Saturday, August 20, 2005
If there's anything one thing in life that keeps me believing in the free market, it's the DMV. I get the feeling that the government could never effectively manage every aspect of the economy, based on the fact that they seem to have enough of a problem handing vehicle registrations.

At the basic level, It's a problem of profit incentives. At McDonald's (though I haven't patronized one since 1998), if the cashiers provide quick and friendly service, the company benefits by being able to 1) handle more customers per hour with less staff and 2) receive repeat business from satisfied customers. If the DMV folks provide fast service (and increase the number of people they get through in an hour), then they hire less staff and get their payroll budgets cut. And you can't really take your business elsewhere ("Fine, I'm going to the other DMV").

Growing up, I only ever went to the Wisconsin Rapids DMV. Service there was always pretty quick, the workers there were relatively friendly, and I never left terribly frustrated. I've been to the DMV in Madison (the Hill Farms State Transportation Building, which I've always thought looks like it houses a politburo). I went around lunch time, so I probably deserved the considerable wait I experienced.

Wisconsin has a reputation for good, clean, efficient government. I always told myself this was just something we said to make ourselves feel good. Then I moved to California.

I first went yesterday around 9 AM. There, I was greeted (well, acknowledged) at a reception desk by an overweight man wearing a worn Star Trek 50th Anniversary t-shirt. He asked if I had the proper papers (I didn't--I didn't have proof of the sales tax I had paid on my car in another state). I still had what I needed to get my California license, though, so he gave me a number and went to sit down. Five minutes in, I decide to leave and get to work at a decent hour (though my start time is always pretty flexible as long as I don't have a meeting). Californian DMVs are open one Saturday a month, and that just happened to be today.

I get there today at 10:30 (it closes at noon). Same guy at the desk, though new t-shirt (this one reads "Old Guys Rule"). First, I get the car "verified" (wait in a car line 15 minutes so they can read the VIN and the odometer). The attendant fills out her portion of the form, which I then take inside to complete. Reading it over, I find she listed the current mileage as 37,881 miles (which common sense would suggest would be a pretty impressive feat on a new car purchased in July. The actual milage is 3788.1). I take it back out and she fills out another, completely new form.

I go back in, and wait to get my new license. I finally get called to desk 15 at 11:45. I have to take a written test, but, of course, they stop testing at 11:30 ("to allow our customers enough time to finish the test"), so I pay $25 and am given a receipt for the license. I'm then sent to desk 10 to actually register the car. 20 minutes and $707 later, I go to desk 2 to pick up my stickers. I then go to desk 16 so I can have my picture taken. But, of course, since I haven't taken the test, I can't get my license yet. I'll have to come back next week and take the test before I get that. I also need to send in for my hybrid sticker. I got out of there around 12:30.

Legally, you're required to get this all done in the first 20 days of residency. I paid a penalty fee for registering late.

So that's my story. Sorry, had to vent.

(one other venting... I have to register to vote before an election? Oh, Wisconsin, why can't all states be more like you, but a little less cold in the winter and with a better baseball team?)
because some states have more people
But I don't understand why more people equals crappier DMV service. More people also means more tax revenue.

Unless you were talking about baseball, then yeah. How the hell are the Brewers supposed to compete with the New York media market? (answer: revenue sharing and salary caps)

Isn't it great how the Packers are wildly successful in a city of 100,000 people?
I had a similar experience with the DMV here in Missouri. I've come to the conclusion that the upper Midwest is a bastion of civilization and sense in an otherwise retarded country.
Agreed, the Midwest is generally pretty good about civil service. Unfortunately, all the people who make excellent administrators move to states with better baseball teams.
btw I see Adaptation on the thing. Sweet movie, IMO.
broken flowers, how was that?
My father would have derided it at another one of Nathan's artsy-fartsy movies. I'm tempted to do that too. Jarmusch is described as a minimalist. That certainly shows through in the movie--very slow paced with drawn out (and often seemingly meaningless) dialog.

But that's a cheap shot for me to take, as that's the style. Murray has done some amazing things lately. In terms of his roles, he's gone from the everyman's funnyman to a solemn elder. Murray isn't very emotive in the movie, but that's part of the point. It fits well.

Let me end this. Was it exceptionally good? No. Was it better than Lost in Translation? No. Was it worth my money and time? Yes.
Oh, hooray. I get to try my luck with the Anchorage DMV pretty quickly. I need to switch my license over so I can be an Alaskan resident and get a permanent fund check.

Your story does not make me excited about this.
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