Before last week, it had been a long time since I'd been to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
I don't know why, but I was thinking that it can't be as bad as it used to be.
My first trip was to the office on Airline Highway.
There, I waited in a long line to be given a number which would determine my place in a new, much longer line.
Every chair in the waiting room was filled, so folks lined up against the walls until they were filled and then scrunched shoulder-to-shoulder into the open spaces and eventually snaked out the door and into the parking lot.
It was unbearably warm in there and the crowd – mostly old folks, it seemed – folks fanned themselves without relief.
I bought a soda from the machine but it was warm.
I don't know where I got the notion, but somewhere along the line I had thought we – as a city, a state, a society – had moved past this determinedly anachronistic bureaucratic inefficiency cultivated by understaffed, overworked government agencies.
It's hard to fathom that anyone – anyone – in a position of authority could witness this situation unfold every day and think that it was OK.
After nearly four hours, I had to bail to pick up my kids at school.
The next day, I tried the DMV office in Chalmette.
There were fewer customers there, but fewer staff as well.
Three, to be exact.
I got there at 1. At 4, with about 40 of us still waiting, the doors were locked and anyone who left the office would not be let back in.
There was no food or drink allowed. No smoking, obviously. The sign said no cell phones, even, but folks ignored it simply to stay sane.
But that didn't work.
A woman who had been there with her daughter since 11 that morning couldn't take it anymore – the dreariness, the indifference.
She lost it. Words were exchanged. The police were called.
More than an hour after the office closed – two days; eight hours total – my number was called.
They didn't take credit cards.
I paid in cash – and time, dignity and emotional well being.
But I got my new license.