I think I suffer from Post Traumatic French Bureaucracy Disorder.
Birthed during the time I spent living in France, this symptom means that I fundamentally don’t believe in success when it comes to any sort of bureaucratic process.
Every time something went wrong, messing up my legal information so I didn’t get paid for months, losing all my official visa information necessary to get some stamp in my passport, etc. I spent so much time presenting myself at different official bureaus all over the city, every possible document needed in perfect order, only to be told that I couldn’t get whatever I had come for. The reasons varied from “The requirements changed” to “the person who has the stamp to do this is at lunch” to “we can only approve things on Wednesdays before noon” to “this has to be mailed in, not brought by hand” to “we don’t do this anymore.” I would hang my head and turn to leave, as the person who had just turned me away would call out a chipper au revoir.
In this respect, D.C. is rather French. My dealings at the DMV have been nothing short of infuriating, with endless lines and pointless shuffling from one room to the next, only to be told at last that some tiny thing was wrong and I had just wasted hours of my time. Unfortunately, one of the least romantic parts of getting married is that there are lots of trips to the DMV. Name changes, car titles, new license, parking pass. And for each of these things there is a stack of paperwork, confusing paperwork that often necessitates an illogical order. I spent at least 8 hours in the DMV back in August just getting a parking pass. A parking pass – that I paid for. But to get said pass, I practically had to agree to sign away my firstborn child.
But even when I have exactly the paperwork that is requires, I still don’t actually believe that I will be successful. PTFBD.
So today I braced myself for a battle. I needed to get my 10-year old car to get expected, switch my registration, and get my new parking pass. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have been praying about this for weeks.
Inspection: Passed. Then on to the DMV.
I get there, take my number, and wait in line. Luckily I got there shortly after they opened which meant I only had to wait in line for … 90 minutes. The whole time I wait, looking at my number and nervously leaving through my perfect documents. A soothing recorded British voice keeps calling out numbers. Why do we feel so much more at ease when the voice is British? What is it about that stuffy English voice calling out “E-16 Line 2” that calms the irritated masses at the DC DMV? Because it sure does work. On one side, I have a lady whispering to me under her breath about how she’s been driving without a license for six years but decided that 2013 was the time to turn over new leaf. On the other side, I have a discontent man who smells like beef jerky. But when that British voice comes piping through the loud speaker, we all sit back and know that it’s going to be ok, eventually our number will be called. I believe in the British voice, almost to the point where I trust in my papers.
Finally, I was called [thank you, British voice]. I already had my comfort snack planned out – pastries from Paul around the corner – for when I was rejected and forced to waste another morning.
But, miracle of miracles, all my paperwork passed and I quickly left with my new No Taxation Without Representation DC Plates (DC- you realize you do actually have representation for most things, right? Let’s not play the victim).
Still, I didn’t let success stop me from heading to Paul for some pastries. Old habits die hard.
Any DMV horror stories out there?