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Opinion

The Whiteboard Jungle: Visit to DMV drives father to ask some questions about the process

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People wait in line for DMV service.
(Los Angeles Times File Photo)

No teen’s life is complete without a trip to the DMV office. And that is where my son, Max, and I went recently for him to take the written driving test en route to his learner’s permit.

One of the requirements any potential California driver needs to meet is 25 hours of classroom instruction. However, this instruction can be done at home on a computer.

Do you know how to spell f-r-a-u-d? Anyone can illegally answer questions for the participant. If there is any kind of education that should be taken in person it is driver’s education. No wonder so many people drive poorly.

We waited three months for an appointment in Pasadena since Glendale’s office had none available due to overwhelming demand for the Real ID, even though the law does not kick in until October 2020.

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The pressure was on Max to pass this test the first time since who knew when we would be able to schedule another appointment, adding to his anxiety, despite taking several practice tests online.

Meanwhile, I had my own worries, making sure that I was bringing all of the required documentation for a learner’s permit, the poorly designed and written DMV website more a hindrance than of assistance.

While the appointment method is far superior to the walk-in option, it really only gets you past that first line, similar to a Disneyland Fastpass.

After the initial check-in, everyone, appointment or not, gets put into the same queue, so I made sure that I brought along a book to pass the time. A physical book.

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As I sat there opening this heavy, hardbound, 600-page biography on Bing Crosby, I sensed I must have looked like a museum exhibit.

No one else in the crowded DMV office had a book. And even if they had, I doubt anyone would have been reading one on Bing Crosby. And how many in that room would even know who he was?

After being issued a letter and number (why simplify the ordeal?), you need to pay close attention to both a TV screen and a PA announcement. God forbid you zone out and don’t see or hear your letter/number.

You quickly discover that logic has nothing to do with when you will be next because “H12” may be called before “F5.” Since my concentration was frequently interrupted, I barely read a handful of pages.

Twenty minutes later, his number was called. He hesitated going up to the counter alone, but I encouraged him that he could handle it.

After a few minutes, he turned back and looked at me, and I thought to myself, “Kid, you have to learn to do things on your own” until I realized why he was looking back at me — for money.

Heads up — DMV does not accept debit or credit cards. Luckily, I had enough cash for the $36 fee.

He then disappeared into the room in the back where his photo was taken and he sat at a computer station to take the test.

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Thirty minutes later, Max appeared before me with a smile on his face telling me all I needed to know.

Now the real worry begins when he’s on the road among drivers who ignore everything he learned in his training, speeding and running red lights.

Maybe getting his driver’s license was not such a good idea.

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