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The DMV Is A Third World Hell Hole

We all know the Department of Motor Vehicles (or as it is called in New Jersey the Motor Vehicle Commission, NJMVC) is a royal pain in the ass. It is a place of inefficiency, rude employees, and general misery. I recently had to get my license renewed, which means I had to deal with the special kind of terrible that is the NJMVC. In NJ you have to renew your driver’s license every 4 years. Why? Arizona for example you don’t have to renew until you’re 65 years old. You do need to update your license photo every 12 years but that is still way better than renewing in full every 4 years. So why the difference? Are people in Arizona inherently more trustworthy than those of us from the Garden State? Or could it be that Arizona understands this is a far more efficient system? A system that doesn’t inconvenience their residents unnecessarily. Moving on.

The first thing you notice when you walk into the MVC is the general lack of any logically placed signage. There’s nothing, there is just cubicles to the right and a mass of humanity to the left. In the middle there is a desk with an employee that any logical human being would see as a receptionist’s desk and the obvious place the start. However, in the eyes of the MVC and that employee, you’d be wrong. Very wrong. After arriving I, by dumb luck, found the table with the paperwork I needed to fill out and immediately went there. Past experience had taught me that missing this step was a grievous error, one potentially punishable by death or at the very least 1000 lashes. Wanting to avoid this, I filled out my paperwork and got on-line to speak to the receptionist. This line like every other single line at the MVC moves at a pace that a snail would find unacceptably slow. I finally reach the receptionist’s desk only to find it is not a receptionist’s desk at all. Nope, I was abruptly shouted at to go to the line to my left by the window. Never did figure out what exactly that desk was. Based on my observation though it appeared to be the department of arguments and abuse. Seriously every single person who went up there either received the same shouty commands I did, or was engaged in some form of debate.

All of this, and I do mean all of this, could have been avoided with a minimal amount of effort. How about you adopt a painted line sort of system? Follow the Red Line to renew your license, yellow for registrations, green for driver exams and purple for anything else. Such a system wouldn’t be that expensive either. But remember this is the MVC we are talking about and they still use the same office equipment they received during the first Clinton administration. Sure the building was very new, but everything from the wall dividers to desks to even the chairs looked like they hadn’t been updated in 20 years. This may contribute the surly attitude of every employee who has ever worked in that building (more on that later).

I am now on the correct line fully prepared to demonstrate my documentation, a step you think most people would be keen to follow. Nobody wants to go to the DMV/MVC, but realizing you didn’t bring the correct documents and have to come back at a later date is the absolute worst. That is right up there on the tragic scale with seeing a puppy being kicked. In NJ they have a 6 Point system for determining what documents required to receive or renew your license. Photo ID’s such as a non-expired NJ Driver’s license or passport. Two other forms of ID such as a Social Security card, bank statement, student ID card, etc are the next steps. But here’s the thing, at least 4 of the 20 people in front of me didn’t bring the proper documents even though they are reminded at nearly every turn. The Letter notifying you that you need to renew has the “6 Points” reminder right there, front and center. It is one of the dominating features of the NJMVC website. Plus it has a program that will let you know if the documents you have will suffice. But people, being generally lazy and moronic, forgot to bring them. Slowing the process down and further contributing to the MVC Employee’s surly-ness. Yes the DMV or MVC or whatever your state calls it has a well-known rep for having employee’s with just terrible attitudes. Part of it is warranted, part of it is not. I feel like they actively recruit people who excel at rudeness and general customer dissatisfaction.


Finally, after what seems like an eternity, I get to the desk where they check your “6 Points.” Now I am the type of person who is generally over prepared for these situations so I hand my identification knowing that I have too many points but it is okay, I think to myself, because this will make life easier for the person behind the desk. They simply pick the points I need, check off whatever they need to check off on the card, and move on right? Nope, for the 2nd time today my logical and reasonable approach to things was incredibly and, seemingly insultingly, wrong. The woman behind the desk did not appreciate my attempt to make things easier. Oh no. “Sir, you only need 6 Points for the license you have 9 here,” she growled at me. “Yes I know, I figured better to be safe than sorry,” I replied in a respectful tone. See at this point I was only at a normal point of annoyance, the level of annoyance I had mentally prepared myself for on the drive over. So when she responded, “Sir, you only need 6 points, we DON’T need you to bring any more than that.” The response was dripping with more attitude then a teenage girl from the Valley.

Now my annoyance level was starting to go over budget. I had been yelled at for using logic and reason to direct myself since there was no signage to speak of. And now I’m catching shit for doing my due diligence? So I took a deep breath only to have her do one of the most annoying things people do in day-to-day life. She asked, “How will you be paying for this today?” Pause, 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, and just as I’m answering “Credit Ca…” She talks over me. “Cash, check, or Card?” Naturally we end up speaking over each other. I HATE IT  when people ask me a question, pause for more than a while, and right as I answer they talk over you. It drives me nuts. So of course I take another deep breath, but while doing so I get, “How are you paying, Sir?” sharply spoken to me. It is at this point I notice the Security Guard which makes me pause, tell the lady I will be using a credit card, and now prepared to move on to the next step. But apparently I did something in a past life to wrong this woman because my ordeal with her was not yet concluded. She hands me back my paper work and says, “go wait on line.” I then asked which line because from my vantage point there appears to a blob of humanity with no real structure. Her response? At this point it was a rather predictable, “There is only one line.” She then points vaguely in the direction of the rear wall gets off her chair and emphatically points again. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the detection she was pointing could only be described as no where fucking close to where I was supposed to go. I walk towards the mass of people hoping against hope I’m going in the correct decision, thanking whatever God exists in the MVC that my time with that witch of a woman was over.

Lines, Lines and more lines, this one of the pillars on which the DMV was founded.
Lines, Lines and more lines, this one of the pillars on which the DMV was founded.

Was this the end of my trial? Was I now on easy street with only a line and a payment away from sweet glorious license renewal. No. There was still more in store for me. By the grace of God I found myself on the correct line. Now I gave the people in front of me plenty of space however the gentleman behind me didn’t quite grasp the concept of personal space. He got right behind me. Any closer and I would have been able to confirm his lunch choice and dental records. I mean the dude was close, so I kept rotating myself, moving in such a direction that would give me some space. Only to find him right there, finally I felt his breath on my neck. That was it, I turned around and as calm as I could physically muster said, “dude, you want to give me a little space here?” He actually apologized and stepped back, but this must have set off some alarm, some buzzer that goes off when any act of human decency occurs. This set some protocol into effect where my friend from the desk got up from her post and starting herding people in line. “Please stay as close to the divider as possible people,” she shouted. She actually shouted at a room full of adults. She even went so far as to physically touch the guy behind me to prove how and where she wanted us to stand. Which of course put the dude right back in my bubble. To his credit he moved back once Brunhilda left. But that was just about it, at this point I’ve had it. What in the actual fuck is going on here? I once again suppress my ever-increasing rage and move on. Simply put my head down and move on to the next phase of at this point has to be considered torture.

I finally reach the end of the line. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Finally I can just pay and go home and not have to strangle anyone. Wrong again, you think I would have figured this out by now. I get to the point where there are 6 windows, I am next eagerly awaiting an open window. One opens up, so I walk up again using my logic to guide me. Wrong. “Sir, I’m not ready for you yet.” So I go back to the end of the line where shortly thereafter another window opens up, I approach it and to my shock and awe they aren’t ready either. What are you absolutely kidding me??? You have 1 job, 1, and you aren’t ready? I go back to the end of the line this time determined not to make that mistake again. So I wait, assuming at this point that I will be called over to the next available window. I was correct, but when they do call me they do so in a volume that can only be described as sub-audible. I can’t hear the person but apparently they don’t understand that they are speaking in a volume that only a person with spy equipment can hear. So they get frustrated which again must be on the job application for the MVC. All applicants must have an unreasonably short fuse. So they now yell at me “NEXT CUSTOMER!”

Now the last leg has begun. Sweet freedom is within grasp. However they know this, which is the only reason this process takes the inexplicably long time that it does. Why must it take so long? Scan my documentation, take my money, and give me my God damn license! Nope, the teller types the sequel to War and Peace on their computer, makes frequent pauses to talk to his co-workers, and completely disregards the person in front of him. ME. When he does acknowledge my existence, it is by a wave of the hand which is insanely disrespectful. But don’t worry, I get the one MVC employee who thinks they have a sense of humor. He asks me the question everybody asks me to try to avoid awkward silences, “Are you related to JFK?” [ed. note: Chad’s last name is Kennedy. He does get this everywhere he goes]. To which I respond, “no, they are a different line of Kennedy’s.” I’m thinking, “less chit-chat more making my licenses so I can escape this place.” Eventually he gets around to taking my money and giving me my licenses and at last, FREEDOM! My ordeal is finished!

Until 4 years from now, when I will have to go through the same exact process all over again.


NOTE: None of these pictures were actually taken at my local MVC. I was actually prohibited from using the camera on my phone.

About Chad Kennedy

Chad burst from the womb wearing a racing suit and a helmet. Chad's passion for cars is in his very DNA. His father was a gear head and passed on the tradition through owning such classics as a '66 Mustang and a '59 Corvette all while taking him to various race tracks in the area. Chad likes to wrench on his rides whenever possible, forgoing the stealership. Chad is an avid motorsports fan with particular interest in endurance/sports car racing. When not online writing for Shifting Lanes, you can find him working at the local golf course teaching people how to swing or hooning a golf cart at impossible speeds.

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