Adventures in purgatory

>> Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ah, the joys of modern bureaucracy. I'm writing this up at the Division of Motor Vehicles offices, here to renew my driver's license. First, I was in a line outside. Then, I was in a line inside. That was so I could get a number. Now I'm sitting in a chair waiting for my number to be called. It is 2:49 P.M.; I got here before 12:30.

This isn't really a complaint, per se. For one thing, this is my own damn fault: I could have and possibly should have called ahead and made an appointment; they let you do that now. Instead, I decided I'd rather bloc-out a day to spend queuing. (I also have to confess: I underestimated the wait.)

For another thing, the real point is that there is something simultaneously depressing and weirdly... invigorating about what is a universal, alienating, social experience. We are all meat in the chute, we are all anonymous numbers waiting to be called for, but we are all a worthless horde stripped of basic dignity and waiting for processing together. Drones, yes, but drones bound in common solidarity.

Of course, that could just be the Stockholm Syndrome talking....

I find the process of getting my license renewed to be faintly terrifying. We only do it every eight years in North Carolina, but that just seems to mean I have almost a decade to forget how all this is supposed to work. I find myself irrationally fearing that some complication will be discovered: someone else fraudulently using my license number is wanted for DWI in another county, somehow the insurance company has reported my policy as being revoked. I've seen Brazil, I know all it takes is a dead fly in a teletype to get the Men In Black Hoods trundling you off for questioning. I also start worrying I'll somehow forget all the signs when they give me the visual quiz ("Um... UFO landing strip?").

Ah, thank you. You've helped me through a time of stress, yet again.

Even as I was typing the above, my number was called and I went up as a humble penitent to the desk of a woman who proved to be kind and efficient. This, in a way, makes me feel bad for hacking on the whole "drones in a sea of bureaucracy" kind of way, but there you go. These are the hazards of being a writer, I suspect, or rather the hazard: at the bottom of everything, you really are a colossal dick, because if you weren't you'd keep it all to yourself and/or wouldn't actually have anything to write about. Heck, even if you write fiction. you kind of have to be a dick, although possibly just to imaginary people, which sounds better but isn't, really, because it means you're just bottling up all your dickishness all day long and saving it up for your passive-aggressive, dysfunctional inner life.

Anyway, they're going to keep letting me drive, which is a wonderful boon. For the nonce, I get a piece of paper telling me this and then in several weeks I should receive a piece of plastic with a picture of (I assure you) a complete and total stranger who looks nothing like me, possibly familiar from a mug shot displayed on an Unsolved Mysteries episode twenty years ago. It will also have my name, address, age on it, and will inform everybody that my organs can be harvested if they can be pried from out between a mess of twisted metal where a Volkswagen Beetle and an 18-wheeler have tried to occupy the same space at the same time in violation of the laws of physics as they're usually understood (but not for want of trying).


Dr. Phil (Physics) Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 5:27:00 PM EST  

Having dealt with the NC DMV in the past, I have to say that Michigan has actually improved the process. A lot can be done online, and wait times at the Secretary of State's offices are way down.

Dr. Phil

Nathan Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 8:13:00 PM EST  

I got a letter for the DMV today reminding me that I need to renew before the end of February and telling me how I could do it by mail or online. Only catch? If I take one of those options, I've got to go to an eye doctor first and have them fill out some paperwork about an eye test. Sounds more expensive than just going to DMV.

Nick from the O.C.,  Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 11:36:00 PM EST  


I would like you to write about the phrase, "for the nonce." It seems to hold some special meaning for you, since you've used it twice now in sequential posts.

Oh, and happy new year to you.

Eric Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 12:54:00 AM EST  

Nick: I dunno, it's just an expression that I like. Hopefully, I'm not falling into lazy habits or anything....

Nick from the O.C. Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 1:34:00 AM EST  


I'm not trying to be (overly) snarky but -- you've got to admit -- it's not an expression one often hears these days.

I was reading your post-Xmas post, feeling your pain about not having much to write about, and then it hit me.

You should do a post about "for the nonce". (Notice the British punctuation. Seems to fit ...)

Just trying to be helpful!

Warner Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 8:31:00 AM EST  

Nathan you should be seeing an eye doctor every couple of years anyway.

You may also save time by going to Rockland or Westchester.

timb111 Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 11:07:00 AM EST  

Always looking to put the worst possible interpretation on anything...

Collins English Dictionary:
2) nonce n
Prison slang a rapist or child molester; a sexual offender
[of unknown origin]

Eric Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 12:28:00 PM EST  

Nick, I'm afraid timb is on to me: Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets is really all about the prison slang: "nonce", "screw", "Santorum", etc. This is actually a blog for my incarcerated brothers and sisters, or folks like Nathan who are obviously recent parolees, even if they aren't letting on. Every single post has some kind of coded message if you know where to look.

Eric Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 2:17:00 PM EST  

That's what I keep trying to figure out, Nathan. What did you do? You're too much the suspicious character to actually be innocent, aren't you?

timb111 Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 5:08:00 PM EST  

Nathan: What did you do? It's what you didn't do. We're all still waiting for that third whiny post about how no one appreciates your work.

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