Attitudes, Viewpoints, and Why the DMV Actually Isn’t That Terrible

The other day, I had the fortunate opportunity to take a huge chunk of my afternoon and devote it solely to getting new tags for my car. Apparently, you’re legally obligated to do that within three months of moving into a new state. Not to be one to waste my day for some silly tags that weren’t even near the expiration date in the first place, I waited eight before bowing my head and heading for the land of long lines and pissed off individuals.
Tell nearly anyone that you’re headed to the DMV, and you’re bound to hear nightmarish stories that would make even Stephen King shudder in his sheets. Friends and coworkers will go on and on about the terrible wait, misinformed workers, and hoops you must jump through in order to follow some crumby state laws. My experience was no different. After mentioning that I was headed to the department of motor vehicles and crying adults, I had several people tell me they were sorry or jokingly jab a “have fun” while I headed out of work.

After hearing of such experiences, I was shocked when I was in and out within 30 minutes holding a new registration and plates in hand. To my surprise, the lady was calm, nice, and understanding when it took so long for me to produce the required documents. Hell, she even let me run out to my car when I forgot my proof of insurance. No one was yelling. There were only about 12-15 other people in a line that was moving quite speedily along. An officer stood at the front door calmly directing customers to the appropriate lines and ticket dispensers.

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I had ended up at the wrong place after all.

Now, I’ll admit I owe much of my success to my girlfriend, who had gone through the same process about a month prior and passed along all of the juicy details on what to bring, where to go, and who to see. Because of her, I knew I needed to go get an emissions test done before heading to the DMV or else I would get turned away (like she had before).

But, the point is that the DMV is one of the most stereotyped offices on the face of the planet. Nearly everyone I spoke with had a negative opinion of the whole encounter. All of the experiences were about the time that they were sent away and had to return later to wait in a never-ending line because they were missing some trivial piece of information.

Two things prevented my experience from being horrific. First, my girlfriend had tipped me off as previously mentioned. Second, I took a few moments to call ahead and ask a very helpful receptionist about the documents I needed for my adventure.

Now, not only was I armed with the papers necessary to make this whole thing happen, but she also tipped me off that anyone paying with card had to pay an extra 3% of their bill. Completely understandable – yes. Would that piss you off if you didn’t know ahead of time – most definitely. With the stack of papers under my arm and wallet in hand, I proceeded to have a fantastic experience. I even had enough time in the afternoon to write a few blog posts, go for a run with the dogs, and make dinner (okay – Charlotte made dinner but I was encouraging from the sidelines).

Adjusting Your Viewpoint on the DMV

The DMV is just one example of a negative stereotype that pervades our society. Theme park lines could be another one to parents that are tired of taking their kids to stand in lines in the hot sun and pay for overpriced food. The main gist is a overwhelming negative attitude that contagiously affects everyone and anyone that hears about your particular experience.

Picture hearing about Disney world from an eight year old. You’d likely leave the conversation with the idea in mind that Disney is indeed the most magical place on earth. Now, picture hearing about the same place from a father of four that just spent half of this year’s earnings on a hotel, day park passes, and cheese fries to feed his minions while riding It’s a Small World more times than he could possibly stomach.

Get the picture?

Your experiences dictate your viewpoint on people, places, and services. It’s your civil duty to pass along your thoughts and experiences to others lest they suffer the same plight. However, in the land of the DMV, there are far more grumpy fathers than there are eight year-olds.

Picture walking into the bank.

You’re running late for a friend’s party, but you want to stop by and grab some cash to have for a night out. You walk in. Stand in line for five minutes before reaching a teller. You reach for your wallet and start to panic. Not only did you forget your check that you wanted to deposit, but you also forgot your wallet. Since you need your ID for the night out, you grudgingly walk out of the bank and rush home to grab your financials before heading back to the bank just before closing to hop back in line and get the cash you want.

Now, do you storm off and tell your friends what a damn nightmare the bank is? Probably not. Do you complain about the tons of items they forced you to bring just to do one simple thing – deposit your check? Do you blame the teller for not being helpful and sending you away without your wallet? Of course not.

But, when the customer service representative at the DMV tells you that you need to return with your proof of insurance or your registration before renewing your tags, you go off the deep end and vow that the place must be full of morons with the sole purpose of ruining your day.

Your Attitude Means the World to Someone

Alright, enough about the DMV. The whole purpose of this post is not to convince you that the DMV is a little corner of heaven. Rather, it’s to help you realize the importance of your perspective and how it can influence the masses. Somewhere, someone had the first negative experience at a DMV. Maybe the service wasn’t even that bad, but instead, that individual was having a bad day and was easily pissed off. They told a bunch of their closest friends over dinner about how dreadful the damn place really is.

Then something happened. One of those friends went to go to the DMV. Immediately upon walking in the front door, he remembered the horrors of his buddy’s encounter. Without even realizing it, he shifted his opinion and expected terrible service.

One thing that’s definitely true about opinions: it’s hard to reverse a negative one once it’s firmly established in someone’s mind. Ergo, that individual had a poor experience irregardless of the quality of service.

It’s akin to the first time you ate broccoli as a kid. Maybe you heard from someone else just how terribly it really tasted or perhaps just the idea of eating something green gave you shivers. There it was sitting on your plate for dinner and you couldn’t help but think about how terribly it was going to taste. Maybe you ended up liking broccoli. Maybe you didn’t. The point is it wasn’t nearly as bad as you anticipated.

The same goes for the DMV and any other experience you have. Our perceptions are based on several things – namely our own previous experiences and those of ones we trust. Far too often, we let the opinions of others cloud our perception on our own experiences. Therefore, others end up making the decision about how much we enjoy a certain movie or how good the food really was at that crappy restaurant.

Forming Your Own Perspective

Don’t let others influence your own opinion. It’s hard to do, especially from close friends and confidants that you really trust. It’s imperative that you form your own thoughts and viewpoints with the consideration of others in mind. Bring an open attitude to each situation and avoid falling prey to the common associations like dynamite and the DMV. You truly don’t know what kind of experience you’ll have unless you go in with an open mind.

Oh, and stop criticizing the DMV. Do your homework. Call ahead or surf the internet and prepare your documents ahead of time.

Have you ever wanted to burn down the DMV or Disney World or both? Have you ever been surprised by an experience you thought was going to be negative? Tell me about it below!

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