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Take A Number

Never let it be said that a trip to the DMV isn’t entertaining.

Oh sure, it’s time-consuming, can be aggravating and take a chunk out of your otherwise busy day but it also comes with some entertainment value.

While much of what you need to do through the Department of Motor Vehicles can now be done online, occasionally you have to appear in person.

I think most people would liken the trek to DMV to going to the doctor or dentist. A necessary evil but not one that you look forward to with great enthusiasm.

My daughter had her driver’s license come up for renewal and she had to go to a DMV office because they needed to: A) Take a new photo of her; B) Check her vision and make sure she can still see the road, and C) Acquire her right thumbprint.

None of this made her very happy. Also, by the time we called to try and make an appointment, the earliest one available was more than a month into the future. And we found that out only after calling the DMV and opting for the ‘we will call you back’ option as opposed to sitting on hold for two hours and seven minutes while they assisted other customers.

To be fair, the woman that called back was very pleasant and helpful, assuring us that even though my daughter’s license had just expired, she could get it renewed and not have to pay any late fees. We inquired about the appointment possibility and every office within a 50-mile radius was booked with appointments through mid-March. She told us our best bet was to head to the Sonora office, which isn’t too far away and, at least from my perspective, is a much more picturesque drive than going to Modesto, Manteca or Turlock.

So on the dreaded DMV day, we planned to get there when they opened but that didn’t quite happen. We did get there roughly a half-hour later than that and found a line nearly out the door just to get in to say you didn’t have an appointment. There were two lines inside, the appointment line and the ‘I don’t have an appointment’ line and all us guilty-looking ones took our spot in the latter.

Technically, there wasn’t any real reason I had to be there because my daughter turned 22 last month and doesn’t need me to get her license renewed. She did need me, however, for the emotional support. Pretty much like two-thirds of the people there; most of those at the DMV had one or two supporters along for the day.

So after checking in to let them know we had no appointment, my daughter got the standard clipboard and form to fill out, indicating the purpose of her visit. Then it was back in line to turn in the clipboard and form and receive the number we would listen for over the loudspeaker for roughly the next two hours. We stood at first, as nearly every seat was taken, and I enjoyed the people-watching, seeing those nervously heading out for their road tests, watching the interaction between people waiting their turn at the window. There were something like eight service windows and originally it looked like only a couple were open but by the time the office got revved up, every available station was busy with customers.

Young kids kept entertained by tablets, my Fitbit reminding me that I needed to move to get my 250 steps per hour, my daughter worrying that she had forgotten her glasses and hoping she could reach the chart … it all made for an entertaining morning.

I also noted that the service reps were efficient, courteous and offered real smiles, helping customers make the best of their DMV experience.

Now, we wait for the new license to arrive in the mail. Fingers crossed my daughter approves of her hair and smile – at least enough so that we won’t be making a trip back to the DMV for a re-do anytime soon.


Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.