This week I didn’t teach meditation because I had an appointment to renew my driver’s license. This is a necessary life event that’s hard not to dread — all that dreary standing in line and then sItting around in the crowded DMV office waiting for your number to be called, having your papers shuffled through by bored bureaucrats who’d rather be anywhere but behind that counter; then taking a test, waiting some more, then a vision test, photo, etc. etc. So many lines, so much waiting! You know the drill.
There was a line outside the building when I arrived — uh, oh, here we go — but it turned out it was just for those with no appointment. The appointment line was empty! In fact I was a little early and the young woman who came in behind me had an earlier appointment time, so I encouraged her to go ahead of me. After receiving a number, I sat down and settled in, expecting a long wait, but before I could pull out my reading material my number was called.
At my assigned window I was greeted by a friendly clerk. Because I had filled in the renewal forms online, I just gave my thumbprint, took my vision test and paid my fee. Then she sent me off to “the red carpet where they are waiting to take your picture.” I told her that sounded like a lot more fun than it probably is. We laughed, she called me sweetie, and we wished each other a good rest of our days.
On the red carpet, while waiting for those in front of me to have their pictures taken, I couldn’t help noticing a woman who had been at the window next to me who was also getting her licence renewed. She had received the same instructions I had, about the photo and then the driving test in the room beyond, but after her photo was taken she didn’t seem to think there was anything else she needed to do. The photographer told her the next step and she wandered off dazedly in the general direction and eventually ended up at a touch screen test station, as did I.
After my test, I was behind her in line again. The computer had told me I’d passed, so I was just waiting for the clerk to issue my temporary license, which he soon gave with a cheery congratulations and, I later noted on my receipt, a smiley face and star! (see it with logo above) Aw! This is indeed the new DMV! I felt not just the usual relief of getting a chore over with, but as if I’d been to a well-choreographed party with thumbprint invitations all along the way so everybody knew my name. Well, ‘party’ may be overstating the case, but you get the idea. Compared to the mindless cattle-herding experience I had come to expect over the years, this was a relatively fun romp.
But my companion was not feeling it. She had failed the test royally. She just couldn’t understand how that was possible. The clerk gave her a printout of her test and suggested she go review it and then she could take it again. He was kind and patient with her as was everyone along the way. What a difference from the brusque impatience people who don’t follow the drill are often given in these kinds of situations!
I sent her metta (infinite lovingkindness), and metta to all who know and love her, and a hope that she is not alone because it looked as if a major life challenge is arising for her. We’re all in this life together, and wishing each other well is a powerful part of that. I felt that quality of lovingkindness from the staff of the DMV yesterday. They cared. And I bet a good part of their caring is knowing that their employers care about them and they can feel it. There was definitely a cultural shift in this place! Their kindness radiated through me as I drove home, and undoubtedly that benefited other drivers along the way. That’s how kindness works!
I arrived home earlier than my ten AM class usually begins, but there had been no way of knowing I would be out so soon. In fact, I had had such little faith in the bureaucratic nightmare of the old DMV that I had even wondered if I would be able to make my afternoon appointment!
And then the doorbell rang. Uh oh! One of my students must not have read my reminder email. But no, it was someone I’d never met at the door, a woman who had been wanting to attend and showed up, not knowing that the class had been cancelled. I invited her in, gave her the tour — here’s where we sit together with the view of the mountain, here’s the cupboard full of extra pillows, blankets, socks, etc., here’s where you get a glass of water, and here’s the garden with the waterfall, the oak trees, the blooming rhododendrons and the decks and paths to roam, quietly engaging with nature. She felt right at home. Then we sat down to get to know each other and to see what she was looking for in a class. Happily it turned out to be a good fit and we had a lovely leisurely exchange. As we were winding up, she said how fortuitous it was that she happened to come today and that I was at home.
I told her that it was all thanks to Gavin Newsom.
“Really? How so?” she asked, confounded but intrigued. (You know you think your new meditation teacher is of sound mind and you’re on the same page and then she comes up with some weird statement like that! Wha’???)
I told her where I’d been and where I’d probably still be but for our new governor keeping his pledge to make the DMV a top priority. (I have no idea if he directly impacted the changes, but excuse me if I’m feeling effusive and willing to give him credit. I just whisked in and out of the DMV in a festive mood with plenty of time to spare! It may take time to change major technology and systems, but changing a culture and inspiring workers by making sure they know how important they are doesn’t take long at all. So yes, I’m willing to credit him and his leadership team.)
So because he kept his campaign promise I arrived home in time to greet her.