Saturday, April 03, 2004

Nurse, Administer Caffeine And Meat, Stat !

Already, at 8:15 AM, a quarter hour before opening, two dozen people were queueing up at the Registry of Motor vehicles outside the slotted metal security gate in the otherwise empty mall. The mall muzak was cranked up and Madonna's Material Girl echoed through the corridor. I felt like an extra in a George Romero movie.

At the stroke of 8:30 the gates opened.

We shuffled inside, obeying the crowd control ropes, to face the gatekeeper -- a testy woman holding Godfather-like court beneath a sign that praised Governor Willard Mitt "The Mitthead" Romney. I stated my case (stolen license), was given a byzantine form to fill out, and eventually got a numbered chit estimating my wait time to be "Five Minutes."

So I settled in on the hard wooden bench. No way was I getting out of this joint in "Five Minutes" unless that was RMV-speak for "Thirty Minutes." There's a vague pleasure in being in a bureaucratic limbo: one is out of the loop, temporarily shorn of all responsibilites, on the lam. Like being on a plane, or at the movies. I wished I had a cup of coffee, but otherwise I was content. And there was more. Suspended from the ceiling was a screen with illuminated, bright red scrolling text -- "Motor Vehicle Network" -- installed to provide entertainment for the assembled petitioners. So, naturally, I watched.

First there was "News." Flash ! The Cherry Blossoms are opening in Washington ! You don't say ! (What planet was this news coming from ? Planet Zen, or The Planet of the Ostriches ?)

Then came the "Health Tips." The illness of the day was "Driver Fatigue." The RMV suggested the insalubrious obvious: massive quantities of caffeine. Why not just go for broke, I thought, and counsel dexedrine or crystal meth ?

And did you know that there is another antidote to "driver fatigue" ?

Lean meat.

Starbuck's in one hand, a packet of cold cuts in the other, steering with his knees, the motorist gulps and gnaws his way to alertness.

And, of course there were ads, targeting motorists who had succumbed to "driver fatigue" or "knee driving" and cracked up their cars and themselves. The first was for a personal injury attorney. (Injured ? You deserve compensation !) The second was for a chiropractor. (We take all forms of insurance !)

Does the RMV think that they might be contributing to the rising costs of car and medical insurance by promoting overuse or misuse of these services ?

Grunt. Capitalism good. Advertising good. Grunt. Grunt.

It's what's called the private and public sector partnership. That's what gives us the ugly ads on the sides of buses, and the soda pop and junk food dispensers in schools. Nice to see that under the reign of the Mitthead no opportunity is being lost to let the private mouth suckle at the public teat !

Finally, my number came up: "A207" crooned a canned, dulcet voice over the loudspeaker, "to window 11." No, I could NOT have a new license photo. No way. No can do. Impossible. Not in the cards. The clerk handed me my temporary license -- a large piece of flimsy cardboard bearing the old, ugly mugshot. I could barely contain my disappointment.

And, already, the dulcet voice of the registry angel was summoning petitioner A208.

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