Even at the DMV
A little shift of perspective and some radical love can change everything.
I had to go to the DMV today to get my driver’s license renewed. Apparently, due to my now elder status, they needed to ensure that I could still hear and see – you know, unimportant stuff like that. They also needed a more current mugshot taken at the most inopportune moment of distraction. The government sure knows how to make a gal feel young and beautiful, huh?
I had this totally brilliant idea that, since it was two days before Thanksgiving, maybe, just maaaaybe, everyone would be prepping turkey or traveling the world and the lines would be slightly more tolerable than normal.
Apparently, everyone else in the great (and highly populated) state of Texas had the exact same stroke of brilliance too. Go figure.
Soooooo we show up (my son was insistent that he go with me) and the line is long. Long as in loooooooooong. The wait, we are informed, is 2-1/2 hours. Plus.
Welcome to the DMV – the Department of Motor Vehicles who Don’t Move Very fast – my friends. Someone in line told me that wait time was actually ‘pretty good’. Uhhh…what? I’m not so certain about all that. In a world where we can have food handed to us out a window as we zip by and access to anyone anywhere in the world at any given moment, it seems pretty slow to me. However, I figured if anyone is equipped to handle long waits, disappointing delays, grumpy people, and broken promises…it’s a Pilot Wife. After all, it sounds a little whole lotta bit like nonrevving, right!?
Now if you’ve never had to deal with the DMV, let’s just say they [generally] aren’t exactly all rainbows and sparkles. In fact, our lovely hostess of the day was more like the Balrog on a vendetta (those of you who get that allusion get extra coolness points). However, to be completely fair, I don’t know her personal story, and these folks deal with the general public day in and day out who can, on the best of days, make a Tibetan Monk want to kick a blind beggar. Just ask our flight attendants – they know exactly what I’m talking about!
Anyway, for the first hour we stood in a long line outside the building in the cold huffing and stomping our feet to stay warm, and every great once in awhile the Guardian of the Doors, a scowling, hefty lady who looked like she’d rather be having her fingernails pried off with pliers than talking to us, would open the door with angry gusto and call out a seemingly random number. “Seven more may now enter,” or “two more”, or “just you.” And if the lucky number was two but you had two children with you (2+1=3), she barred the door like the world’s scariest club bouncer and you either separated from your crew for the honor of entry…or had to give up your entrance to the next ‘two’ group. I’m telling you, it was like nonrevving on steroids!
Finally, we were at the coveted spot at the front of the line. You could almost feel the jealousy pouring over us in waves from those in the back. The Guardian of the Door opened the portal, and we got to enter the building! “YES!” we chortled to ourselves. “We’re SO in!”
We entered the abyss like the world’s luckiest lottery winners, and she barred our way. “State your business.” It was like one of those riddle things in novels where you either answer correctly or fall through a trapdoor to your painful and untimely demise.
“Uhhh…driver’s license renewal?” I squeaked meekly, holding on to my 11-year-old’s hand tightly for moral support. (Okay, the author in me may be exaggerating slightly, but the story is so much more fun this way, and it’s seriously not by much!).
“Here’s your number. Please take form one and a clipboard and have a seat. Your wait is approximately an hour. Plus. If you go to the restroom and miss your turn, you will be forced to start again. You might want to skip the restroom.”
We clutched our coveted ‘number’ and plunked down dejectedly between a pock-faced teenager waiting to get a license and a really, really, really old man, who I decided had probably been the same age as the teenager when he had first entered the building and sat down.
And we waited. And watched. And waited. And watched some more. Interesting stuff, waiting and watching.
To say the employee’s etiquette was brusque would be putting it politely. Time and time again, someone would enter after their hour-plus outdoor wait and be rudely rejected and told they needed to leave immediately because they didn’t have ‘two proofs of residence that ranged between 30 and 90 days old’ or some other equally frustrating and totally fixable reason. Now why the Guardian of the Doors couldn’t simply go outside and make that little blanket statement to folks before they waited for an eon…or even, I don’t know, post a little tripod with said pertinent information on it out there for people to read before they reached the abyss…is totally beyond me. It seems like it would save a lot of angry, yelling, frustrated human beings (including herself). Government inefficiency at its absolute finest, I guess.
Of course, there was a lot of grumbling and moaning going on inside too peppered with more than a few colorful words. I may have even learned a few new ones. That’s when my son made a cynical comment out loud to the effect of, “How can the government run a whole country when they can’t even run a driver’s license place.” While totally funny…and okay…valid (I wonder where he gets his incredible sense of wit and sarcasm!?), that type of attitude in that hostile environment certainly wasn’t going to do anything to defuse or better the already touchy situation. I discussed with him that, though he wasn’t incorrect (and I was sort of proud), we had an important choice to make in the moment. We could fuss and cuss and get our undies in a wad and add to the already tense and volatile aura, or we could be better than that. We could be patient and somehow bring kindness and joy into an unkind and unjoyful room.
We always have a choice, friends.
Of course, we chose kindness. We began to talk to the people around us and ask them simple questions about themselves. It is my observation that folks love to be seen (truly seen) and subsequently truly appreciated. There’s no better way to diffuse a situation than to allow people to talk about themselves and truly hear them. We met a special education teacher and thanked her for serving children. We met a psychotherapist and horse enthusiast who hooked us up with some possible resources for this community (crazy, right?). And we met others too. The whole room was suddenly full our new friends.
Then we decided that waiting for our ticket to be called was sort of like being in the audience at the The Price Is Right, waiting in anticipation for Bob Barker to call our names so we could go running up to the stage waving and cheering – the prize a brand new car…well, the right to drive one at least. We thought perhaps we should cheer for someone and congratulate them when his/her number got called, just like they did on the show.
Yep. So we did. We clapped and said congratulations to the next person who got called up by the emotionless computer voice. People laughed. The person smiled and waved.
And the next time a number was called a couple more people joined our clapping and enthusiastic congratulations. More people laughed. The winner smiled widely and waved like he had just won a million dollars. And so on. They started to ask among themselves who had the next number and pump them up. “I’m next, I’m next!” a voice from behind chirruped. “Yay! You can do this!” we’d all cheer. By the time my son and I got called back, the room was full of cheers and applause (okay, there is a slight possibility that they were just extremely happy to see us go…….but nah! Surely not.).
Here’s the thing: By choosing to be positive instead of negative, we created a ripple effect. We affected people in a widening circle until a roomful of silent, scowling, angry people were suddenly laughing, conversing with, and cheering for one another. When we finally left, we heard a chorus of voices calling after us, “Goodbye! Have a happy holiday!” I mean, that’s beautiful stuff.
We often take for granted the incredible power our choices, actions, and words have on those around us. Can one person really make a difference? You betcha! For better or worse. One smile, one conversation, one choice, one shift in perspectives changes the trajectory of everything around you. It’s a ripple effect with no end – a rock tossed into the middle of a stagnant pool. It can change a person, a DMV, an airport terminal, a delayed flight, a faltering marriage, an entire community. Or maybe even the world. Who knows?
That’s the exact theory upon which I based the whole launch of TPWL over two years ago – radical love and a shift in perspective – and it’s working. It was a grand experiment, mind you. I wanted to see if one person who chose to approach life with a different perspective could make an impact in an entire community. I wasn’t entirely sure whether I would get booed off the stage or embraced. Would it fizzle and die or grow? It grew. Exponentially. I believe it only goes to prove not only that radical love works, but that people are hungry for it. We want something new and fresh. We want to be seen, loved, and understood without fear of criticism and hatred. We want to be filled with joy, laughter, kindness, and hope.
It works. Not in every single case, but in a vast majority. If you pour the good stuff in long enough, the good stuff will be the overflow of your heart, actions, and words. I hear the stories of success almost daily. I wish I could share some of them with you. I see the effects in ways that blow my mind. I’ve met people from around the country and world who know who we are and gush about this community. It’s these things that keep me going on the hard days. And sometimes, it’s YOU that give me a little shift in perspective or some much needed love…because we all require a little intervention every once in awhile. That’s the beauty of community. We do it together.
This concept when applied intentionally and regularly can melt hearts, change lives, save marriages. It can! I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
The whole world is a great, big, giant, very annoying DMV, and there are a whole lot of frustrated, grumpy, exhausted, lonely folks filling every nook and cranny – the offices where we work, the markets where we shop, the roads where we drive, the airports where we nonrev, the planes where we fly…and sometimes in our very own homes where we live – waiting for their number to be called. We have a choice. We always have a choice. We can fuss and cuss and get our undies in a wad and add to the volatile aura of the world around us, or we can be better than that. We can be patient and bring kindness and radical love into a world that is hungry for something different.
Does it take intentionality, yes! We have to retrain our thoughts, seek out opportunity, refuse to be baited by negativity, give grace when it’s not deserved. Sometimes we will encounter obstacles. But it’s absolutely worth it.
I promise, the ripple effects in your own life and those around you will be breathtakingly beautiful. Radical love works. I’ve seen it. Even at the DMV. Throw out the stone into the stagnant pool and see what happens!
I love you family!
Angelia (Just a crazy girl out here tossing stones)
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