Department of Monstrous Violence

Californians just need to stop driving. Automobiles should not be allowed in California.

Some toothless miner back in 18 hundred and whatever struck it rich and shouted, "GOLD! THERE'S GOLD IN DEM DERE HILLS!" And then he said, I'm a gonna take my gold and I'm a gonna build me a general store over here, an' den I'm a gonna build me anudder shop about 10 miles over yonder an' den I'm a gonna build me a Starbucks about 5 miles over dat dere pile of strippins, an' den I'm a gonna buy me one a dem horseless carriages an' drive around an' around an' around my propity. So, get along dere mule! I'm a havin' you to dinner tonight! Yeehaw!" And then, because the miner couldn't keep his fool mouth shut somebody slit his throat and stole his claim and also the entire idea that everything in California should be built all spread out so you have to drive every-fucking-where to get anything done, and how do people find the stores they need to buy stuff in if they're all hidden in the nooks and crannies of big ass strip malls?

Yesterday was a typical day on Interstate 80. My on-ramp was closed for construction. There was a car fire out near Vallejo blocking traffic for miles in both directions, mostly because people gotta slow down and gawk and then call their friends on their cell phones and say, "Hey, there's a car fire in Vallejo again just in case you were thinking of driving down to the Vallejo Starbucks from Sacramento some time in the next five minutes. What's that? You're breaking up." And the California Highway Patrol troopers stand around in their knee-high, shiny black leather gestapo boots staring arrogantly at the gawkers on their cell phones and NONE of the troopers look even remotely like Eric Estrada, and I don't know if that's a good thing or not.

There's always a car fire out near Vallejo. What is wrong with you, Vallejo?

A bright yellow Ford pickup, with those giant balloon tires you see in the monster truck rallies, came up fast behind me on the highway, yesterday, engine roaring and fat balloon tires humming fiercely on the asphalt. As it passed me on the right (because all the slow drivers travel in the passing lanes in California) I saw, on the rear window, in matching yellow fonts, the words "Jack 'em High! Fat chicks can't climb."

"Nice." I thought. I considered pulling in front of him and slamming on the brakes, because, with those great fat tires, he would instantly have toppled over and rolled into the nearest Super Wal*Mart. Then, I could have gotten on my cell phone and called someone to tell them about the latest car fire in Vallejo.

In point of fact, I became part of the problem, yesterday. I went to the DMV to get my California drivers license. Cue music -- duh duh DUUUH!!

Every guy in the DMV was wearing a t-shirt or something with a sports team emblazoned, and ridiculous denim shorts that come down to mid-calf or chollos . Every girl in the DMV was dragging around a squirming toddler or infant. Actually, there were some parents with their teenage children, the teenagers eyes all bright and shiny at the prospect of their first drivers license, the parents' hair visibly turning grey as I watched. I don't think rich people actually come to the DMV. It just seems to be people in a certain tax bracket.

I had made an appointment online so I didn't have to wait long. The girl at the information desk handed me a paper ticket with a number on it and a computerized voice continuously called out things like, "Now serving number F003 at window 19. Oh Bender, I love it when you touch me there!" Beyond that, there was very little indication that the California DMV had moved into the 21st century.

I always think of California as being progressive, and in certain ways I suppose it is. This is where all those 16mm films were produced that they used to show in Driver's Ed, like Highway of Death! or whatever. People my age will remember the days when they used to play those movies in Drivers Ed. The fat football coach, who was also the Drivers Ed teacher, would turn out the lights and admonish everyone to keep their heads off their desks and not sleep in the hot Florida afternoons. The projector would be turned on, with its flickering and its clattering. The title music would start, all out of sync and stuttering. br-br-br-bree-ee-ee-ee br-br-br-braa-aa-aa. Then the film would stick and the projector light would burn a hole in it. The football coach would turn on the lights, students would raise their heads from their desks, laughing. The AV guy would come running, arms flailing, braces shining, spittle flying. Then the movie would be fixed and 1969 Chevy Impalas would crash into each other. Fake blood would fly. The boys in the class would cheer. The girls would go "ew!" Sometimes someone would get sick to their stomach. Ah, memories.

But here, in the California of today, the DMV didn't seem to have changed much since 1969. The staff were like civil servants the world over; hulking, slow moving automatons with faces of stone, lurching within mazes of green steel file cabinets. The walls and counters had dark wood paneling and the blue plastic chairs in the waiting area had seen a million hopeless tired tuchuses.

My number was called and I went to the window. The woman typed my information, from paper DMV form DL-44, into her computer. She scanned my thumb print to send to Big Brother. She checked my two forms of ID. Then she sent me to another window to have my photograph taken and get my eyes checked.

"Smile!" said the young woman at Window 17. I didn't. FLASH! I was blind. "Okay, let's do your eye test." Ye ghods, I couldn't see! There were no goggle-eyed electric viewers. Just three paper letter charts hanging from the ceiling. "Read from chart A, line 1." Spots swimming in front of my eyes, I squinted upwards. The letters were a bit blurry, but I could see them well enough. The woman handed me a folded piece of paper. "Cover your right eye and read chart B, line 2." I did so. Again, fuzzy but visible. "Cover your left eye and read chart C, line 5." Same sitrep. All the letters on all the charts were the same size. I had passed this gauntlet and now it was time for me to take my written test, again presented on paper. I was sent to a cubicle with another uncomfortable blue plastic chair.

Let's see, Question 1: You are traveling in the left lane on a multi-lane highway. Traffic is traveling at 55 mph in the right lane. Britney Spears and Zsa Zsa Gabor approach rapidly from behind, driving a 1988 Bentley. Should you: A) Increase your speed. B) Pull onto the shoulder of the highway. C) Wait until it's safe, signal and pull into the right lane. D) Take the blue pill. "Oh, for chrissakes!"

I took my test back to the first window. "Did you get a perfect score?" asked the young woman who had taken my thumb print. "All your answers are matching perfectly to my answer key. I've never seen anyone with a perfect test score. Ah, you missed one. The one about the penalty for DWI. I've only been working here a short while, but you wouldn't believe how many people come through here with DWI charges." I thought to myself that I probably wouldn't be the least surprised.

The woman punched a hole into my Pennsylvania drivers license and then handed me a slip of paper. "Here's your interim license. You'll be getting the official one in the mail in about two weeks."

"What?" I said, surprised. "I don't get it right away?" I had never seen the like. With all the money flowing through that place, they couldn't print something up on the spot?

"Actually, it comes in about a week." she replied.

I walked away, $26 poorer and guaranteed to lose that slip of paper within the next five minutes.

Yeah, Californians should not be allowed to drive.
  • Current Mood: licensed to ill
As long as I can remember, there has been a car on fire somewhere near Vallejo.

I don't understand why you have to wait for your new license. When I turned in my CA license I was given my new SC license right away (I didn't bother to get a DC license).
I dunno. Maybe they've started some new process and can only print it in some locations. Nevertheless, I saw, vaguely, what my picture is going to look like. They might not want to send that through the mail.

Oregon was the best for DMV efficiency. Everything was computerized, no waiting. It was marvelous.
seriously. i think the worst is when it "rains" and everyone has to drive at twenty miles an hour or less.
I'm still waiting for rain in California. Does it rain in California? I wonder if I'll get to see a mudslide. Chances are it will happen around Vallejo.
no. it "rains." there'll be light showers and everyone freaks out like the sky is falling. the only reason i know any better is because i was born in chicago and have an inkling of what true bad weather is like. you know, i've lived here for nearly a decade and i still haven't actually seen a mudslide in action. good luck, i guess!
Howdy. I just noticed that piemancer sang my praises and I really must run over and thank her. I'm just a tad surprised that Ohio has DMV woes. The toll route along I-80 seemed so well run when I traveled across it a few weeks ago that I thought other state departments would be efficient, too. The roads here, in California, blow chunks.
She sent me here too. Great Rant. NY doesn't give you your licence right away either, we get a slip of paper here too.
Thank you. Rants are healthy and great rants are the bees knees. Having spent short periods of time in New York, I am not in the least surprised that they have to do DLs the hard way, too.
My gracious! Marriage? Admittedly, I've been having a love affair with your LJ for some time but I hadn't yet been considering marriage. Does that mean I'm fearful of LJ commitment? Am I being a typical LJ man?

Seriously, I'm very flattered by your compliment and you know I'm mad crazy about your LiveJournal, too, don't you?
You're right. Like you, I think, the older I get, the scarier romantic commitment seems. At this point in my life, I probably shouldn't get married. Or at any point, really.

And -- nobody should be crazy about my crappy Livejournal.
"Now serving number F003 at window 19. Oh Bender, I love it when you touch me there!"

Oh, dood, just when I thought I couldn't laugh anymore.

I remember those films from school, meant to scare us silly. I wonder if anyone bright enough has managed to digililizied some of them and put them on youtube. Remember NutnHoney? He's in mainland China just now and bought a bunch of old propaganda films now on dvd w' English subtitles. He's promised to steal burn some for me.
Chinese propaganda films? Little red book and all that? Teenage children torturing their elders in the name of the People? That would be interesting.