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Lessons from the DMV

Ok, so…I had to go to the DMV today. (And anyone who is a writer just HAS to write about the experience if they’ve been.)

I’d almost rather go to the dentist or the gynecologist or the proctologist before going to the DMV. But I had to renew my driver’s license. And yes, I could have done it online…if i hadn’t let the expiration go for 4 months nearly (yes, I did.) So, I stood in line behind about 8 people, each with differing weightiness to their tasks. Each facing their responsibilities with different levels of happiness…or lack thereof.

The man in front of me was rather pleasant…once we’d been in line for 5 minutes or so. When I first walked in, thinking I was supposed to take a number (like the sign said), I walked up sort of between two people already in line to grab one (a number, not a person…) One lady near the number roll said no one was taking numbers (go figure…any other day). So, I turned to head to the end of the line. I’m not sure I would have known where the end was had it not been for the older, white-haired, pony-tailed, Ducky-Dynasty-bearded man saying, “The line ends here. Thank God I’m not the last one in line any more.” Wait…what? lol

After a few minutes, and him making some under-the-breath comments like “I hope they take a credit card, because I don’t carry cash since I was mugged and stabbed 14 times in Nashville” and “Guess I better comb my hair if they’re gonna take my picture” (after which he pulled a brush from his “satchel” and proceeded)…to “Man it’s getting hot in here”…we finally started having a relatively decent conversation. I found out he’s a truck driver that grew up in Madison, Tennessee, just north of Nashville. We talked about my college days there at Belmont and that his nephew graduated from there; how everything has changed so much since then; how in his early 20’s, he worked for the construction company that poured the concrete and erected the steel beams that help support and make up Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital; how he was transferring his CDL license from Tennessee to Colorado.

I am an introvert. That’s no secret. I don’t usually initiate conversations with other people in a DMV line…or any other line. I stand to the side at gatherings of more than 4 people (especially people I don’t know…and sometimes people I do). I observe. I watch. I listen. But invariably, God will put me behind or in front of someone who is a chatterbox. Who feels like they need to share many varied intimate details about their life and love and whatevs with me. And I listen. And I comment and converse appropriately. God knows this makes me uncomfortable. God knows that I want to make a new exit or run out and come back later when the line is shorter…or non-existent. (Or get David to go do it for me lol)

Even at the DMV, there are several life lessons that I learned:

1. I can be patient.

Never once did I roll my eyes or breathe hard. I know…it’s hard to believe. But I just kept the big picture in mind. It may be a while, but this WILL be over with before dinner (for one thing, they close at 5:00) and then I won’t have to do it again for years. I remembered that there was much more to my life than the experience at the DMV. And if I displayed patience, maybe it would spill out onto other people and they’d breathe deeper as well. I certainly wouldn’t have made matters worse, anyways.

David has said many, many times, and as recently as last Sunday, “Don’t EVER pray for patience. If you definitely want a prayer answered, that’s the prayer to pray.” But I have found that you don’t even have to pray for patience; just go to the DMV…or the bank…or to renew your license tags at the courthouse…or Walmart on payday. No prayer necessary. It’ll be hot. It’ll be boring. There will be one lady working behind the desk. The line will move slower than a sloth. There will be a toddler building a fort out of chairs. There will be a lady standing behind you talking loud on her cell phone. There will be someone somewhere in the near vicinity that will reek of body odor. P.A.T.I.E.N.C.E.

Also, keep in mind that the people around you probably don’t want to be there any more than you do. They didn’t wake up this morning excited about and anticipating the possibility and experience of standing in an endless, boring, uncomfortable line somewhere. But I bet any of them would rather be there than in the best ICU in the country.

God love her, but that one-and-only DMV worker there today was being very patient. Not overly friendly, but not unfriendly by any means. Just very matter-of-fact. I know that job is like one of the armpit jobs of government positions. There was even a sign on the wall that said something to the effect of “no firearms allowed inside the DMV” and “anyone using violence or foul language or exhibiting threatening behavior will be escorted off the premises.” You don’t put signs up like that if you don’t expect to have a problem with it.

2. It’s ok to freak out a little bit.

Having said all that, it’s important to know that freak outs do happen. But it’s best to save them for the parking lot later. The lady about four people in front of me had recently married and moved, so not only had her name changed, but so had her address. She found out that there were about 3-4 other things she should have brought with her or should have done before she even walked in there. She handled it pretty well, actually, but if it had been me, I’m afraid I may have pouted like a five year old: “But whyyyy?” Maybe even stomped my foot a little. Ok, there’s no maybe about any of that.

It’s best to smile politely at the employee and go to the car and whine and feel sorry for yourself there. We all need to give into our emotions at times in a safe place. But WE need to control them and not let them control us. And we certainly don’t need to spew that all over everyone around us. Get hold of it…then let it go.

3. It’s ok to connect with strangers.

I could easily go about my life interacting with only certain people. Our everyday walking around lives…work or coffee shop or other social activities might not expose us to a diversity of ages, races, personal hygiene, etc. But government offices give us that chance. Everybody has to come to the DMV. Where else does a group of strangers from every walk of life pile in a room and really have nothing to do for about an hour? What better place to engage with someone new? Learn something new? Make a brand new connection with someone who may be quite interesting?

4. Don’t forget to celebrate the victory.

When it was all over, I threw a mini party! I let out a “Yesss” under my breath. I did a little victory dance right out there on the parking lot next to the car. I had my afternoon back! I texted David right away and said “I’m done!!” I rejoiced in the fact that I could drive without guilt or fear of getting pulled over for a simple reason and they find my license expired. After going through that even mildly stressful time, I could let go. So I went and treated myself with a big iced tea from Maverick and sang loud with the radio!

So the next time you find yourself in a high-stress situation, that you’d rather not be in, remember to find the good in it. Remember to concentrate on the positive and eliminate the negative. Because it certainly doesn’t make the line move any faster.

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