People Watching


I took my middle son down to the DMV the other day to get his driver’s license exam.  As I was waiting for him to complete the road test, I sat in the waiting area and thought to myself, “If this is a cross section of our country, we are in deep trouble.” 

First off, let me set the scene:  you walk into a door and immediately enter the cattle chute.  You see a woman who is the most oddly shaped person I’ve ever seen in my life who ascertains what you need and assigns you a number, after scolding you for not showing up twenty minutes early to you appointment.  This is necessary, of course, because you have to fill out several forms that contain information the DMV already has on you.  You go from the cattle chute to the waiting area.  We’ll call it the bullpen, just to keep with the cattle theme.  This area is three rows of chairs about 30 chairs across.  The area they are in is about ten feet wide, so you are pretty crammed in there.  The chairs are narrow;  so narrow that you can’t sit next to another person unless you don’t mind making a commitment.  You fill out your paperwork and wait for your number to be called.  Now, during this waiting period, you can really people watch, especially if you wear mirrored sunglasses.  Here’s what I saw:

Young girl (maybe twenty) wearing “Hustler Honey” sleeveless T-shirt.  She’s talking on the phone and rolling the tounge piercing around in her mouth.  She gravitates toward a young man who didn’t do what he was told by the DMV staff, and exclaims to him “They are probably giving you a hard time because you have been to prison.”  Nice.  Now, this girl was brash, and, as near as I could tell, none too bright.  I mean, who wears pajamas out in public?  She was proud of her body, though. 

Next, a young couple, with a mother in tow, getting someone’s license stuff hammered out.  I overheard them talking about being able to pay for their insurance on their cars all at once, and the female in the couple said “We’ll never have the money to do that.”  She’s probably right, but what about reaching higher and farther? 

There were a lot of hispanics there.  I guess because it was kind of a rainy day and the construction guys couldn’t work.  The location of this facility had something to do with it too;  Gainesville, Georgia is close by, and there is a large hispanic population there.  But these people who were within earshot didn’t speak english well at all, and the DMV staff had to speak spanish to get them taken care of.  Most of them had young children in tow. 

Lastly, there was a mixed race couple.  Black man, maybe 5’10”, good shape, dressed okay and clean, white woman, 6 feet tall, about 350 pounds, ankle in a boot, wearing a dirty sleeveless T-shirt and tight warmup pants.  Now, I know love is blind, but it would have to have a malfunctioning olfactory organ and poor hearing.  I felt bad for the guy. 

I saw several people in the building who probably spent more on their hair than their wardrobe.  But it was a Tuesday at about 10 am.  If they had jobs, they’d probably be at the job, unless they took the day off like I did. 

I got up to go outside for a minute, and I surveyed the room as I left.  The cattle chute was full, and it was only about twenty feet of chute, so it filled quickly.  The cross section of truck drivers, single mothers, young people getting their permits, and the like was missing one element:  professional-looking people.  No one in a tie or suit.  No one with a laptop or briefcase.  I’ve been to this DMV location on Saturday, and that may be when these guys show up, wearing their pristine University of Georgia pull-over jackets. 

Okay, so after the test was over, we were shuffled from one line to another for a few minutes and then allowed to leave.  The test took twenty minutes.  We were there almost two hours. 

Imagine if we went to government facility, for say, an illness.  The efficiency of the government would make the diagnosis of a broken leg take hours. 

Either way, the people in this room were all equal.  We were all treated the same.  Cattle chute, bullpen, line, forms, line, picture, line, pay, and exit.  And everybody who drives has to go through it.  It’s kind of fun to watch people from all walks of life together in a common place doing the same thing, but you imagine things about these folks that maybe aren’t true.  I did not see one future president in that room.  I didn’t see the CEO of a major company there.  I saw regular people. 

Unless the “exceptional” people were incogneto.  Look, everyone can be exceptional, and America allows the opportunity to be exceptional.  But the young couple girl’s statement was a little chilling because it represented a lack of hope. 

One day, if you keep working and trying to learn and better yourself, you may be able to pay off a $400 bill all at once.  You may be able to pay off your car loan early.  But I can tell you if you depend on the government, you won’t be able to do any of those things. 

American exceptionalism comes from each one of us individually.  We have to make ourselves exceptional, in spite of what our leaders tell us.  We cannot depend on government to sleekly and efficiently test for and issue driver’s documents.  We must not depend on them for much else.  Otherwise, you will be herded into the waitign room of a hospital where  you may die from a heart attack while you are filling out forms and moving between lines.

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