I went to the DMV today. The state of Illinois graciously provided me with a three-month margin of error in which to renew my license after my 21st birthday, but I elected to accomplish this task now rather than later.
I rather like the DMV. My father occasionally teases me about seeing beauty in generally un-beautiful things, so I’ll not try to tell you that there’s beauty in the DMV, but it is interesting.
There’s a system that dictates the flow of the room; snake through the line to the front desk. Get a number, keep a number, hold a number, wait for your number. One big screen for all the numbers and this isn’t a restaurant calling order numbers at random; everything has a place, everything is in order, and 4 follows 3 follows 2 starts with 1. There are letters with numbers and desks to match and the cashier told me to follow the yellow line to the stop sign.
Step after step after step, I felt silly because I’ve never renewed a license before, and the woman on the other side of the counter has the system memorized front and back. And I don’t have enough cash, but I’m not the only one and there’s an ATM around the corner. Only go out the Exit Only, and I’ve vaulted the threshold between the ticking clockwork of the DMV and the cold, windy, real world.
But it’s a quick walk to the ATM and back and the cashier told me to come straight back to his line, but it feels wrong because there’s a system here and I’ve skipped three steps to find my place again in this line. But stamp, click, enter, and I’m turned around on my way towards the red stop sign on the wall. There’s a plan and a system and everything follows the same pattern in this room.
But how boring is system and how predictable is pattern; it’s not mechanical same that makes this place so interesting to me. It’s people.
Because the woman sitting in front of me brought her little girl, eight-year-old tag-along with an ice-skating pass on her coat zipper. She’s got marker stains on her fingers and green marker all over her nose, and the elderly woman behind me asked her about it. And there’s a woman on the phone on the other side of the aisle and it’s not eavesdropping if everyone close by can hear her, right?
And there are people coming in the Entrance Only every minute, stepping their way into this pacing system. Faces and stories and moving, breathing lives. They come in and they go out and there’s a huge world on the other side of the window glass.
And God’s breathing live and movement into my heart, my body, and I’ll not stay in this stop-motion room for long; flash goes off and card prints and I’ve got a new license in my hand, pushing out the Exit Only. On my way to real life.
Because living, breathing was created for a purpose, created for a life, and I’ll not miss this today opportunity, this now opportunity to live.