Don’t Rock the Boat (or Car or Truck)

When asked to make a list of my least favorite things to do, I’d likely answer in this order:

— Walk barefoot across burning coals to prove my physical courage as a warrior and gain the approval of any ancient Native American spirits that still linger on my land, as they occasionally show their displeasure with how I’m running my summer vegetable patch by simply shutting down the water well I depend upon.

280215tuttut (800x700)

— Go through the ritual of my yearly facial tattoo—again, to please these demanding land spirits, but also because this has proven a very effective way of remembering my New Year’s Eve resolutions and ensuring my efforts toward completion.

— Keep up with the scarification task I’ve placed upon myself, as long ago, I realized this was the most effective way to keep an accurate score for how many crocs I have wrestled into submission while trekking through the tropics of Africa and Asia. People ask for my tally all the time. I don’t know. It’s a Virginian thing I guess.

I would not admit this list out loud to anyone, simply because their jaws would slacken in disbelief that I did not answer as they surely would have.

280215wha (614x800)

Their least favorite thing to do?


280215dmv (800x519)

That’s right. The Department of Motor Vehicles – or Transit Authority – or Licensing Agency. We all have our country’s version of it.

It doesn’t matter what time of day you come in, there is always a line. A line that rivals a Disney queue back in the pre-measles break out days. Yep. You can now ride the thrills of Space Mountain twice before you can make it to the head of the line that brings you to the information desk clerk—whose job is simply to hand you all your forms and a ticket that now states, “You’re in line.”

But I don’t fear the DMV—I welcome any notice in the mail that states I have to pop back in to title, register, test or renew. But it’s not because I’m a glutton for punishment—as I believe I’ve made abundantly clear with my “least favorite things to do” list—it’s simply because I have an advantage:

My dad used to work there.

Back in Wisconsin growing up, I could cross the threshold of many a DMV location and simply state who I was, and then get stellar service. They recognized the last name.

Now in Virginia, I have to surreptitiously slip it into conversation. It’s challenging, because you can’t just blurt something like that out—the state employees will see you as an entitled gasbag and ignore you. One must use stealth and cunning conversation to bring it around to the big reveal.

I start off with all forms filled in correctly, and clearly—because I think we’ve all had an experience or two where we’ve gone to some government staffed window only to be handed a fresh stack of forms to redo because we did not write in BLOCK CAPITALS, or because we used blue ink instead of black. Or we discovered we had spinach in our teeth from lunch and were deemed unfit for service by whatever Ministry of Mightiness we happened to have offended.

If the individual sitting behind the window I am assigned does not immediately shower me with a, “Good afternoon! And how may I help you on this fine day we’ve been blessed with in the great universe we happily share? And here … have a cookie I baked last night,” I jump in with something to soften their day.

Ooh, gorgeous earrings.

280215earrings2 (658x800)

Or, My goodness, your perfume is heavenly. Or, That is a truly striking tie.

280215tie (594x800)

Something, anything to get some eye contact. If I can manage eye contact, then I can unleash the smile I had melded into my person from years of media training. The kind of training that made you impervious to pinches, the ‘wayward hand,’ snarky put downs, and the surprise ice bucket challenge.

Thereafter, I am usually able to find some object placed around the staffer with which to bring on my shock of delight:

Well! Will you look at that? You folks are still using pens for writing—just like my dad did when he worked at the DMV for thirty years.

Again, subtlety and canniness is crucial for success.

After I gracefully lob a comment like this across the counter that reveals I am not one of the countless, faceless masses they must service today, and it expertly lands in the lap of our staffer, he or she brightens with a smile worthy of a successful laxative commercial. I am golden. I am in.

You say your dad worked at the DMV? For thirty years? Lord Almighty! Hey, Shirley! This here young woman’s dad managed to make it through thirty years at the department. I bet you’ve got the scars to show for it, doncha, honey?

This is where I cleverly turn to speak to the audience behind the camera that follows me everywhere, and that is imperceptible to all living, breathing beings around me, and reveal that I have no idea how many years my dad worked with the department, but with each visit, the number goes up substantially.

Yes, I do, ma’am. Then we laugh and I continue. He certainly saw his fair share of folks who drove him right up the wall. Some of them so demanding, so ungrateful, and certainly the majority ill-prepared. But it was his greatest pleasure to help and serve. I think the DMV must attract that kind of staff.

It’s at this point where she is supposed to turn to me and reach over the counter to motheringly caress my cheek.

But she doesn’t. Instead she peers at me through squinted eyes. I must have taken it a hair too far today.

She smiles tightly, bends over to open a seventy-five pound drawer, and scoops up eight pounds of it. She hands me a stack of forms.

Fill these out CORRECTLY.

I head back to my chair, but then make a quick detour to the lady’s room. I’m going to be here a while. I gaze at my reflection in the mirror. What went wrong? I ask myself. It’s then that I notice two things:

I’ve got spinach in my teeth.

280215ilovedmv (570x800)

And I forgot to put my latest facial tattoo of “I love the DMV” all in block capitals.



Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles



84 thoughts on “Don’t Rock the Boat (or Car or Truck)

  1. Hilarious Mrs P and fabulouso cartoons Mr G! It’s only because of the spinach in your teeth….it’s not you, it’s them…really! I had brekky out the other day and happily wandered through the shops smiling at people and being by ever charming self, (not unlike you Mrs P). When I got home I saw the nice squodge of green pesto between by choppers….all class….those returning smiles were obviously of pity. I will take what I get….

    • The bliss of no self-consciousness. It’s like being five again, isn’t it? On days when I’ve no reason to go to town, I’ve found on more than one occasion that I’ve skipped the whole morning ablutions bit and have unknowingly answered a surprise visit at the front door still in my very non-impressive sleepwear, complete with bedhead meant to crush any dreams that I could be Victoria Secret photogenic in the morning. Oblivion has a dark side.
      Cheers, little Cheergerm!

      • heck, in my neighborhood, you can shuffle down to the road for the nooze-payper and/or the mail box in your bathrobe ! many years ago i went out with the half-bottle of last night’s wine and sat under a tree in the yard to imbibe. a neighbor lady walked by, talkin’ on her cell-phone, and i overheard ” … and Rosco’s out in the yard in his pajamas again … “

  2. My only knowledge of the US DMV system is gleaned from various TV shows. Didn’t Homer Simpson’s twin sisters in law work there? Then there was Dr Sheldon Cooper’s visit.

    Yours fits right in, Shelley. The same head-bangingly tedious process that seems un-navigable and like to resemble the voyages of Odysseus as he tries to get home.

    It made me laugh a lot, and feel very glad that ours tends to be an on-line/postal system.

    Robb’s ‘Wha…?’ cartoon was just so apt, although I think the entire spinach leaf in the last one may be my favourite.

    Thanks once again for making me laugh, the pair of you. 😊

    • I agree, Laura, a similar plotline to that of Odysseus, only instead of my death coming to me from the sea, it will surely come to me from the sea of paperwork anytime I have to renew the registration or title of a car I own. 😛
      So glad you enjoyed the post. Cheers!

  3. I tried the “nice ear rings!” line, but he just looked at me as if he thought that I was an idiot. The lady next to him gave me an odd look also. Got any more ideas?

  4. Ha, this was my funny fix for the day. Great stuff. Thing that always gets me with form filling…… when they don’t say you have to use black ink, so I use blue, and then get told it says so on all the new forms and I’m using the previous series! AArrrrgggh!! 😀

    • You know a similar thing happened to me as well in that I downloaded all the forms I was told I would need to fill out and would save everyone time, and then once I got there, was informed that, “Oh no. Those are outdated forms on the website. We’ve got the new ones here. Here’s a pen and a clipboard.” And what was new?? The color of ink required!
      I second your AArrrgggh and raise it a Pttthhhbt!
      Silly government bureaucracy.

  5. HaHa! Giggle titter snort Shelley! 😀 Yep we have one of those here too, but the French take things to a higher plane – any forms you fill in – multiply by three and then add the duplicates and triplicates! Why have a team of people looking after customers when one will do and the other five can stand in the background chatting and sharing nail varnish stories? Nightmare! 🙂 Adore the striking tie 😀

    • Duplicates and triplicates? Has France banned the Xerox machine? Oh you poor folks. I can only imagine the widespread hand-cramping that must plague your country.
      And nail varnish stories? Ugh. You’ve lowered my idea of sophisticated blue color ’round the cooler chatter in France. I would find it acceptable if it was all brie and wine swapping details, but now you’re getting closer to my neck of the woods territory. Here folks are all talking ’bout what road kill they had for dinner the night before. 😛

      • Aaauuurrrrggghhh!! We are certainly nearer the rural than the urban in our neck of the woods, so to speak 🙂 Only yesterday we were plagued by an annoying band of ‘hunters’ in their greens and orange dayglos searching for the wild boar they’d wounded and cleverly lost :/ :/ 😦 Sooo not my tasse de thé 🙂

  6. I wondered where you were going with that whole tattoo thing. Nice job. As for your title, I now have that song running through my head. It is a good song, so I can’t complain. DMV doesn’t necessarily irritate me. I just don’t like waiting in line for anything or any reason. However lines are almost always part of any endeavor so I just make it as much fun as possible. I always comment on a ladies ear rings or nails. I don’t think I am trying to get over on them. I just notice that stuff. Thanks for the smiles this snowy Sunday. Hey I have to go to the DMV this week any ideas where I can get a nice face tattoo?

    • What? An artist such as yourself who can wield sharpened knives and trussing needles can surely find some spare squid ink and do the deed yourself, right?
      And yes, sadly, it is a recurring theme among many of my family and friends–the whole ‘where the hell is she going with this?’ Common complaint that rarely finds a satisfying end.
      Good luck at the DMV. Let me know what you ended up going with.

      • Well I do have a tile I carved into a stamp with a I heart DMV for posters. Alas it is too big for my face. So if I do go that route I’ll do it myself. I think I’ll use India ink. I like the sound of that better.

  7. Another funny post, Shelley, which made me smile and grimace as well, as I remembered my particular form filling hell.

    See with me it was the job centre – form filling and freakishly fearsome staff – back in 2008 I had the misfortune to be made redundant which was bad enough but nothing prepared me for all the bloomin’ forms at the job centre – before you even arrived at their hallowed halls you had to undergo a 40 minute telephone interrogation interview before being given an appointment. On arrival at the centre you then had to sit and go through the form that had been completed following your ‘interview’ and woe betide you if the darned thing had a mistake in it because it had to be completed all over again!

    Every fortnight – back to the job centre to sit in a chair, fill out yet another form, swear a declaration that you were genuinely looking for gainful employment and have your job search log book scrutinised to see how many jobs you had actually looked for. I had the most miserable maven of malice in charge of my ‘case’ who took great delight in not looking at you as you sat down – no greeting was ever returned and all questions were spat at you from the side of her mouth. I think she actually liked trying to intimidate but it wasn’t going to work with me – I simply refused to play her game and every fortnight slapped a big faux grin on my face and answered all her questions in a happy, sing song voice – it irritated the hell out of her. By week six of our war of attrition she could take no more and actually turned to face me, uttering the immortal words ‘You’re very happy for someone who is unemployed!’ – Yes, really! – I just responded with a great big smile and said ‘Well I like to keep cheerful – don’t you?’ – she simply sniffed and turned back to her computer.

    Fortunately for me I had just hit the three month mark of unemployment when I managed to get a job which spared me moving to Stage 2 in the process, for the longer term unemployed and, of course, Stage 3 which I assume was when you were terminally unemployed (and probably involved lots and lots of forms!) – who knows??

    I thought I could make a quick escape from job centre hell but no such luck – had to complete about ten forms to sign off from signing on – you really couldn’t make it up!

    • Oh, Mel! What a dreadful story. And what marvelous character you display. You are exactly the kind of person I would want to be stuck on a rowboat with in the middle of the sea. You and maybe a lucky fisherman and a skilled navigator. But definitely you for the cheery disposition.
      I’m so hopeful you never find yourself in a position such as that again. Once in a lifetime is enough for anyone, and I think you served your time in that “particular form filling hell.” You should be good to go from now on. And you should probably get a shiny badge for your efforts too.

  8. Enjoying Rob’s color additions to the cartoons this time! Very peppy 🙂
    As for the DMV, you nailed it. Last time I was there, I noticed that all the forms are still paper, and the clerk takes your paper form and retypes everything into the computer. Ummm?

  9. Great post Shelley,

    I remember the daze at his office… especially when they use to allow anyone to smoke there, like the people behind the counter. God, visiting during lunch was like going into a plucky’s bar after midnight with smoke so heavy you almost had to walk on your knees just to find the counter. Quite surprised anyone passed the eye test through all that fog. (Perhaps that was a way to cope with the stress of the moment). Guess that might just well explain my sad kin-ship toward bars. I probably shouldn’t blame the government, eh?

    Hmm, if the DMV only served ale, that might have eased the tension.

    “Alright now, you’ve passed your eye exam, filled in the correct fifty pages of needed background checks to make sure you know where the gas pedal is and, how to find the bright light button on the floor, so here’s a shot and a pull, suck it down and then we’ll go for your driver’s road test.” (Sorry). “So, need a smoke?”

    Shelley, you’re hilarious.

    Much love,

    Jr. 😉

    • You know that’s not a bad idea–not the attached pub part, but maybe rather a coffee/tea counter to “counter” the stress of waiting and form filling. And an on site masseuse. Okay, and a pub.

  10. Ah, the joys of lining up just to get a place in line. And all that paperwork! By hand! It reminds me of when I was called for jury duty once, and the adminstrators wrote everything I told them down by hand. Now I know why the court buildings are so enormous…it’s to fit all of the file folders. Maybe they are essential to shoring up the foundation.

    Thank you for the laughs, Shelley. Much appreciated during these cold days. 🙂

    • Ha! That reminds me of a government facility that was built not too far from here a few years ago that houses over 4 million audio visual collections from the Library of Congress. It’s a huge building! And most of it all underground. I can understand how some feel it’s important to preserve some of our early human efforts of film and sound, but this is a 415,000 sq ft complex. Of course they’ve made a digital backup of everything. And this is all housed offsite in an office that’s the size of my bathroom. I never cease to laugh at this.

  11. Funny story. The scene in the restroom got me chuckling.

    My father was a city fireman. I was somewhat popular as a kid because of this despite my introverted nature. That faded as I got older of course. Who cares what your father does when you’re a teenager?

  12. recently, i had to get a new driver’s license and dreaded the dmv visit. to my surprise it was a breeze. the whole thing’s automated now: i filled out my form online (printing it at home turned out to be the longest part of this unordeal), drove to a new center not more than 10 minutes away from my house (though i got lost coming back home*), got a number from a touch screen, and took a seat waiting for my number to be called. i didn’t even have time to get comfortable before my number was called. honestly now i want to go back because my picture didn’t turn out as good as last time – i look so much older.

    *good thing i didn’t have to retake my driving test.

    • I do wonder just how many of us would pass if we were subjected to retaking the written and physical again. Part of me thinks we’d have a big drop in negative driving statistics, and then there’s the part of me that screams “UGH!” Not sure which should win out.

      • i often wonder how much computer assisted driving really helps. abs and cruise control, i totally see the benefit. but self parallel parking cars don’t make much sense to me or a car that can stop for you if another car is backing out (will it stop the car from backing out on top of you too).

        connected to this, i heard on npr today that the more self automated cars become the greater the chance of more traffic because people who don’t normally buy cars will buy them. for example a four year old can be chauffeured to school by the driverless car instead of a parent (a real example from the story).

  13. Thanks for the tips – I have to go to the DMV this year! I’ll try to remember not to have any spinach before hand. I’m not sure about the facial tattoo though! Hahaha! jan

  14. “This is where I cleverly turn to speak to the audience behind the camera that follows me everywhere, and that is imperceptible to all living, breathing beings around me…” This made my life. That is all. 🙂

  15. You crack me up! I had a family friend at the DMV. It was always nice to take her to lunch on renewal years. Thank goodness they went to mail renewal here. I’ve not been in a DMV for 10 years… I also look 10 years younger and still weight the same! No complaints here! 😉

  16. Oh, I really thought you had it, I really did and then BOOM, all the illusions go out the door and you’re just one of the mass again. You had me the moment you put a trip to the DMV on your list right up there with the rest of the truly terrible tasks. I really feel for you. It must have been so horrible to have to not have your rightful place in the pecking order. Grossly unfair.

    Do, once again, have to say I truly enjoyed Rob’s artwork…how he comes up with just the right characters each and every time is beyond awesome!

    • It is a delusional world I live in, Torrie. But one I will cling to for as long as I can and likely until I’m carted away. Next time I will watch my saccharine words, but up the ante with sweets. 😀
      (glad you liked Rob’s delightful doodles!)

      • Always enjoy his delightful doodles and always enjoy your delicate “delusions” as you call them. I’ll probably be right beside you as you’re carted away……. 🙂 (p.s. sweets never fail..)

    • Thanks for your delightful comment, Torrie. It’s probably something to do with the water I drink here in Sweden – it twists my brain into all sorts of weird and cranky contortions and then these odd doodles just pop out as if by magic.

  17. Sorry for your pain. Will we still be friends if I tell you we live in one of the only places on earth where the DMV seems to work pretty smoothly? Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, they’ll all want to move here. Thank you Shelley! xx

    • Well, Ardys, the real pain comes from the hot coals, the facial tattoos, and the scarification. The DMV was just humiliation. Not sure which was worse. 😛
      And lucky you down under. I promise not to reveal anything more than that. xox

  18. one advantage of living at the edge of the Grate Amerikin Mind (mined?) Dessert is that my (first time in TEN YEERZ!) vizzit to the DMV was, by comparison, not only uneventful but quick. other things, like uplifting consciousness-raising cultural changes, take much longer. still to arrive. seems like, perhaps, never.

    i could cut and paste my comment about your last post! –> that to somnabulent (is that related to flatsch yoo lent?) readers such as myself, i aspire to not only fire on most my cylinders, but to go the mad-psyNNNtyst’s lab to have more cylinders installed, one day to approach if not equal the # of cylinders it seems you routinely are in command of ~~

    • Well I say, Hang on to your hat, Jay, because at the end of the month we’re going to go deep into the very territory you speak of–the cylinders firing bit. Wonderfully interesting science is soon to be unveiled. Until then, you’ll just have to slog through the rest of the March drivel I have prepared.
      As always, thank you for making MY brain do some weekly mental gymnastics with your delightful comments.

    • I’m so glad you liked the goofy post. And as an added perk, because I truly love bureaucrats to the bone (there’s a few in my family too), I have to share a book with you which I think is utterly hilarious. It was published in the early 80s and in England I think, but I know there are still a couple of copies to be found in the states. It’s a worthy read, and will likely make you bust a gut. It’s called Bureaucrats: How to Annoy Them.
      Check it out if it sounds appealing.

  19. I have walked across coals before, but I think the line was too long. By the time I got there, they didn’t even feel warm. 😦

    It’s funny, and no sarcasm intended, but I actually love the DMV. I’ve always been treated really well and don’t have to wait forever. Maybe because I give off a lost puppy aura, haha.

    The dentist though… the dentist is another story…

    • You are my hero, Alex. I am not at all surprised to hear that you’ve participated in such an adventure. I hope all of your time in Japan is going to be captured between two bound covers one day. Those are some worthy stories that need to be shared.
      And yes, I’m with you on the dentist. I call ahead and ask if they could have an anesthesiologist meet me in the parking lot.

    • Black holes of time. A perfect description.
      I wish life were organized in such a way like some of the new policies from our cell phone companies. Now … ROLL OVER MINUTES! I want my waiting in line, idling at lights, and standing by while my computer loads minutes all returned to me for next month’s usage. Wouldn’t that be grand?
      Cheers, Susan!

  20. Oh my goodness you make me laugh. It’s funny how universal our experiences at all government agencies seem to be. My recent passport application nightmare involved one renewal for me, a second renewal for my son, but who is now over 16 so needed a different form and my other son who is under 14 and required the presence of both parents at the window. They didn’t like any of our photos, so we had to pay for and have them taken again. It required multiple checks, payable to different factions and they were none to pleased with my son’s signature.

    I really wasn’t sure we would actually receive passports in the mail as promised. If we didn’t need them to leave the country, I might consider dipping them in bronze.

Don't hold back ... Hail and Speak!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.