Dr. Gridlock is trying to move into the 21st century with computer technology, but it's a struggle. For example, when I try to perform what should be a simple function (ha!), I see dozens of icons displayed in the margins of the screen. None of these symbols (unintelligible to me, but known to every teenager) seems relevant to the task. Sometimes, the computer won't do what I want; then it insults me with comments such as, "Strike 3, you're out!" I'd fight back if I knew the right keys.
But there's apparently hope for a lot of you folks, because 95 percent of our Dr. Gridlock correspondence (300 communiques a week) comes in via e-mail. Assistant Jessica Medinger retrieves them.
She has found a couple of Web sites in your e-mails that are astounding to this onetime wonder on the Smith-Corona typewriter:
* The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has launched on its Web site a display showing how long the wait is at each of its 73 branches. Pick a branch from its list, and the display might say: "Average wait time today at 10:02:52 a.m. is 3 minutes 26 seconds."
Select "Show the historical wait time," and you get charts showing the average wait according to month, year and date.
You can access the Web site from your home--say, on a Saturday--and calculate how long a DMV errand will take and how that wait fits with your other tasks that day. My goodness!
The Virginia DMV Web site is www.dmv.state.va.us.
Asked whether the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration had such a system in the works, MVA spokesman Richard Scher said no, but he shouted, "Go, Virginia!"
Sheryl Hobbs-Newman, director of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, said her department does not have such a feature but is working on it.
* When we asked for nominations for the most attractive license plates in the United States, reader Gabriel Goldberg, of Alexandria, told us about a Web site that shows, in color, the license plates for all 50 states and the District--and most of the countries of the world!
I found myself scrolling through this site for some time, noticing, for example, that the license plate of the United Arab Emirates is much more attractive than the drab serial numbers put out by France and Germany. Bet you didn't know that. No wonder people become so mesmerized by their computers!
The Web site is danshiki.oit.gatech.edu/iadt3mk/hp.html.
By the way, the states nominated so far for most-attractive license plates are Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. We're still taking nominations.
I'm not on the technology train into the 21st century yet, but at least I can now hear the whistle.
Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Wednesday in Prince William Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.