Today, I got my learner’s permit to drive a car. I got to the DMV at about 9 AM, and I didn’t leave until 12:30. In those 3 1/2 hours, I saw a lot of people. (Hence the long wait.) And we (my dad and I) didn’t even wait the longest. There were several people there who had ben there since the DMV opened and they still had five or six numbers to go at 12:30!
Well, I wasn’t able to concentrate on the book I brought, (It was a very deep philosophical book.) so I watched the people around me, and I noticed there were several kinds there.
If you’ve been to a very busy DMV, where no matter how early you get there sometimes, there always seems to be a long line, you know what I mean when I say you can sometimes tell who have been there the longest. It’s relatively easy to be cheerful and smiling at the very beginning of your wait, but as minutes stretch into hours, and hours stretch into days, your patience gets worn pretty thin.
Besides the usual exceptions to every rule, there was a sort of pattern of behaviors depending on how long you had been there. The people who first get there smile more, but it’s sort of a shy smile. After about fifteen minutes, they start warming up. They’ve remembered how the DMV works, and they have started to observe others and picked out the ones whose vibes are similar to their own. After about thirty minutes to an hour, the lighthearted jokes about the long wait and trying to make the best of it starts. After an hour and a half, the jokes are more forced and biting. After three hours, people start getting really antsy, or sleepy, and retreat into themselves, only coming out to complain about the slow service they’ve received. A few more vocal ones will approach the desk and ask what is taking so long. After four to five hours (and yes, I have sat in the DMV for over five hours WITH two little ones under the age of four, all to get my ID!) the manager comes out and gets an earful, after the person has to wait another thirty minutes for him or her to come out. (If I were the manager of a DMV, I wouldn’t jump at talking to steamed people who had been waiting for hours for something that should only take ten minutes tops.)
Of course, like I said, there are exceptions to every rule. I, of course, am one of them.
Now, those are just the stages. Every person goes through them differently, and some skip through and just retreat into themselves right off the bat. Those are those people who sit for hours staring at their phones, only getting away from it to plug them up when their batteries get low.
Then there are the moms, who for some reason have their kids in tow. Now, I am not saying that it’s a bad thing, but in a world where most people send their children to either school or daycare, you would think that if there was ever a time you would ask someone else to watch your kids for you would be when you are planning (for yes, you plan on it) on sitting still for hours in a crowded place with cranky people who won’t be very understanding of antsy and cranky kids. Some moms are prepared, and pack snacks, lunch, quiet activities, and other things to keep the kids occupied, but even the best mom, like mine, cannot always bring enough stuff to keep little ones content to be still for hours after hours. (Trust me, I know. You should have seen the enormous backpack we brought, plus my bag, plus my brother’s bag, plus my mom’s purse, each full of things to keep two kids, one three and one two, occupied. And we still ran out of things.)
There are the business people, who bring their briefcases, and pull out their laptops and get some work done. Now those people are smart.
There are the people who didn’t plan ahead, and are bored of their phones, and decided, whether purposely or not, to take a nap and snore, and make everyone either giggle behind their hands, turn their volume up louder, or sigh in frustration.
There are those people who are cranky from the start. They come in with a frown and an attitude, and leave with a frown and an attitude.
I don’t know how all DMVs work, but at the one I go to, there are two waiting rooms. One is in the same vicinity as the people who work there, while the other one is right by the outside door and is its own little room. People can stand in the little room, but not in the main room. The two rooms have two different atmospheres. The main room is quiet, and generally a little bit more cranky then the smaller room, which takes on a more joking atmosphere. People even started cheering when a number was called and it was someone from the small room. There was no cheering at all in the main room. And it wasn’t just the people. There were some people who were in the main room to begin with, then moved to the smaller room, and all of a sudden, they were more lively. And then there were people who were in the smaller room and were lively, but then came into the main room and got cranky all of a sudden. Of course, as usual, my dad and I were the exceptions. We were joking in both rooms. We just got more dirty looks in the main room.
Then there were the Christians. At least, the ones who acted like true Christians. There was one young lady who offered up her seat to a mother and her little girl even though the mother had just gotten there, and the lady had been there for as long as we had. Another gentleman offered me an empty seat, when he had been standing in there since it opened. (He was called shortly before us, to much cheering.) One of the ladies at the desks even commented on how she could tell sometimes who were Christians because of how sweet and understanding of delays they were.
The DMV is a great place to find characters and how they react under stress and pressure. People who have taken precious time off their jobs and wait hours, only to have to leave due to schedules just three or so numbers away. So, if you’re a writer, looking for characters, take the extended wait as an opportunity to see people from many different cultures, backgrounds, and worldviews tackle annoying problems, like hour long waits at the DMV.
Of course, if don’t need to go to the DMV, don’t. I don’t think you need the characters that bad.
What kind of people have you seen at the DMV, or any other place where a lot of people gather and wait around a long time? Let me know about them in the comments sections below!