Thursday, February 28, 2008


If you ever want to know what the bread lines will be like when the balloon goes up just spend an afternoon at your local Department of Motor Vehicles. This debilitating experience couples endless waiting, uncaring agents and exposure of your personal business to anyone listening. You are wedged into an under ventilated staging area with illness, screaming children and very angry people whose patients gave out a couple of hours back, but everyone stays because you have no choice.

My personal experience was miserable. I got to the office a little before three pm and had to park on the road because the lot was completely full, as a matter of fact they had started to double park in the lot blocking people already inside. This was not a good sign but I had to get the truck registered so I pressed on.

I waited in a short line outside the building. Once inside the door I was greeted by an armed guard in the outer chamber who asked to see my paperwork and ID then gave me a number and directed me into the holding room. He didn’t actually do anything with my ID so I assume it was simply an intimidation tactic to keep me calm once inside.

The holding room was roughly thirty by one hundred foot long. The chairs had long given up remaining in orderly lines and many were overturned. The room was packed with screaming children and vacant slack jawed faces staring forward with looks of pure defeat. Then I noticed the “now serving” number. The number showed H41…I was I64.

I milled around for a while looking for a spot away from children and engaging conversationalists. Finding some free carpet near the opposite end of the room I righted a chair and sat down. My neighbors kept stealing glances at me, not sure if they were trying to see my number, checking my business or were simply bored.

Besides the “now serving” sign the visual distractions included several televisions all tuned to Fox News and a marquee sign. The messages displayed were very telling and included; violence will not be tolerated; if miss your turn take a new number and personal favorite, be happy. I found the last message somewhat silly under the circumstances.

Here is the strange thing. As the counter neared my number I started feeling paranoid and clutched my small imprinted paper tighter as if someone would attempt to steal the treasured item. I actually felt anxiety that something would happen and I’d have to start over I kept my head down not wanting to draw attention to myself. I had been there just under two hours, imagine how bad it would be after a day waiting. I looked around and everyone appeared to be edgy the closer it got to their number.

While waiting I noticed how absolutely heartless the clerks were. One woman not far in front on me finally got called to the counter. She apparently did not have some document in proper order and was told to fix the problem and come back…she had three kids with her and had been there for two and a half hours. After pleading with the agent for several minutes she grabbed her things and left very nearly in tears. I could understand her frustration.

Civil servants of this caliber have been doing these jobs for years. My guess is that they no longer realize that a real person with real problems is sitting across the counter from them. The years of repetitive drudgery has desensitized them to the human mass they are there to serve. Very good talent for a post collapse career.

Another thing that struck me as odd were the “uniformed military counters”. There were twelve counters at the office, of them three were dedicated to uniformed military personal. Colorado Springs is a military town with several bases surrounding it. If you walked in with a uniform on you were allowed to bypass the lines and get served first. In a post collapse situation I could see special treatment for peace officers, their families and other agents of control. Standing in line for eight hours waiting for bread while certain members of society pass you by with special treatment would create great incentive to join the civilian authority.

I finally got to the counter, did the deed and left. Total time two hours and fifteen minutes, total cost about a hundred and twenty.

Not wanting to be forced into situations like this in a collapse crisis is plenty of reason for disaster preparation and continuity planning. If you ever need reminding just spend an afternoon at the DMV.


Future Farmer said...


Have you considered becoming an Amishman.

They do not have to deal with DMV and the rest of your endeavors are very much in tune with them. Don't know about the religious part .

How about a post dealing with making an escape ( emergency trailer) ?

DAL357 said...

Ah, yes, the DMV, that great equalizer, where everyone, no matter their station in life, comes face-to-face with the fact of how the populace in general is REALLY viewed by the state: as malleable cattle.

I, too, live in colorful Colorado. In fact, in the very city you mentioned in your piece, and I have also noticed all of the little perks businesses set up for the military. If they are a private business, fine, that's their prerogative, and if I don't like it, I can go elsewhere. With a state monopoly, however, everyone must jump through the state hoops, so giving one group preference over another is just plain wrong. Who is the state to say that a soldier's time is any more valuable than mine? Maybe, just MAYBE, if there was a draft in which people were forced into involuntary servitude I would be more tolerant of the lines, but I doubt it.

BTW, these lines are not the only way the government shows preference to the military. If you've ever looked at applying to the Post Office, much more weight is given in the hiring process to those who served in the military during certain periods than Joe Blow citizen who never went into the military, but who may be just as qualified, or even more so, than the veteran.

Thanks for the blog. I've only recently found it and I'm enjoying it quite a bit.

Dragon said...

Fine post,Hit the nail squarely on the head. Dragon

Anonymous said...

Thats crazy! I would move after an experience like that. I have always lived in smaller towns >30k and have never waited in a DMV line, usually I walk into the room and right up to a service counter or maybe someone will already be there and need to wait 2 or 3 minutes. I'm in and out in usually 5 or 6 minutes.

Angry Oracle said...

If you think that sucked, wait till those same people are running the health care system. Socialized Medicine has failed everywhere it has been tried, yet the politicians are tripping over each other to implement it here. At least the DMV can't kill you with their incompetence and apathy.

Anonymous said...

I have always thought that since tv programming has been searching for the very worst programming possible.... what would be the worst possible program? Why a whole show about standing in line at the DMV of course. Maybe it could be even worse than the one about nannys and whinny out-of- control kids with remarkably stupid parents.
I don't watch tv anymore.

boodaman said...

To 9:23: they already have that show. It is called "Parking Wars". Each episode is 30 minutes and it is all about the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The show is boggles my mind how many people try to run scams to get out of tickets. Showing up at the impound lot with obviously fake paperwork, always having an excuse, arguing with meter readers, and on and on and on.

boodaman said...

I do all of my DMV stuff online. Renewing my vehicle registration takes 3 minutes and the tags show up in the mail about 4 days later. I only have to go in once every 4 years to put a new picture on my license.

I don't really have any sympathy for people who show up without the right paperwork. If you have your life together, you should have all your paperwork ready to go (I do). I used to be like that woman, back in the day. Disorganized, apathetic, and expecting the system to do my work for me. No took me several years to get things straight (finances, credit rating, etc) and even get my head straight but I did it and if I can do it so can everyone else.

If you can't stay organized because you have 3 kids or whatever, then maybe you shouldn't have kids. I know, I know, that's horrible and harsh and I'm a jerk for saying it, but it is the truth. If you can't take care of your own affairs, you have no business having children and teaching them bad habits.

The way to be the most free is to absolutely minimize your contact with the system. The only way to do that is to be informed and organized and have a plan. That way, on the (hopefully) rare occasions when you do have to go to the DMV, or the assessors office, or the police station, or whatever, you spend a minimum amount of time dealing with the system and the maximum amount of time doing what you want. That way, you don't end up like that woman, wasting hours of your day and stressing yourself (and your kids) out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the nice laughs! Once a year I have to drop off my renewal to the PRK DMV. I walk past the long line of pissed off people and put the check in the envelope in their drop off box at the DMV. I am too cheap for the 41 cents postage, but the Schadenfreude is worth the trip.

fallout11 said...

Great post Bigbear, prescient and poignant observations.

Alpine Acres said...

Ah Chris, You are planning on moving down here to your cabin on a permanent bases and you could have gone to the Alamosa DMV and been out in under 18 minutes if 2 people were in front of you! You know it's a different world down here and people "generally" respect you and your time more!

I've been to several DMV offices in the Springs and your entry reminded me of ALL of those experiences! Arg! I'm glad you survived it as best you could!