There’s No Smiling at the DMV

Photo courtesy of Flickr


The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is where souls come to die. The waiting room is sopping with despair. Forgotten dreams and lost hopes hang in the air like the humidity on a muggy summer day. Children scream and babies cry, for they are too young to be exposed to such bureaucratic horrors. 

Why, you may ask, do people drag themselves into this pit of despair? Once you pass the milestone age of 16, there is no reason to be excited to trek to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Alas, a new piece of legislation requires travelers to provide a new form of identification before they fly. 

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the REAL ID Act “established minimum security standards for license issuance and production.” For the average citizen, this means they will need a REAL ID to board federally regulated commercial aircraft. When the smiling TSA agents ask for your boarding pass and ID after Oct.1, 2020, you must hand them either a REAL ID driver’s license, your U.S. Passport, or any other acceptable form of identification from a list of documents. 

The only DMV visit you count down to is your first one. A birthday girl waltzes in, excited to finally earn the freedom to drive. However, she must first slay the dragon: the front desk secretary. The secretary’s fury at the world is now focused on this birthday princess. Her joy is an unwelcome intruder, squelched at the door. The secretary breathes flames in the form of questions about residency, incorrect documents and unprovoked rudeness. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr

The secretary’s shrill voice cuts through the fog of misery. Everyone leans in and perks up because her voice promises escape to one blessed soul. Eyes pierce the lucky victim’s back with jealousy but quickly return to their glazed, zombie-like state. 

Those unfortunate enough to occupy seats adjacent to the restrooms realize their mistake too late when the aroma of nervous gas and relieved constipation slowly seeps into the crowded room.

Privacy has no place here. 

The DMV is a failed communist system. The citizens have no other option but to succumb to government regulation. Private enterprises would compete for your business, promising quick lines and a warm environment. Alas, we must suffer together in a mock-up of Soviet-era life. 

Take a number and get in line, comrade! Q369, D104, A132, Q328. Even those gifted in pattern and code skills would falter at the task of estimating whether they had time to grab lunch.

You are meant to feel empty because the DMV was designed to suck the joy from the population to ensure a straight-faced ID photo. But that justification no longer works: The Washington Post reported in 2015 that Virginians are now allowed to smile for their DMV pictures. So when you go in for your REAL ID picture, you can smile, and at first glance that seems like a nice change. But upon further reflection you realize it’s crazy: What other place is so miserable that you need government permission to smile?


A special thank you to everyone who responded to my previous article — I enjoyed reading about what you learned last semester as well! I would also be thrilled to read about your experiences with the DMV! Please email me at Best of luck to the global explorers, I applaud your brave souls.