Texas Dept. of Motor Vehicles
It’s the usual amalgamation of people. Day laborers. Moms with whiney babies. Cubicle drones wanting an excuse to be late. The meandering line snakes its way from the dilapidated front entryway into the waiting area, full of people who wished they were anywhere but in the DMV, just wanting to get their license corrected from ‘Johnston’ to ‘Johnson,’ dammit. Several rows of mismatched folding chairs lead up to the one employee who deigned it necessary to show up for work. Beyond the foggy plexiglas separating her from the line of restless civilians, you see her, hunched over the ancient computer, peering over her large, bifocaled glasses. Her nearly transparent blue eyes squint in frustration as she gingerly clicks the mouse. It’s all you can hear between the shuffling of feet on the scuffed linoleum and the hum of the ceiling fan. In between clicks, her long magenta acrylic nails clack against the keyboard as she slowly enters in each new piece of information.
She examines a form, makes a note. Click. Clack, clack. Click.
Her desk is littered with various bits of generic office equipment; liquid paper, a staple remover, binder clips. Dust bunnies gather in the nooks and crannies behind the computer and around the filing cabinets, undisturbed for years. Taped to the desk is a faded picture of a happy young woman with a toddler. She looks vaguely like the woman. Is it her? Her daughter? She somehow manages to become more and more annoyed and frustrated all while moving slower, and slower. She compares some figure or name between the form and the screen.
“Nothing’s wrong here, sir,” she decides. “It’s the computer. The person who knows how to work this darn thing decided to not to show up today.”
Her mind wanders to her friend Mona, shacked up at that fancy retirement village, playing bridge with the Red Hatters and doing seniors water aerobics.
She pauses. “I don’t know what to tell you.”
A businessman with a gaudy striped tie, matching pocket square and absolutely no time for this lady’s lack of computer skills stands on the other side of the window.
“Then what am I supposed to do with a passport with a wrong name? Just forget about the last 45 minutes I spent in line, wait for Gladys or one of the other undoubtedly incompetent colleagues of yours and miss my flight to Vancouver?!”
The lady runs her hand through her frizzy, unnaturally burgundy hair, takes off her glasses, and wipes them on the hem of her shirt from Big Bend National Park. This is the fourth one today. The fourth pain-in-the-ass that thought he was the only one that, for some reason, has to deal with an underfunded, underpaid state facility with inadequate (and perpetually tardy) employees. Employees who don’t seem to give a damn that she’s been left, yet again, alone to deal with egomaniacs like this. Her deeply lined brow furrows as she stares down at the picture taped to her desk, lost in thought.
“I can’t believe it’s been ten years,” she whispers.
“Ma’am?” the man says.
“HELLO?” he shouts, leaning not six inches away from her face.
Her head jerks up, not realizing she’d spoken aloud. Startled by the man’s reddening face she stumbles backwards, slips and falls on her rear, nearly whacking her head against the copy machine. The whole room gasps, waiting for something to happen. No one says anything. The room holds its breath. The man just looks at her, sheepish but still disgruntled. The whole room stares at the man, waiting for some sort of apology or, at the very least, some help getting this poor, confused old lady off the ground.
But before he or anyone can take a step forward or offer a hand, she grips the side of the counter with a frail hand and eases herself onto her orthopedic shoes. She sighs, getting her composure. Dusting herself off, she stares directly at the man, telling him everything she knows she can’t say aloud, and announces to the room:
“I’m going on my break. GOOD LUCK.”