Our former design guru and now LA resident Povi Pullinen learns that hell is other people (in a DMV waiting room)


THE chair I’m sitting in is more a torture device than an ergonomic solution, the bloke in front of me doesn’t know what a shower is, and the lady behind me is bathed in too much perfume.

My phone battery is now less than five per cent, and I’ve just reached the end of the internet. As my spine continues to deform and the clock on the wall ticks in half-time, I hit the refresh button on every single social media app I can think of, in the hopes that something will pop up that can kill an extra few minutes.

I check the time and realise I’ve set a new PB: one-and-a-half hours waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

I’m here because it turns out I have to physically show my mug to get what I need done. And believe me, I tried everything I could to avoid stepping through those sliding glass doors. I scoured every possible form, link, FAQ and ‘Read More’ on the DMV website, yet I still wound up stuck here in their analogue torture chamber. I even made several attempts at finding the right robot accent for the clumsy voice-recognition software on their phone line, but apparently I can’t even say ‘registration’ correctly. For the fourth time, no, I didn’t mean ‘licence renewal’!

Some government bean-counter clearly felt that every problem could be resolved by filling out a form on a website. And if you can get everything done online, the government doesn’t need to hire as many staff, and everyone benefits from the cost and time savings. Right?

That might have been the theory, but if my experience is any indication, in practice it means there are motor registries across the nation bottlenecked with people who couldn’t do what they wanted to do online and now have to face an understaffed, undertrained and underinterested licence-centre workforce.

It might have seemed like a good idea to cut staff faster than a combine-harvester, but the poor folks stuck here staring at the hideous 80s carpets are the ones who end up with the rotten end of the carrot. The numerous unused booths here hark back to the glory days when person-to-person service was the only way to get things done. Now only a handful of disinterested, gruff employees are left to attend to the masses. And because all of this falls on the deaf ears of the big cheeses, the status quo endures.

So here I am, waiting, disturbed by the fact that rude prick at the head of the queue can be heard by those children sitting over there. The creepy old woman in the corner keeps staring at me like I’m her long-lost child. The young lady next to me is yelling into her phone to someone apparently called Stacey about how she can’t believe Kelly got with Brad at the party. Each inconsiderate ninny that disrupts the peace just makes the interminable wait harder for everyone around them. None of us want to be here either, but it would be nice if everyone could exercise a bit of common courtesy.

Since it appears there’s no immediate solution to the understaffed centres/overflowing, increasingly agitated queues equation, I humbly offer a few etiquette tips for waiting-room beginners:

  • Eat your onion and garlic-filled snack outside, before you enter the joint. And if you’re chewing gum to hide the stench, keep your gob shut!
  • Don’t take up two chairs if you’re by yourself. I don’t know why your iPad is so important that it needs its own seat, but maybe leave it free in case the elderly gentleman that just walked in would like to sit down.
  • If you need to make a phone call, walk outside. That means you, Stacey’s BFF!
  • Take the five minutes necessary to find and fill out your relevant form before it’s your turn at the counter, so you can save yourself the energy of scoffing at the staffer who asks you why it wasn’t filled out beforehand. And if you disagree with what they’ve told you, use your inside voice when discussing the issue. After all, if you’re old enough to drive a car, you’re old enough to deal with a problem maturely and without swearing.

These few small things won’t take up much time out of your busy schedule of waiting-room sitting, and they’ll make not only your own experience easier to endure, but also everyone else’s. It’s a chain reaction, people.