So Many Snowflakes


I went to the DMV for my license today. Actually, I went to the DMV for the documentation I would need to register to vote in a minor attempt to turn a red-state-turning-purple blue, the license was a bonus.

Now, to be able to actually pick up that license, I had to make an appointment. To make that appointment, I had to call the DMV appointment line every 30 minutes or so for three days. Eventually I reached a person, who was lovely and booked me this appointment. After the appointment was booked, I gathered all the documentation the appointment required: previous driver's license, proof of residency, utility bills, and the like. I had the extra stuff for the Real ID, but no absolute need for the id. I was set.

I arrived at the DMV, puzzled over which door was the entrance, was accosted by an independent campaign worker, found the entrance and went in behind another DMV visitor. The lines for the first roadblock were ... interesting. In the time of Covid19, please stand 6' apart, and yet, the line snaked back upon itself. The spots on the floor "stand here!" were six feet behind the spot in front and behind it, but less than two feet away from the spots to the side. I suspect the person who laid the spots didn't really think in more than one dimension.

I waited for maybe five minutes as the line moved forward, until I was second in line. The person in front of me let the DMV gatekeeper that he did not have an appointment. The gatekeeper said, nope, you need an appointment. The person said, well, he had called and the lady said he could come down without an appointment. The gatekeeper said, nope, you need an appointment. The person in front of me started near-begging, just let him in. The gatekeeper said, nope, you need an appointment. I watched this play out, wondering why, given all the notices about how appointments are required, this guy thought he'd be special and allowed in without one. He was turned away.

I let the gatekeeper know that I had an appointment, but was 10 minutes early. No problem, step forward, have your picture taken, and continue to the first line on the left.

In true DMV fashion, hooboy, is my picture bad.

I approached the DMV clerk with the proper attitude, as told to me by John Schmidt decades ago: treat them as if they were your best friend, uncle, grandfather, the person who wants most to help you in all of this world, smile and be kind. I have no idea if the woman was having a good day, but I didn't make it any worse.

Now, the woman handling the license next to me, she was having a bad day. The two women in the next line, thankfully six feet away, from me were practically badgering the clerk. No, I don't have that form, do I really need it? Why do I need it? How can I get my license without it. Can i bring it later? You sure I need it? What else can I get instead? All while leaning into the clerk and each other.

I had all the documentation needed, which made my appointment less than fifteen minutes from gatekeeper to "you are registered to vote, have a nice day." I have no idea how long the two hovering women took.

As I was leaving the DMV, a large man followed me out. He was loudly muttering, "Typical government bullshit" as he huffed away, clearly dissatisfied with his DMV visit.

Which started me thinking. My appointment was easy, I made the appointment, I had my documentation, I lowered my expectations, I helped the people helping me. Contrast my experience with these three other experiences: couldn't get in, didn't have required documentation (likely necessitating another visit), and who knows what the last guy experienced. I travelled the well-defined path. The other three were snowflakes. They expected the rules to change or be ignored because, well, for some reason, who knows, because they are who they are? I don't know.

What I do know is that I suddenly had empathy for those DMV clerks and gatekeepers: they need to deal with hundreds of thousands of people a year, most of who need or want special treatment, rather than following the rules. While some rules are arbitrary and an expression of power, many of the processes in place are there so that the department can process hundreds of thousands of people a year. That's a lot of people.

That's a lot of snowflakes.

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