Love and Loathing at the DMV

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We spent the day — and I mean the full working day — at the Department of Motor Vehicles on Thursday. After putting it off for 13 months, I forced my husband to head into the darkness of this horrible chore. And it was very much that: a chore.

It was a no-appointments location, so this meant taking whatever number the evil machine spits out and sitting on the black, hard-plastic chairs and waiting.

And waiting.

And waaaaaiting.¬†Let me put it to you a different way: In an unlike-me move, I forgot my husband’s passport at home. He was able to:

  • drive back to The Ranch
  • grab his passport
  • water the plants in the front yard
  • drive down our country road only to realize that he forgot to close the garage door
  • head back to the house, close up properly
  • return to the wretched DMV location


I did have a book with me. Tried to read, but that took some willpower. Trying to block out the sights, scents and sounds at a scuzzy DMV is real work, especially for a writer and journalist. Listen. If my iPhone wasn’t on strike (super low energy + bad cell reception), I would have been snapping pictures left, right, center — and not even trying to be low-key about it either — to add to my ongoing “Real Life Stories” file.

But then I heard something that made me long for a pair of headphones. Like real, serious, I-can’t-hear-the-fire-engine-next-door type headphones. It was this old couple sitting behind me. They could have been in their early 70s, but looked so rundown, maybe they were younger and carried their misery on their hunched backs.

They were bickering. At first, it was a little funny. Made me think of The Costanzas on¬†Seinfeld. A snipe here. A cry to the heavens there. Then it turned, quickly. She told him shut-up, and it was soaking with venom. He called her names, his disgust tangible. Their open wound was oozing for all of us to see and pretend we don’t see.

I thought about their marriage. Wondered if they had adult children. Wondered when things went from love to loathing. It was intense and it made me sad.

When my husband made it back to where I was sitting, all flushed and out of breath, I smiled at him. I wanted to tell him about what I overheard, about the atrophied hearts withering to dust just one row behind us. But I didn’t. Instead we talked about the absurdity of our wait, about whatever sports story he was about to read, about our upcoming wedding anniversary/family road trip, about the weather forecast for the weekend. About anything.

I just wanted to keep talking to him, our pleasant tones warming the goose-pimpled skin down the back of my neck.

I just wanted to keep talking.

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