Five Life Lessons to Take to the DMV

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The average Los Angeles County DMV services 7,000 people an hour. Let me put that in perspective: Disneyland has about 3,500 visitors every 60 minutes. Even though Disneyland and the DMV have a lot in common—lines, fanny packs, grown-ups acting like children—it seems that one has a better reputation for fun than the other.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I recently went to the DMV and had an absolutely, positively OK time. Here are some tricks I learned while I was there:

1. Ask Around
I drove a little out of my way to a field office in Long Beach because someone in my family recommended it to me and Yelp reviews give me hives. My dread was somewhat dissipated by going somewhere with a positive reference. FYI: There are 27 offices in L.A., and, currently, the busiest one is on Hope Street near the 110 in South L.A.

2. Drink Your Coffee Beforehand
When I saw the “No Food or Beverage” sign on the door, my heart sunk to the bottom of my venti. Sure, I managed to chug most of my latte before going in, but it wasn’t worth the heart palpitations I had the rest of the morning.

3. Make An Appointment
Think of an appointment like a FASTPASS at Disneyland—you will get to waltz past everyone in that line wrapped around the parking lot. Because of my 10 a.m. appointment, I was eating lunch at an In ‘N’ Out by noon.

4. Study for the Test
Did you know that those new to California should apply for a license within ten days of moving? After two years in Los Angeles with a Maryland I.D., the pressure was on: I had to take an eye exam and a multiple-choice test. I aced the sight portion, but was blindsided by how difficult the written part was. Don’t let this deter from my otherwise impressive street cred, but I failed my test the first time. Avoid my mistake by downloading the DMV Now App for practice tests and study materials.

5. Remember That We’re All In This Together
What made my experience the most pleasant were my interactions with people. Employees were friendly—one told me about his dream to visit Harriet Tubman’s house in Upstate New York, and another firmly shooed away a man who was trying to steal answers from me (they wouldn’t have helped you, dude). Other DMV-goers weren’t so bad either. Waiting in line to get my test graded was like waiting in the porridge line from Oliver Twist—please, suh, just let me leave—but everyone remained civilized. Collectively, we let an elderly lady with a bedazzled headband cut in front of us. A seven-foot-tall woman sporting pajama pants and a teardrop tattoo helped a frazzled man wearing all denim find the box of pencils. After 45 minutes of taking and retaking my test, these people started to feel like family, kind of like the castaways on Lost.

The most important thing to remember is that it will be over. The elderly lady will pass her test, the man behind the desk will book tickets to New York, and you will order a cheeseburger at lunchtime. Animal style.

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