The Driver’s Licence Guy at the Department of Motor Vehicles where I live has an impossible job. He sits at the front of a snaking line of people in unhappy moods because they must stand in his line. He tells them they have to pay money to have a picture taken that they will invariably hate, or they can’t take their test today, or some other thing they don’t want to hear. He says the same things an unimaginable number of times. And then he gives them a number to sit down with for the next stretch of waiting.
It’s an impossible job, but when I went to the office of doom to renew my license this birthday year, I saw the man who made it look possible. He talked to each of us individually, taking the time to answer our questions and make us feel like he cared. He smiled. He told us how many people waited in front of us for our particular numbered problem. At one point I heard him talking with a young lady and her mother about taking the driving test instead of paying 25 dollars for an ID card. He thought it would save her money.
The Driver’s License Guy felt unreal. And, yet, he was also the most real person in that stifling waiting area. People smiled at him and he lifted the mood of the place with uncomfortable plastic seats and bells ringing while numbers flashed on the boards.
My favorite scene with Driver’s License Guy happened when he gave the picture taking lady a break. He called those of us waiting for the digital camera over toward the counter. He read our names, took our papers and then stood the first lady in front of the camera. While he waited for her photo to process, he set up the next guy, laughing and joking, keeping the grouchy mumbling people fascinated by what he was doing against our wills. I enjoyed watching him move us around and juggle one part of the process with another like a guy flipping bowling pins through the air.
At one point, he called a lady back when her picture popped up.
“Oh, we need to do it again. You’re not going to like that one.”
It wasn’t even irritating that he held me up a bit longer with the retake. I loved that he cared enough about the face on her card to let her have a do over.
As the regular picture lady came back from break, he left us happier than before.
I’ll be starting classes again on the 23rd. I am hoping to channel some of the Driver’s License Guy’s energy to see me through and work some of his magic into my days this quarter.
“You owe me,” he said, smiling and pointing to the lady with the retake. And I do believe he’s right. What I’d like to do to repay him is pass that joy forward this school year. Please wish me luck. Testing and registering with school paperwork can feel like tossing bowling pins, too.