Thursday, November 20, 2008



I drove over to the DMV off Flamingo this past Monday, hoping to quickly and easily swap my New Hampshire driver’s license for a Nevada one. Of course there was a line out the fucking door. I waited for an hour and when I got to the front I got motioned over to a counter. The woman there took a quick look at my application, pushed a button and gave me a ticket.

“go wait over there until your number is called.”

Over there was this massive room with a hundred rows of plastic chairs. In the chairs or standing up were hordes of people waiting. Blacks, whites, latinos. Men and women and crying children. Acne covered teens and professionals doing business on their cell phones. Couples wearing spandex shorts or goth kids with their pale skin and the chains hanging from their faces. Americans, all waiting around in a place they didn’t want to be.

After two hours a pre-recorded voice called out “H 299, counter 7.” I went up to the woman at counter 7. She took my ticket and looked over my application and keyed some things into her computer. She told me that to get my Nevada driver’s license I’d have to pass a written test and a driving test. She pushed another button and gave me another ticket and pointed with her finger.

“go wait over there until your number is called.”

I walked back across the room with hundreds of people waiting in lines or on plastic chairs to a somewhat smaller room with only fifty people waiting. I sat down on a chair and said, “this is fucking unbelievable.”

Half an hour passed and the voice called out, “G 437, counter 42.”

I went to counter 42 and the woman there looked at my application and said, “you’ll need to take a written test. Take this ticket and when you’re called up, go into that room over there and go up to the desk.”

I sat back down and waited. Nearly an hour later the voice finally announced “B 543 counter 28.” I went into the room and up to the desk marked 28. I handed the man my application and my ticket.

“okay,” he said, “go to computer number 9, take the test and come back here when you’re done.”

I took the test and passed and went back up to the counter. The man scribbled something onto my application, punched a button and pulled out another ticket. He gave it to me and nodded.

“go over there to Driver Testing and give them this ticket.”

I snatched the ticket from his hand and took my application over to Driver Testing, muttering curses along the way.

When they called me up the kid at the booth looked at my application and said, “okay, the earliest I can get you in is December 18th, at two pm. That’s four weeks from tomorrow.”

“what?!” I shouted.

“yeah, we’re pretty busy, as you can see.”

I gazed over my shoulder at all the waiting areas, the hundreds of people milling about in lines that just crawled along. My heart sunk and I felt sick. But before I turned back to him he said, “wait a minute.”

I expected him to hand me another ticket but he didn’t.

“it looks like they spelled your name wrong here.”

I leaned in and murmured, “uh oh. What does that mean?”

He played around with his keyboard and glanced between my application, my passport and his computer screen.

“because of this, I have to input you in here which means I can schedule you for an appointment tomorrow at two pm. You’re very lucky.”

“well, shit,” I said. “this is what lucky feels like?”

I walked out the door hungry and exhausted. I thought about trying to bring my luck to a casino but decided against it. The single bag of chips I’d eaten that day couldn’t push me along any further. All the waiting had nearly killed me. So I went home and ate.

The next day I returned to the DMV. I got in line at Driver Testing. A man approached me coolly and said, “you look like you’ve got an appointment.”

I knew exactly what he wanted.

“man,” he said, clasping his hands together and bending at the knees, almost in prayer. “man, I will pay you to let me have your appointment. I swear, I’ll pay you!”

I thought back to the day before. The tickets and the hours of waiting. The prospect of not getting an appointment for a month. I thought about how I needed a job and would have a hard time getting one without that Nevada driver’s license. I thought about all of this in two seconds and said to him, “go wait over there. I’ve got to think about it.”

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