I had the most wonderful experience at the DMV the other day. Yes, really.
I know, I know. It’s not possible, you say. And I would have been right with you. Only weeks ago, my son and daughter-in-law, on two separate occasions in Georgetown Park Mall, had experiences that left them angry, frustrated and semi-homicidal.
So it was not without extreme anxiety that I realized, three days before my birthday last Sunday, that my license would expire on that very day. I was leaving town on Friday, and it was 2 p.m. on Thursday. I had to get a doctor’s signature and had to have an eye test, I realized. Dashing back and forth to various doctor’s offices, I finally made it downtown to 301 C Street at 3:45.
Steeled for what I knew was going to be a nightmare — some paper wasn’t going to have the right signature or date or stamp on it — I gingerly approached a guard at the door who I knew would turn me back. He would say, “We close at four, but that means everyone has to be out of here by four.”
With a big grin, he welcomed me in. “Is this the DMV?” I asked in surprise. “Yes, it is,” he said jovially.
I got in line for the desk. There were only two people ahead of me. One was dressed in wintry clothes and carrying many bags. He was a comedian: When another man who had already been given a number tried to ask the lady behind the desk a question, he responded: “Wait a minute. This is all about me now.” Everyone broke up, including the guard.
When the man with the bags sat down, I stepped up to the desk with trepidation. The woman behind the desk smiled at me. I suddenly had the feeling that I had fallen into the movie “Pleasantville” and worried that things would turn black and grim in a second. I showed her my papers. She smiled again and gave me a number.
We only had to wait about five minutes before a very nice young man called everyone with a blue ticket to the hallway and genially ushered us into another room. I was so undone by all of this politeness that I started to go the wrong way. The young man gently took my arm and showed me into the right room.
We were asked to be seated. Everyone was in a good mood. This couldn’t be the DMV. The man with the bags sat next to me. I pulled out a book. He asked what I was reading. “The Witch of Portobello,” I told him. “I’m a witch.”
It just seemed like the right thing to say. He smiled. Out of his bag, he pulled a box of gourmet gingersnaps and offered me one.
“No, thanks,” I said, “but I’m on a diet.”
“You don’t need to be.” He said. I was enjoying myself. He passed the cookies down the line and chatted up the others. Everyone was receptive.
Then he asked if I was in a hurry. I said I was.
“I’ll sell you my ticket for two dollars,” he said. “Deal,” I said, paid up and moved a seat ahead of him. He then sold his ticket to everyone else in line.
“You keep this gig up, you’ll be a millionaire,” I said. He cracked up.
I was called to the main desk. An attractive young woman smiled at me. I handed her my papers, my hand trembling. This was where they were going to send me home. “Oops,” she said. “There’s one thing that’s not filled out.” Here it comes. “How much do you weigh?” she asked. “Can I lie?” I asked before I could stop myself. .
She cracked up. “Okay,” you’re good, “ she said after I lied about my weight.
All I needed to do was have my picture taken. I was almost there. What could go wrong now? Then I remembered that I had forgotten to put on makeup, and my hair was a disaster. I quickly ran a brush through my hair, put on lip gloss and pinched my cheeks.
Another nice young man was behind the camera. He directed me to stand in front of the red line and told me to smile. I smiled, and it wasn’t a fake one. I really felt like it.
He presented me with a new driver’s license, which doesn’t expire until 2020. I was shocked. It was the single best picture that has ever been taken of me. I was out of there in less than 45 minutes. Now I’m sorry my license doesn’t expire for another eight years.