Poetry at the DMV
October 17, 2019
By Jane Marla Robbins
It’s 2019. I’m at the DMV in Culver City. Waiting. Lines around the block. I’ve reserved ahead so it’s only an hour wait. I’m tired, so the photo they take of me has one tired eye and I don’t get a second chance.
I finally get a number. I march to its window. The woman shuffles my papers. “Renewing a license.” And did I want an ID card so I can go on airplanes without a passport?
“Is it hard to do?” I ask, sensing exhaustion everywhere. “Yes,” she says. But I go for it.
Later I ask, “Hard for you or me?” “For me,” she answers. Honest.
She runs here and there. To one window, to another. I stand. I wait. She has conversations, drinks water, finally returns. “That will be twenty-eight dollars,” she says, her paperwork finally complete.
“Great,” I say, and pull out my credit card. “We don’t take credit cards,” she parries, “only debit cards, cash and checks.” Me, a child of my time, have only the card.
“Wait,” I gamble, “maybe I have something in my car. Can I go see?” She nods yes, an angel of benevolence.
I sprint through the wait lines to the parking lot, through rows of waiting cars. I empty out my glove compartment, jacket pockets, the purses hidden under the seats. Anything hidden under the seats. I find twenty-four dollars. Not twenty-eight dollars. Twenty-four dollars. What to do?
Feeling insane, I pick up two books of my poetry. As if bartering were still used today. I sprint back to her window, through cars, past endless lines.
I risk it, dare. I place my dollars in front of her, say, “Will you take twenty-four dollars and a book of poetry?” And she nods, “Yes.” What? “Yes”?! Am I Dreaming?!
“Which book?” I ask. As if this were a real conversation.
She chooses Dogs in Topanga 2000-2018, this angel of deliverance and grace.
“Thank you,” I say, in shock, in awe, probably experiencing a spiritual epiphany.
She takes four dollars from her purse. She takes the book. I ask her shall I inscribe it to her? She looks nervous, shakes her head.
Poetry is not dead. The court jester still sings for his dinner. The poet king still may reign again.
Having lived the DMV experience and the tough job the employees have to to satisfy the onslaught of humanity they endure everyday this is the most unique
DMV story I have ever received.