AN ODE… to the DMV

You read that right. The DMV as in the Division of Motor Vehicles. Your PTSD acting up yet? Well take your meds and strap in. I know what y’all are thinking and this isn’t that. This is an actual ode to the oldest of government professions, an agency dedicated to the systematic pissing off of the greatest number of the populace in a given eight-hour workday.

Without sarcasm, snark, condescension or tongue in cheek; with malice toward none, I will attempt to relay to you dear reader, in a non-ironical way, why on this particular day the DMV should be lauded, heaped with praise even. Yeah, I said heaped.

The story begins on a rare cool day in Knoxville, September-ish, year of our Lord 2021. My license plate was expiring Oct 31. Now in Tennessee we have, as I’m sure other states do, an on-line system that allows you to renew your plates with the click of a mouse and a surrender of $30 American for the plate and $35 American for the Queen’s share.

Basically for a few clicks and $65 clams you’re done, and you never had to do your hair or see/deal with people. Your sticker and new registration arrive promptly 14 business days later. Honestly, it’s pretty awesome.

However, on this particular day the system spit back, Plates cannot be renewed 90 days from expiration. Of course, that’s weird because I hadn’t paid it yet and was well within the 90 days. So, I wait till October, same deal. Tried again in November, same same and if we’re being honest, I completely forgot about it after that.

Flash to May of 2022 and Tracy’s van comes up for renewal but Tennesse is changing plates. That means no on-line magic. Have to go into the DMV to get the new plates, which FYI are much nicer looking in my opinion. Anyway, I thought since hers were up I’d try my plates again. Same message from the web site.

Not too shabby

Now I know I have not paid for my registration for the new year, so I’ve gone nine months on what I guess are illegal plates? My laziness to this point has kept me from going to the DMV to get this fixed and I’ve been skirting the law for a while. My 4:30am work schedule and working from home two days out of four has helped greatly in this regard.

I have no choice now. Got to make the pilgrimage to get the new plates for Tracy. When I say pilgrimage think going to Mecca but not as fun. The problem: May was quickly coming to a close and half the family is preparing to go to Europe for ten days. Plus there are a bunch of other poor excuses as to why I did not get to the DMV until the day Tracy and Frank were leaving for London. Oh and I had a window of two hours before I’d have to bail out to get home in time to take them to the airport shuttle leaving from the school.

Yeah man I was putting a lot of faith in the agency where red tape is actually manufactured. Especially in light of my last trip there over a decade ago. You can read that here if you like: What’s in a name?

Really, I was counting on the joint being covered up to make it a non-issue. Then I hit the Brewster’s Ice Cream place and be home in plenty of time to take them to the shuttle and I’d deal with the plates another day. Easy. Hell, any more days and I’d come around for renewal on my plates again, having gone a whole year without paying. Felt a little like Jesse James. A little.

Sadly, there was a parking space. Just one. So I decided to at least give it a try. Half way to the building I come face to face with one of Knoxville’s finest. Big smile and a hello and a question as to where I was going. Since I didn’t know where the place was located in the sprawling facility it was a pleasant surprise to be told where the door was and how to get into the DMV office from there. She was incredibly helpful and we’re off to a good start.

Then I step in and it’s wall to wall. I mean literally wall to wall. After a minute I realize I have to take a number. The “Now Serving” sign was not obvious for obvious reasons. When I found the sign, I had 24 they were serving 92, I was immediately crest fallen until I remembered the ice cream I was now going to get. But yeah it was so busy the sign had not even rolled over yet. I was half expecting it to jump several numbers ahead because surely these government drones just keep forgetting to advance the sign.


It was at this point my body language, if not my actual language, betrayed me. The nice officer I met on the sidewalk was now standing next to me. She came over to tell me it moves fast and if I don’t have to be anywhere for the next 30 minutes, I should be fine. Again, she was very helpful and reassuring as the 30 minutes would work great, but no way I’m buying that timeline.

I mean there is no way they are moving fast enough to clear out all thes…. 94! 94 TO WINDOW 1 PLEASE!

Well holy hell they are moving pretty qui… 95! 95 TO WINDOW 2!

No freaking way. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a Moses at the burning bush type revelation but man it’s getting close. Now I’m looking at my watch doing the math. So, let’s see, if they call my number by 1pm I should be good, 1:15 at the latest and I can still make it home, grab them up and get them to the shuttle. But I still don’t see how it’s… 96! 96 TO WINDOW 4 PLEASE. 97! 97 TO WINDOW 1.

A few things to note. Window 4 is a rock star and who is the lazy bastard at Widow 3? That cat needs to find a new gear. Turns out, obviously to everyone but me, the room is full of people getting new plates since Tennesse canceled the current version. Apparently, that’s not a very intricate procedure.

And as astounding as it seems, not 21 minutes later I’m tripping the light fantastic to Window… you guessed it, Window 3. My man is getting some positive reinforcement from me and maybe a bit of a pep talk to get him back in the game. Gladys at Window 4 is flat out smoking his hind parts.

First, I have to take care of Tracy’s plate in case my nine months as an outlaw comes to light and things go sideways. I’m not the healthiest person walking the earth but in this joint I’m pretty sure if I have to flee, I’m making it out. Turned out to be a non-issue.

My man James of Window 3 was all over it. When I explained my story, he said, Yeah, it shouldn’t do that. Not a font of knowledge I grant you, but straight to the point. James is winning me over. So I asked how do I fix it. Again James dropped a pearl amongst swine. I’ll just renew your plate right now.

Yeah, sounds about right. No fine, no surcharge. Just the standard fee as if I was paying on time. You know why? Cause it shouldn’t do that, as James said earlier. And just like that, in less than seven minutes I walked out with two new plates and registration cards.

When I stepped in the joint, I had number 24 and they were on number 92. In less than 30 minutes I was walking out of there. I had to take a moment and pause just to try to comprehend what happened. Was I in some parallel universe? Had I died and this was my heaven? Nope. I simply walked into a place where the people were professional, polite, helpful, and very good at their jobs.

The DMV: come for the snazzy new plates, leave faster than you could have ever imagined.