By James T. Murphy, Esq.
Because you cannot have a driving restriction removed from your license without a personal visit, I was recently forced to drop in on the friendly folks at the local branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles. As in all of life, many things have changed. Most notably, instead of the cranky, disagreeable clerks of yesteryear attempting to instill a Clint Eastwood type feeling in your trigger finger, department personnel are helpful and polite. And thanks to the Clinton Administration one may now even register to vote, thus clearing the way to a right and a privilege at the same time. That is where the progress ends however. For even though technology has changed the process, and cushion less, wooden benches have replaced standing in line, the experience is not one we seem to have any time for.
In the old days it was always a question of how long a wait there would be. Today, this concern is answered immediately for at the moment of entry you are given a ticket, of the bakery or supermarket deli variety, telling you both approximately how long you will wait and how many fellow waiters and waitresses are ahead of you. This data is dispensed at the information counter, the place you wait to be told how long you have to wait. Depending on the reason for your visit you are categorized and although there may be only eight numbers ahead of you, the fates of estimation will skip from category to category until you have waited at least as long as everyone who arrived before you. At times democracy can be very cruel. This ordeal is about as democratic as a cattle drive, but instead of being led to slaughter you are being held hostage by no one in particular until you surrender a portion of your day. The right to drive is not a right at all but a privilege. The privilege of sitting around the DMV is just not right. But take heart for the herd keeps moving and there is not even a hint of a stampede.
Fellow licensees and registrants are quite patient. Conversation and human noises are mostly in hushed tones, except for the bright ones, the infants and toddlers who do not understand why they need to be part of this flesh press when they cannot even reach the brake pedal. I am convinced language development in children is purposefully delayed until they are intellectually equipped to deal with a life of waiting in government offices, on theater lines, and for the next available appointment with your medical doctor. If it were otherwise one of these juveniles would have by now offered a solution or two to bypass the ever frustrating habit we seem to have of testing the limits of human patience, all for the want of an orderly society. While sitting in line it seems too high a price to pay.
I would here propose a new holiday, to be celebrated on one's birthday. The only restriction to its custom would be the number of hours in the day. On such an occasion you may walk into any establishment and go directly to the head of the line. No matter whom you called, they would answer the phone immediately. No holding or messaging, but instant responses from the very being you seek. This celebration would amount to an E-Z Pass for a day. Trains and buses would run on your schedule. Like the parting of the Red Sea, traffic lanes would open up for you to breeze right through the worst jams. On this day there would be no such thing as a busy signal. Others would be forced to anticipate your every wish and act swiftly to see you are constantly fanned by the winds of privilege, even if it does not seem right. Plan your day well for there is no time to lose. Demanding and receiving immediate gratification is serious business, unless you are one of those infants surrounding me. They are entitled to a life of birthdays. If they could verbalize the process for us the mystery of our ways would be stripped away and adult life would be needlessly interesting. The mundane would be replaced by the exciting, the routine by the adventurous. Dreaming might become the reality.
As I prepare for my next birthday a bell goes off in my head, and this bell tolls for me. It seems the computer has recognized me for what I am, a number in the herd. Marching right up to the appointed paddock I am struck by a parody upon my thoughts that screams out for laughter. My anointed clerk is wearing a birthday corsage.
Mr. Murphy is an attorney with
offices in Floral Park, N .Y.