Miscellaneous Monday: Lines, Lines, Everywhere There’s Lines…
September 5, 2011
It is a dubious distinction, but I have experienced– and thrived in– a variety of bureaucratic environments; 17 years of schooling, a few go-rounds with the Spanish Government, military departments of ALL varieties, and now I have added a third state to my list of “places where I have had to wait in long lines for things I need”.
Tennessee is a unique member of that list for a few reasons. Primarily because this is the first time I have ever become a resident of any state other than New Hampshire. Even my excursion to Arizona was done with the intention of returning to the Granite State eventually, so I never made the leap in terms of officially changing my residence– car registration, license, etc. all stayed the same. So in Arizona all I had to wait in line for was food stamps (God bless AmeriCorps volunteers, for they make a pittance. Great house in Camp Verde, though).
Spain was, perhaps, my favorite place that I have waited in line, because the view of sunrise over the Plaza de España is incomparable. Yeah… that was also the earliest line I have ever had to wait in. I think I got there at 5:00 am, and there were already people ahead of me.
Because of my lack of desire to become a true resident of AZ, I missed the joys of participating in county government on any level other than acquiring a library card. Believe it or not… I’m not being sarcastic. See, with all that bureaucratic experience I know a thing or two about waiting in lines. And what I know is a theory that goes something along the lines of “show up as early as you possibly can so that you may have the pleasure of waiting interminably while our fine employees doodle on their notepads”. Not so in Montgomery County Tennessee. No… those ladies and gentlemen run their department with all the efficiency of a deli counter, and a similar numbering system.
The county complex is actually rather interesting. Everything you could possibly need, all in one place. What a concept! When you enter the County Clerk’s office there is a delightfully pleasant and helpful receptionist, and in front of her desk there is a little kiosk that displays a variety of buttons. You push the button for the department you need and– here’s the thing– you actually get called to speak to someone who can help you, within a reasonable amount of time.
When C and I went to get married we pushed the button and waited less than 10 minutes to speak to someone in the licensing department. 15 minutes after that we had a marriage license… we spent more time waiting for our 9 o’clock appointment than we did actually getting the license, because I had insisted upon showing up early (please see my Theory of Waiting In Lines, above).
We went back Wednesday of last week to register my car. We pushed the button, we waited 5 minutes until I got called, and we were out of there in 20 with a new license plate for my little Ford. Is it unreasonable to say that I am absolutely delighted by their efficiency? That I might be concocting new excuses to visit the County Clerk’s office, just so I can push that little button and hear my number called by a robotic voice over the loud speaker? They even tell you what window to go to!
Now, I’m sure there are downsides to this system. I imagine, for example, that on Valentine’s Day the line for marriage licenses is packed and the wait time astronomical. I likewise assume that the line for divorces is equally high the day after the Superbowl, or around Tax Day. But in the middle of August, apparently, you can waltz right in and get what you need with no problems.
C and I were so giddy with our success that we then went to the Library (the next building over) and acquired card so that we could go back Thursday and browse the stacks. So many reasons I love this man… but I digress.
Ahh, County Government. So far, so good. My next stop was the DMV. Would the system hold under the pressure of people desiring to become legal drivers of their favorite
death machine (excuse me, car… although around here I’m sorry to say that people drive as though they owned the former).
Our first challenge was actually finding the DMV, since it is the one department that is not a part of the glorious complex I mentioned earlier. I’m not really sure why that is, since I determined that the building itself is not all that large. Maybe they needed more room to do all the testing? I dunno, and I didn’t ask.
I am happy to report, however, that the deli counter system was fully in place and functional. I even heard one of the employees threaten to move on when someone didn’t respond to their number quickly enough. Now that’s initiative. I ended up really liking this woman. C is pretty sure she’s ex-military based on some of the things she was saying to other employees, and I’m pretty sure that she’d a badass because one of those things she said was– and I quote– “Clive, don’t you break that computer at 4:45 today or I will take you out back.” Clive was running the machine that was printing the licenses and it seemed that he (like me) only thought she was half kidding.
When she called my number I went up to the little booth where she sat and handed her all of my documents– Tennessee requires two proofs of residency, any prior licenses from other states, a passport or birth certificate, and
paperwork signing away your first born child a very detailed form for your personal information. She took all of this and began madly typing information into the computer, all the while talking to the other three employees and helping them problem solve/keep them in line. Ever been in a room with someone who was clearly in charge? It was like that.
“Your middle name your maiden name?” she asked me by way of conversation.
“My grandmother’s maiden name,” I replied.
“Deep,” she said. “Old English?”
“You would ask something like that,” The girl working the next kiosk laughed and said, to which my diminutive favorite person replied,
“Oh, I see that someone want me to check her drawer before she leave tonight… I know you got more than 1,000 in there girl.” And then they both laughed. C and I were delighted by the combination of sass and efficiency.
A few moments later my name was called to sign the little electronic box and get my picture snapped. I even registered to vote! Then they handed me my license, thus making me an official resident of The Volunteer State. (Still haven’t researched the origins of that State nickname… I’m guessing it might be Civil War related?)
I have to admit that I feel no small sense of relief about being legal to drive again. Not that I snuck out during the past two weeks when I was getting crazy in the house or anything like that. Oh no. Not I, not sweet, law-abiding little me.
…Anyone buying this?
Anyway. The moral of this story is that I am now a legal resident of Tennessee and I have the license plate and driver’s license to prove it. YEE HAW!!