So my wallet goes missing. Passive voice. After tearing up house and car, retracing routes and rifling through fermented trash bags like a rabid raccoon on Monster, I admitted that it was lost. From search and rescue to replacement and recovery. Debit card cancelled, I sought to once more be a legal vehicle operator and trepidatiously ventured to no man’s land: The Department of Motor Vehicles. I arrived at the DMV and quickly located the “reception” area. I fully anticipated a hostile reception by a disgruntled employee but was so taken aback by the personable lady that I was lead to comment.
“You are in FAR too good a mood to work at the DMV. ” I said as I called the moment.
She laughed and replied, “You know, Virginia, that’s what everyone tells me.”
After she pulled up my personal information, Patricia further impressed me with her ability to notice the things we shared in common. To start, we both had birthdays in December. I raised up my fist for her to bump and said, “You me & Jesus. December babies rule!” (I know, theologians, Jesus was not actually born in December. But we do have his party then.) Secondly her son’s birthday was actually on my birthday and thirdly, she went to Byrd High School right down the street from my Gladstone home.
I said, “You have such an engaging personality. I can tell that you must really enjoy your job.” Then Patricia dropped some profound truth on me. “Not neccesarily, but like I tell the people I work with – hey, you gotta be here, you may as well make it a good time.” I agreed, we finished our exchange and I turned to find a seat.
After Patricia’s fresh perspective it was back to the stale reality: a sea of flat-affected drones waiting impatiently. I noticed the only empty seat on the front “row” as it were. Embarrassed to promenade in front of the crowd, I dashed over to the one available chair, quickly sat and inhaled deeply. The gentleman to my right laughed knowingly and I was arrested by his halitosis. Which I could actually taste on my tonsils. Like a tiny yet profuse sulfur bomb which sent me reaching for the Dentyne.
Chewing frantically, I then glanced up at the 15 customer service kiosks which actually had 12 vacancies. I imagined those folks holed-up, nervously chain-smoking somewhere avoiding the angry crowd. One of the more vocal among us even belted out, “I notice they all take lots of breaks.” in a loud-enough-for-you-to-hear-me-but-I’m-not-brave-enough-to-be-rude-to-your-face sort of maneuver. Others mumbled in agreement. Tough crowd.
The placid voice of the “now serving E 451” lady echoed in profound juxtaposition with an impatient mob. Perhaps because my number was three letters down the alphabet did she strike me this way.
A quick sweep of the room revealed a population locked into their cell phones, avoiding eye contact with each other. Patricia’s philosophy to “make the most of where you must be,” had clearly eluded these individuals.
So there I waited with the tired and poor huddled masses longing to breathe free. The guy to my right breathing perhaps a bit TOO free.
Anyone needing a new or replacement licence or vehicle registration must pass through this place. Present were anxious 16-year-olds as well as the anxious 76-year olds, and every age in-between. Not Moms wanting a fun new spot for playdates or a hp hang out the Sigma Chi’s would choose for a mixer. No. No one particularly wants to be at The DMV. No one would gladly go to a location such as this. People really just have no other choice.
There are those places in our human experience. Unwanted, unsavory locales only populated because there are no other options. Unpleasant spots which we could get through faster if only other people would but do their jobs or could have avoided all together but for another’s negligence. There because of our own fault or simply our own fate. Unavoidable places like death. Desperation. Disappointment. Devastation.
A place full of bizarre odors and discomfort and misery. THAT we are there is not our choice but HOW we choose to live there is. The reality confronts but the interpretation of that reality determines attitude. The truth at the core of the receptionist’s quip was simple: how happy we are in this world is not something handed to us like a freshly laminated licence. It is by and large a decision we make.
Personally, I am far too selfish to be unhappy for the rest of my life. I just cannot be. It is way too taxing to recount the ways which life has wronged me. It doesn’t take long for any of us to learn that second guessing is a sure fire way to waste a life. To fantasize about going back in time is a certain means to waste the time you have left as well as the life you were meant to live today. How much better to see those unwanted visits to undesired places as the temporary moments that they are in the vast goodness of the balance of our lives. Small dark flecks on the broad canvas of light.
Meanwhile back at The DMV…. my number eventually came up. My picture from 2009 could not be used. The horrible one where my hair was done, makeup flawless when I was still in my 30’s. So I got to take my drivers licence picture on a day when my bangs looked like a wedge salad, wilting the opposite direction of the acne patch on my forehead.
But I just really had to smile, reflecting on a great psychological truth conveyed by the attitude of a bouyant DMV receptionist. As long as I’m here, may as well have a good time.