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Stuff 'N Nonsense - The DMV Experience
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The DMV is a special kind of hell that ought to be reserved for people who cheat on their taxes and run down puppies and kittens for sport. The stereotype of a grumpy civil servant is alive and well, working behind the counter at your Central Valley DMV office. I recently had the extreme misfortune of spending two hours at the Modesto office on a Friday so I can speak to this with some authority.

My 16-year-old son inherited an older truck from his deceased grandfather on his father's side and of course, he was eager to get the title transferred into his name. I knew that would necessitate a trip to the DMV and aside from my general distaste, I simply did not have the time to spend doing this, much to my son's displeasure.

So after much delaying, I finally carved some time out on a Friday and, girding my loins, prepared for a long wait under not-so-great conditions.

We arrived at the DMV around noon and, as expected, found the place crawling with people. Now, I consider myself a people person, but I really prefer those people to be observing the social niceties of basic hygiene, such as regular bathing and teeth brushing.

Apparently, that's asking way too much for some people. I am definitely not that kind of a people person.

There were dirty children with black beneath their fingernails and runny noses crawling like monkeys along the filthy floor while their parents attempted to wrangle their little heathens - with little success, mind you. I've seen shelter dogs more well-behaved than those children - and it made me thankful that I'd left my own youngest child safely at home and away from all the, ahem, craziness.

I think the hardest aspect to handle is the smell. When you crowd too many humans with dubious levels of cleanliness into one space, it's bound to stink. The stale air made me want to run the other way but I knew we had one shot to get this done and so I held my nose and plunged forward into the mouth of hell like a mother bear determined to find a meal for her cub (or as it were, a title transfer) and hoped for the best.

Since we knew it was likely to be a long wait, we came armed with entertainment in the form of our iTouchs. I'd loaded a few ebooks into my Kindle app and settled into a hard plastic chair that was probably infested with the Ebola virus and tried to tune out the rest of the chaos around us. This worked for a while until we started to squirm in our chairs - our tushes were numb from sitting for so long on unforgiving plastic - and then my son and I started to make private jokes about our situation. We'd finally gotten 10 away from our number and excitement that the end was in sight, started to sink in. I leaned over and teasingly said to my son, "You watch, it'll get to one away from our number and the system will crash and everything will reset to the beginning."

A second later, we were startled by the realization that an elderly woman had passed out and fallen to the floor. The woman was only a few chairs away from us when she fell, so we had a pretty good view of what was happening. My son turned to me, his eyes wide as he jokingly exclaimed, "You jinxed us, mom!" as we both thought operations would grind to a halt due to the commotion caused by an elderly woman possibly falling dead in the aisle.

I'm happy to say the woman was not dead. EMS arrived and carted the poor thing off to the hospital and it was business as usual even before EMS had loaded her onto the gurney. Come to find out, the woman had just undergone a cancer treatment that morning and in her weakened state just didn't have the stamina for a DMV outing as well.

I have to say that whole experience was a bit surreal, watching people go about their business, completely ignoring what appeared to be a half-dead elderly woman in their path. However, it was probably self-preservation on the part of the DMV personnel. If operations had ground to a halt, likely there would've been bloodshed - and I might've been one of the many fumbling around in my purse for a blunt object to use as a weapon.

When our number was finally called, we both did a happy dance and practically ran to the appropriate window. We were able to transfer the title into my son's name but alas, we did not leave with everything we'd hoped for. We were unable to purchase tags because it requires a smog certificate and an insurance certificate - in addition to a healthy sum of money - to get it properly registered so we were forced to put it on a non-op status until we could get it figured out. We paid the fee and received instructions how to accomplish our goal of registering the truck through a series of steps that will require not one, but two more trips to the DMV before it's all said and done and as we left, I looked at my son and told him that if this trip wasn't an expression of unconditional love, I didn't know what was.

He offered me one of his signature mom-melting grins and said, " you think we can get something to eat?"

Ahh, well at least he wasn't scarred by his DMV experience.

Perhaps on the return visit, I will schedule an appointment and his dad can take him.

Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.