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The Bureaucratic Circle of Hell

By rusty in News
Thu Feb 24, 2000 at 09:37:35 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

When Dante envisioned Hell in The Inferno, he forgot to include a special circle for the torment of bureaucrats. Luckily the District of Columbia Government has rectified his oversight, and created it right here in DC. Only here they call it the DMV. I found myself there this evening, in search of a new license, and some temporary tags for my car, so that they wouldn't cancel my insurance. When I reeled out 3 1/2 hours later, I had a whole new perspective on the torments of the damned.

The flourescents glare, the room reeks of the desperate sweat of the tormented innocent, and a pleasant voice lilts above the hum, as it has a thousand times already.

"Now serving number H seven six eight at window number two."

I glance down at my number. H906. Oh God. For a moment I half expect Robert Deniro to swing in through the window, dressed up in Gilliam-esque Brazil garb, and say "We're all in this together." Then I remember there are no windows.

I am in the DC Department of Motor Vehicles, located at 301 C St., NW. A simple task, have I. Some tags, a license, how hard could it be? And yet here I am, trapped in this nightmare of paper shuffling and number-calling.

For those of you not from DC (that is to say, almost all of you) the government procedures here are Byzantine and confusing, and frequently edge over the line into the surreal. The US Congress is nominally in charge of DC, but they're mostly too busy to do anything to fix the crumbling infrastructure and antiquated public services. They mainly use the District to try out their newest hare-brained social engineering experiments.

There are, to my knowlege, exactly two DMV offices in DC. For comparison, my hometown of Plymouth MA has five, and counting. You can imagine the population comparison. And every single DC resident was in the C St. DMV tonight (the only one that does both vehicle registration and license issuance), between the hours of six and ten PM.

During the second hour of our wait, I found myself slipping into a feverish daydream, no doubt the result of my mind shutting down against the horror with which it was being confronted. I saw the fate of all the petty bureaucrats and incompetent civil servants that create these places for us, and make us wait in them for so long. And it was right here.

You see, in the next world, all those bureaucrats will find themselves at Satan's DMV. It has nine floors, and a waiting room in the lobby. The waiting room has no chairs, and, naturally, is boiling hot. Once every millennium or so, they call out a number, a floor and a window. Whoever holds that number must get to that window within one minute exactly, in order to get a number for the next window.

Did I mention none of the elevators work?

And there are no stairs?

And they call out the numbers in a totally random order?

Ah yes. Not even Dante could have envisioned such a fiendishly clever and torturously inefficient system of eternal torment. No, only the administration of Marion Barry could have let a system like this flourish and grow, like some kind of cellar-dwelling rotten fungus, ever waiting to drag the unsuspecting into it's grasp and drive them insane with loathing and boredom.

Oh, and, former Mayor Barry? There's a very special number waiting for you down there.


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The Bureaucratic Circle of Hell | 9 comments (9 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Well, your day sucked.

(none / 0) (#4)

by Perpetual Newbie on Thu Feb 24, 2000 at 02:16:12 AM EST

Perpetual Newbie voted 1 on this story.

Well, your day sucked.

How could we get the government to hire more employees when they surely must know that there would be a need for extra hands? I would suggest having a supply of complaint forms and making the manager-bureaucrat read and personally reply to every one.

Of course, more gov't employees means higher taxes&fees, but right now I bet you'd drop a fin for a 45-minute shorter wait.

Worth a read.... (none / 0) (#5)
by spinergy on Thu Feb 24, 2000 at 02:19:14 AM EST

spinergy voted 1 on this story.

Worth a read.
<Insert Cheesy Comment Here>

Vote for higher taxes! Then somethi... (none / 0) (#3)
by saw2th on Thu Feb 24, 2000 at 07:58:33 AM EST

saw2th voted -1 on this story.

Vote for higher taxes! Then something might get done. In the UK we just send a letter to Swansea, Wales, and it's all sorted.

Re: Vote for higher taxes! Then somethi... (none / 0) (#7)
by rusty on Thu Feb 24, 2000 at 10:40:16 AM EST

See, that's the crazy thing right there. We already pay much higher taxes than surrounding areas. I live in DC and work in Maryland, and my taxes are twice what my Maryland-dwelling coworkers pay. It's not lack of money. It's simply lack of clue (i.e. gross mismanagement and neglect).

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Rusty forgot to mention that all th... (none / 0) (#1)
by penwiper2 on Thu Feb 24, 2000 at 08:56:26 AM EST

penwiper2 voted 1 on this story.

Rusty forgot to mention that all this suffering led to some real human bonding. A complete stranger lent us her pen (of course we forgot one), we got advise as to when the REAL off-peak hours were (wait at the door at 7:15am for the 8:00am opening), and at the end of the ordeal a group of fellow sufferers waved me good-bye by name. I suspect the DC DMV is actually a ploy to bring city residents together.

Yes, things are bad...... (none / 0) (#2)
by bmetzler on Thu Feb 24, 2000 at 09:05:37 AM EST

bmetzler voted 0 on this story.

Yes, things are bad...
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.

More evidence for riding a bike ... (none / 0) (#6)
by Matthew Guenther on Thu Feb 24, 2000 at 09:37:35 AM EST

Matthew Guenther voted 1 on this story.

More evidence for riding a bike or taking the bus I guess.


Re: The Bureaucratic Circle of Hell (none / 0) (#8)
by Skippy on Thu Feb 24, 2000 at 11:28:16 AM EST

A perfect example of why one of the states (AZ?) is testing out online license renewal. What a great idea. While their at it, I really think we ought to have at least online voter registration (if not voting).

# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #
It gets easier don't worry (none / 0) (#9)
by JDogg on Thu Feb 24, 2000 at 03:11:49 PM EST

I too have passed through the gates of hell. I had to visit the DMV recently in late-December. I too feel Rusty's pain as I had to wait over 2 hours to pass through the 15 windows necessary to get my license and tags.

Having been a MD resident most of my life, I can attest that they have their act together. It usually took me 30 mins to an hour to get a new license at one of the many MVA branches in MD.

The solution is for Mayor Williams to turn some of the crack houses around the city into DMV branches. The only good news is that if you need to re-register your car in DC, all you need to do is MAIL in a form. Thank god!

***It's like I'm Han Solo, you're Chewie, he's Ben Kenobi and we're in that FUCKED-UP BAR!!!***
-- Jay from Dogma

The Bureaucratic Circle of Hell | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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