Living: The DMV took my license because they
thought I was God, and other everyday frustrations
By JOY CRIST
One of the
unchanging aspects of American life is that there are
institutions with fancy initials in place whose sole purpose seems to
be to test the patience and tolerance of the people, like the IRS,
locally the NPS, and probably most notably, the DMV.
is magnified around these parts because for us islanders, a trip to the
DMV is in fact a day-long ordeal that requires a half tank of gas, a
road trip to Manteo, at least two magazines, a packed lunch, and the
inherent ability to stare off into space in a crowded waiting room
without looking other weary people in the eye.
I renewed my license a few years ago in Raleigh, after three hours, two
out-of-date TV Guides, and who knows how many bags of vending machine
Doritos, I ended up walking out of there with a plastic photo of me
grinning like a total idiot. Why was I so thrilled? Because I was
finally free of the DMV.
license picture has caused convenience and grocery store remarks ever
since, with clerks usually glancing at me in confusion and saying
something to the effect of “Wow. You look so… happy.”
only reply I’ve ever been able to come up with is, “Yeah, well, I was
at the DMV so… you know…” which usually makes them look at me even more
awkwardly as they silently hope this crazy woman will quickly get out
of their store before she breaks into maniacal laughter. Clearly, they
think that someone so seemingly ecstatic to be at the DMV has some
I’ve always been frustrated with the DMV. Who hasn’t? But it
always just a mild irritation – nothing that would get me so wrapped up
in my own little world of frustration that everything else in my
otherwise happy life would be put on the back burner.
was before the DMV thought I was God.
admit that this debacle was technically all my fault.
a year ago I was driving around, somehow oblivious to the fact that I
had an expired registration and no inspection, which is apparently
needed to operate a motor vehicle. I have no excuse for this except to
say that I had far more important things on my mind -- like what fish
were biting or if Conner’s had any Easter candy yet.
course, I was eventually pulled over, and the officer, who was as nice
as could be, took pity on my confused self and said that if I could get
my paperwork together the ticket would be resolved, and I could go
about my merry way, driving around in search of Cadbury Cream Eggs.
So I did
and sent everything in. The paperwork was successfully received and I
figured that all was forgiven.
in June I received a mysterious letter from the DMV, which is never a
good thing to find in your mailbox. The letter said that I
missed a court date, and I hadn’t resolved my missing inspection. So I
called a lawyer and explained the situation. The lawyer’s office
discovered there was a clerical misspelling with my name along the way
that caused the issue not to go away but that, once again, all was
Now this is
not the first time an “H” has accidently popped up in my name.
mortgage was in the name of “Joy Christ” for ages, and I always hear
“Christ” shouted when I’m in waiting rooms. I was even in a group
school photo in a newspaper once with a caption that identified me as
“J. Christ.” (I kept that newspaper for years because, c’mon, that’s
also met at least two people who, after initial introductions, said
“Oh, you live in the beach house with the big blue “CRIST” sign? That
makes sense now. We always just thought whoever lived there was very
religious, but didn’t know how to spell.”
didn’t bother me, and the matter was considered settled and,
subsequently, closed for months.
forward to a recent weekend. As I was driving home from our friend’s
house in Buxton, I was pulled over because, according to the folks at
the central office of the DMV, my license is revoked and suspended
Because, as I later learned, when all my paperwork and ticket stuff was
resolved by the DMV, I was, in fact, Ms. Christ.
goodness the officer who pulled me over was the same awesome deputy
from the first time, and he recognized that there had been an error and
helped me in every way he possibly could. He really couldn’t have been
nicer or more accommodating, especially when he didn’t have to help me
out in the first place.
unfortunately for me, the law is still the law, so my license was
confiscated, and I was left with the sinking feeling that I was about
to do battle with the DMV to figure this all out.
stupid “Joy Christ” got off scot-free, while the real Joy Crist was
left to clean up her mess.
surprise license-losing happened on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and the
officer assured me that everything would be worked out on Monday
morning when the court and DMV offices were open.
naturally I didn’t believe him. I mean, come on, it’s the DMV! They
thought Joy Christ was in the clear for months, so I doubt I can
convince them in a day that Ms. Christ does not in fact exist, and Ms.
Crist is actually the innocent party. Seriously, doesn’t that sound
like the worst soap opera plot ever?
gave me the rest of the weekend to stew and fester.
fiancÚ was left to cancel our weekend hiking and brunch plans while I
wallowed on the couch watching “Law and Order”.
try to appease me on occasion with perfectly rational arguments like
“If there’s nothing you can do about it right now, then there’s no
sense dwelling on it,” “This can only bother you if you let it,” and
his most common argument, “This is not the end of the world.”
But I was a
festering fool. And his perfectly reasonable arguments fell
on deaf and defiant ears.
I didn’t go hiking through Buxton Woods or meet our friends for brunch
or spend Sunday afternoon getting my hands dirty in my sorely neglected
garden, as was my original plan.
Instead, I spent an entire 48 hours stewing and cursing the DMV.
finally rolled around, and I had stewed myself into a roaring good boil
as I started making calls, as the officer instructed, to sort it all
To my happy surprise, all the folks I talked to from the court offices,
to the Manteo DMV office, to the Sheriff’s Office were actually
pleasant and amazingly effective, and seemingly oblivious to my whiny
tone, and by the end of the day, I was in the clear and able to
retrieve my license, super-smiley photo and all.
relieved and delighted with how quickly it all worked out, but,
honestly, I was still dissatisfied.
the thing is that after you have gotten out of your simmer and that
overall seeing-red feeling of “I can’t BELIEVE I have to put up with
this nonsense!” has drained out of your system, you’re left with a big
uncomfortable and undeniable feeling of “Maybe, I overreacted.”
dealing with the DMV on any level can be frustrating, so the prospect
of having to explain to the DMV that they made a mistake and accidently
thought you were God in order to ever drive in the state of North
Carolina again is just a little daunting.
at that point there was no way I could have known that everyone was
going to be so helpful and do their best to get it settled as soon as
possible, so it was somewhat reasonable to assume that I had a big
ordeal on my hands.
know what? Stuff happens.
good friend, who has gone through more bad stuff in his life than
anyone else I know, has always looked at every bad situation and said
with a shrug, “If this is the worst thing that ever happens to me, then
I guess life ain’t so bad.” Then he’ll go do something
like parasailing or eating an entire box of donuts and have a fabulous
time in the process.
faced with an opportunity to shrug it off and just accept that
sometimes everyday life has weird road bumps, I instead retreated to my
couch with a box of stale Wheat Thins.
as much as I know he’ll rub it in, I have to admit publically that my
fiancÚ was right – if you can’t do anything about a problem, then
there’s no sense dwelling on it.
do wish I had heeded his advice. If I had, the outcome would have been
the same, but in between I would have had a wonderful brunch with
friends, a good long walk, and a garden that doesn’t have weeds and
leftover remodeling insulation in it.
here’s hoping that the next time a government institution mistakes me
for Ms. Christ -- it is tax season after all -- I will actually be able
to brush it off as a minor inconvenience, one of many that everyone
puts up with, and not put everything on hold while I let the little
things take over, test my patience, and ruin a perfectly good island
is short, and it’s silly to dwell on the small stuff, especially if it
pertains to the DMV. There’s just too much to enjoy, especially on
Hatteras Island, to let the little frustrating things get in the way.
And as a
result, I’ll probably end up being just as happy as that grinning
maniac on my driver’s license.
lives in Avon where she is seldom mistaken for a deity.)