenses, car registration, etc. This week we finally got around to the drivers license bits, and it’s a little different here than it was in our old hometown.

The town we came from, Enterprise, Alabama, is pretty small. I think the population is somewhere around 20,000. It’s also the county seat, so everyone in Coffee county goes there to get their drivers license. Typically, if you go to get your license established or renewd, you might have to wait for the 5-10 others who arrived before you, so it might take you, say, 30 to 45 minutes. Maybe an hour if the person behind the counter knows one of the people in line and spends a few minutes gabbing.

Now, Woodstock, Georgia is a pretty small town, too. Technically, it’s smaller than Enterprise, with an estimated population of around 12,000. However, Woodstock is part of the sprawl of Metro Atlanta. This has advantages and disadvantages.

On the plus side, it means that we can go to any number of DMV offices to get our license. On the downside, as we discovered on Tuesday, it means that there are lines of 100 people or more, and at the end of that line you take a number and wait some more for your number to be called. We spent about an hour chatting with the people near us in line and occassionally moving forward a few steps. The lady in front of us said that she had heard that there was some secret phone number that you could call that would let you get a ticket number in advance. We joked around, wondering how one could join the elite secret society who held this forbidden knowledge.

When we finally reached the counter, the man there checked our identification (old license, passport, birth certificate, utility bills), issued us our numbers, and mentioned that there was a 4-hour wait. Ack! About the time we realized that this would be around the same time that we needed to pick the kids up from school, the DMV guy looks at my wife and says, “cool earrings!” I thought it was pretty brazen for him to hit on my wife with me standing right there. But then I realized that she was wearing her Celtic cross earrings. And he was showing her the Celtic cross on the necklace he wore. We wound up talking about Highland Games (he didn’t know about the Alabama Highland Games in Montgomery, Alabama). Then he handed Susan a piece of paper, with a phone number circled. “If you can’t make it back today, call this number. You can make a reservation for a specific time to get your license.”

Susan’s earrings had given us entry into the DMV Secret Society! We called the phone number and made a reservation for the next morning. Could it really be this easy? Were we really going to be able to just bypass the wait?

The next day, we drove to the DMV location for our reservation (different from the office we were at the previous day). We had left way ahead of time, since we weren’t familiar with the area (and the online maps we printed out were only of marginal help), so we arrived about 20 minutes early. There was a line of at least 200 people winding out of the door and into the parking lot. Susan sent me inside to ask how this reservation deal worked. A few moments later, I was able to poke my head back outside and motion for her to come on in. It was true! Our reservation allowed us to jump to the front of the line!

They issued us our numbers and said to go on up to the counter when they called for reservations. Just a few minutes later, Susan was called, and not long after that, my number flashed up at a station on the other side of the room. They checked our IDs again, had us fill out some paperwork (“Are you a legal resident of the United States? Do you have any history of mental illness? What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”), and told us to go to the next station.

I’m not sure what the purpose of the next station was. As we waited for our numbers to be called, we people-watched. Unfortunately. One, er, gentleman who went up to the counter ahead of us was having a wardrobe malfunction. This particular fellow looked like he was allergic to bathing. His hair and beard were long, stringy, and greasy. His clothes were worn and dirty. And when he went up the counter, his jeans were sagging down a bit, kind of like the style that kids have been doing for a few years. Except it wasn’t on purpose. He reached around to hitch his jeans up, and we got to see just a little more of his backside than we would have preferred. Susan and I exchanged looks, both of us trying to stifle the urge to either exclaim, “Ugh!” or laugh out loud.

Anyhow, soon after the floor show was done, we were called up. We handed over our paperwork and the cash for the fee. They entered something into the computer and handed back the paperwork and cash, and told us to wait in another area to get our photographs taken. A few minutes later we were handing the paperwork and cash to a different person. Then they did some electronic fingerprint scans, took our pictures, and less than five minutes later, we had our new Georgia driver’s licenses in hand. We are now, finally, officially Georgia residents.

All thanks to Susan’s earrings.

About Dougal Campbell

Dougal is a web developer, and a "Developer Emeritus" for the WordPress platform. When he's not coding PHP, Perl, CSS, JavaScript, or whatnot, he spends time with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat in their Atlanta area home.
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