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DMV Delaying My Voyage: Bureaucracy in the Department of Motor Vehicles

Graphic by Jay Tsai ’12

Issac Stein ’12
Staff Writer

Graphic by Jay Tsai '12

I don’t trust the government.

That being said, a routine function such as applying for a learner’s permit ought to be a relatively smooth process.

Unfortunately, the red tape at the Norwalk Department of Motor Vehicles is so thick it might take a horror film chainsaw to cut it.

When I was planning my first trip to the DMV, I looked at its hours of operation and realized it isn’t open on Mondays, in addition to the typical off-day of Sunday. What kind of rational organization closes its doors on Mondays? Monday is the first day of the week, the day that students and working adults forgo the rest brought by the weekend to grudgingly return into the grind of work.

The employees at this particular building are spared of the inconvenience of working on Monday or administering tests after 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays. This is probably because maintaining an atmosphere that reeks of bureaucracy is incredibly draining to all of the employees.

The Norwalk branch doesn’t even offer walk-in testing later than 5 p.m., which makes finding a test time for students who go to classes and have after-school activities almost impossible.

When I first enter the DMV building a few weeks ago, the first element of potential frustration that catches my eye is the three or four separate waiting lines, each consisting of at least 40 people, snaking around the walls.

In addition, their respective explanations—“registration,” for example—are scrawled indecipherably on miniature billboards.

Being able to figure out which line to stand in should be rewarded as a passing grade on the vision test.

After I eventually make it through the information line to figure out which forms I need to fill out to apply for a permit, I am redirected to a kiosk which is intended to take my picture.

I wait, and then stare blankly into the tiny web-lens where I imagined a full-size camera would be. Due to the lens’ positioning at about two feet below my face, I awkwardly look down, in anticipation of the photo.

No picture is displayed on the kiosk window after the flash, so I figure there aren’t any retakes. Instead, I receive a black-and-white receipt and move on to the next line.

20 minutes later, I am greeted by another DMV employee who checks the paperwork and layers of ID required just to take the 25-question knowledge test.

“It’s a not too bad today, just a three-and-a-half hour wait for the test,” she says.

Realizing that I can’t spend my entire afternoon in that building, I decide to try again a few days later.

This time, the wait is only an hour.

Unfortunately, the shorter wait is almost offset by a few sadistic employees behind the counter who seem to enjoy picking on people that either don’t have every last piece of identification on them or people that seemed confused.

When one permit applicant standing in line behind me asks one employee why bringing in a piece of mail with their name on it is necessary, the response given is harsh.

“Don’t ask me,” she said. “I don’t run the website. Asking me stupid questions isn’t going to get you through this line any faster. If you don’t have the mail, just go home.”

This must be the federal government’s retaliation against teenagers in exchange for a relatively low driving age.

Upon passing the test, I was startled by the fact that I will have to complete another more complicated process upon registering for a license. 

I don’t think I’m going to want a driver’s license after all.

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