DC + DMV = The Suck

When was the last time you heard someone say, “I went to the DMV today. It was awesome! Boy they really know what they’re doing there. What a top notch, professional operation.”

It amazes me that DMV’s across the country can be so consistently bad and the butt of so many jokes. To compound things, DC has only two main offices to choose from, the inspection center in SE or the office in Georgetown. Either way, you can bank on long lines, Soup Nazi style employees (“No registration for you!”), and something going wrong.

My task seemed simple enough: I received a letter in the mail saying that I needed to renew my registration however I could not do it online (make a mental note of that). I figured it was because I bought the car one year ago and the car dealer handled the registration then, so maybe they wanted me to come in person this year.

So I left work early Friday and decided to go to the Georgetown office in hopes that the line would be shorter. Boy was I wrong. I had to wait 30 minutes just to be assigned a number so that I could wait in line again for another 45 minutes. I laughed when I read my ticket: “Estimated wait time: 10 minutes.” That’s like the hostess at Matchbox saying you can get a table in 30 minutes.

While I waited, I was fascinated by all of the different walks of life. In one chair was a girl wearing an outfit that probably cost $1,000. In the chair next to her was a girl whose car probably cost $1,000. Regardless of your class, you’re still forced to wait in line and be miserable like everyone else.

Finally, after sitting in a paranoid state for 45 minutes (“Did they call my number? Did I miss it?”), my number was called. I thought to myself, “This should only take 5 minutes. I’ll be home in time to find a parking place and life will be good.”

Then I met the Registration Nazi. After 5 minutes of “tappety-tap-tapping” on her computer she said, “You had a lapse in your insurance.” I asked, “On which car?” “Your 1998 Honda Accord,” the car that I traded in for my current car. I explained to her that the insurance lapse was after I traded it in so it was the dealer’s fault, not mine. Needless to say she wouldn’t renew my registration until I could prove that. “No registration for you! Next!”

As a guy who works in the IT field, I now realized why my letter said that I could not renew online. My name was flagged due to their belief that I had an insurance lapse. Why couldn’t they have said that in the letter?! “You may not renew your registration online due to an insurance lapse on a 1998 Honda Accord.” At least then I could have gone in with some proof. Instead I had to go home and return the following Monday with the sales receipt for my car.

On Monday I was still paranoid that my documented proof may not be good enough for them. After waiting another hour, my trembling hand gave her my paperwork and amazingly…she cleared my record and renewed my registration. I gasped and quickly gave her a sloppy French kiss for not making me come back again. “Thank you! Oh thank you Registration Nazi!”

Overall my DMV experience was a huge pain in the ass, one that could have been minimized if the DMV had an intelligent computer system that could notify their citizens appropriately. Instead we must endure hours of being treated like imbeciles.

And the fun doesn’t end there! With my new registration and parking sticker in hand, it’s time to break out the Goo Gone, a razor blade, and a blowtorch in order to get the old sticker off of my windshield. It’s almost easier to install a new windshield than to fight that battle. And don’t even think about simply laying the sticker on your dash either – they’ll ticket you for that, because having the sticker two inches from where it should be is a horrible offense.

Ah, the joys of city living. It almost makes me miss the suburbs.

Photo by Bill Adler

9 Comments so far

  1. KCinDC (unregistered) on September 4th, 2007 @ 2:14 pm

    Spam comments are getting weirder.

    I haven’t been to the DMV in years, but most web discussions of the DC DMV seem to feature a commenter or two saying that the place wasn’t that bad and they were in and out in 20 minutes, so it seems the experience is extremely variable.

  2. Max (unregistered) on September 4th, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

    I deleted that crazy spam comment. Sorry for those of you interested in dental veneers.

    I suppose a lot of it depends on what kind of mood the DMV employees are in and how much they want to f*$@ with your day. They hold a lot of power over the little people and they know it.

  3. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on September 4th, 2007 @ 2:32 pm

    The VA DMV is certainly no picnic either. For a full year after I sold my old car, I got notes from the county about its tax papers, and all manner of paperwork fuckups.

    DMVs everywhere are just rough spots to deal with in the road of life.

  4. Wayan (unregistered) on September 4th, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

    I don’t even have a car and I know the DC DMV experience all too well.

    I will have to disagree on your sticker removal pain though. I took off the Betrothed Butterbean‘s sticker with a easy swipe of a razor blade. Maybe you need to work out more?

  5. Max (unregistered) on September 4th, 2007 @ 3:28 pm

    Maybe you need to lay off the steroids?

    I’ve never heard of anyone getting those stickers off easily. I soak them with window cleaner, scrape, soak some more, scrape, etc. It’s a pain in the arse and takes a good 20-30 minutes.

  6. Don (unregistered) on September 4th, 2007 @ 4:16 pm

    The DC stickers must be worse – they are certainly larger. The VA stickers I’ve had no issue taking off with a straight razor blade, though sometimes the reach is a hassle.

    I have found it is more likely to go well if you hold the blade with a pair of plyers, making it easier to put pushing force into it.

  7. Jon (unregistered) on September 4th, 2007 @ 5:30 pm

    Try the DMV web site. It lists other locations, including the 95 M St SW location, which I’ve been to a couple of times, and never had to wait more than 20 minutes.

    I expected two and three hour waits at the DMV when I moved to DC, because that’s what I kept hearing, but I have not had one single even mildly bad experience there. Now, the registration process and parking ticket policies here are a different story.

  8. Mike (unregistered) on September 5th, 2007 @ 8:19 am

    I’ve used the Georgetown office twice and done the car inspection once. I must’ve been lucky because all 3 of my experiences were positive, which blows away my track record of dealing with the VA DMV.

  9. MBFan#2 (unregistered) on September 5th, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

    Goo Gone works wonders! But I found that razor blade does work best.

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