Why I cut in line at the DMV today

So I should start right off by apologizing.

I’m sorry, O people of the Libertyville, IL DMV.

I’m an oldest child, which means that I have a finely-tuned sense of justice. I am not a habitual line-butter. I have practiced waiting my turn in line from the time I hit elementary school and we had to line up on those grade-numbered yellow painted onto the playground blacktop before we could enter the building. I know the rules about waiting in line, honest I do.

But really, most of the time, there’s only one rule that matters. No cuts. (Yes, there are those other rules like not talking loudly on your cell phone about bodily functions while waiting in line, or staring at the person behind you as if they were a freakish science exhibit or beautiful sunset, but those rules are more like…well, Emily Post-type polite ideas. No cuts, on the other hand, is more of an immutable law of the cosmos.)

Today, I returned to the DMV for the third time in four weeks. I was there once with a young friend trying to straighten out her moving violation issues, and twice to try to transfer the title and get license plates for my mom’s 99 Corolla. This car is now in our possession, being driven by our son Jacob. He gets pulled over all the time because he must resemble one of America’s Most Wanted and because he drives…um….rapidly at times. The Florida plates currently on the car can only serve to draw additional attention to him, so I figured it best to do my motherly duty and make him slighly less interesting our friends, the police. I can’t do anything about the speedy driving or the twinship to felons, but I can at least help him out with some Illinois license plates.

I didn’t think this trip would be very emotional. Few trips to the DMV are once you get your driver’s license. But honestly, pulling out a death certificate, a letter from the lawyer, my mom’s title and original bill of sale (signed in her tight, loopy, lefty script) – and then all those forms the state has you fill out to make sure Caesar gets his taxes – kind of blurred my vision with some unshed tears.

I normally love to people-watch at the DMV because the vast array of unhappy humanity sitting in plastic chairs blurs all the usual socio-economic boundaries that normally divide us. At the DMV, we’re all in this together, waiting for our number to be called.

But today, I had all of that emotionally-charged paperwork in my hand, and I was trying not to cry – because there’s no crying allowed at the DMV, even if you flunk the behind-the-wheel portion of your driving test – so when the guy behind the counter told me to see the cashier, I marched right over to the cashier with my eyes on the stack of paperwork in my hand.

What luck! The person transacting his business was just leaving, so I thrust my papers into the window. The cashier looked at my quizzically, but began processing my information. I was there for about 20 seconds when I felt multiple laser beams boring into my back. I turned around slowly, following the laser beams to their source: a long line of people on the other side of the window under an arrow that said “Cashier”, all hating me for my brazen cut in line.

I made the kind of impassioned, groveling speech for which I’ve had lots of practice in my life: “I’m so sorry…I didn’t see the sign…I feel like an idiot…I’m sorry….doh….sorry sorry sorry”. Which made it worse. Then I hightailed it out of there as fast as I could.

The next time I see someone cut in line, I really need to remember this moment (which will be easy, since my back is splotted with laser beam holes) and have mercy. Not everyone who cuts is intentionally rude. Sometimes, there’s a whole other drama going on that has nothing to do with the present moment.

About Michelle Van Loon
  • Eric Nygren

    There are some things I don’t miss about Illinois. Here in Iowa it takes less time to get in and out of the DMV than it does to fill up the car at the gas pump.

    I’m glad you turned me on to your blog. Maybe I ought to loosen my grip on the old wallet and actually pick up copies of your books.

  • Bill Van Loon

    Hey! You’re not enough into blame-shifting. You need to blame the highly paid and neatly pensioned state worker who let you stay at the window. A highly conscientious state worker would have pointed behind you and then motioned for you to go to the back of the line.

    But that’s right. The state worker is paid to take your money, not really help you or others. Telling you to go to the back of the line was not in the play book for the cashier. He/she would have truly helped you and the others waiting (oh so patiently) in line if he/she had thought outside the box. But that’s right. They’re not paid to think.

    See, it’s not really your fault. You’re absolved. Now get to the back of the line!!

  • Michelle Van Loon

    If only I could get Illinois plates in Iowa…

    Thanks for the props, Eric. :)

    You’re funny, Bill.

  • Zinnia

    This is great info to know.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X