Few things this side of Kanye West can inspire within Americans the wrath and righteous indignation caused by the Department of Motor Vehicles and airport security. These dens of iniquity are similar to most government agencies in that the quality of one’s life is inversely proportionate to the amount of time spent there. Since their inception, they have been causing Americans to ask themselves, “Were things really that bad in England?” They are unequivocally and categorically horrific places.
The quality of my life took a significant hit last week when a cruel twist of fate and scheduling required me to visit both of these gulags in one 36-hour period. It was a harrowing experience I would maybe wish on Michael Moore but probably no one else. I escaped with none of my dignity and only a shred of my sanity. On the bright side, I am now in the unique and unenviable position to draw comparisons between these two black holes of bureaucracy. I do this so that you don’t have to and so that my suffering might not have been in vain. This is my therapy. This is my penance. This is my diary screaming out loud (God bless you, Anna Nalick). Enjoy.
DMV – inhumane. Contrary to popular belief, the Department of Motor Vehicles was not created to regulate automobiles. It was created to prevent automobiles. The Government realized long ago that cars were bad for the environment and that traffic was bad for the economy and that Kia was bad for everyone. They created the DMV to make it impossible for people to legally operate motorized vehicles. To that effect, the DMV has been celebrated as the most effective government program since Hiroshima. The DMV’s one-two-three punch of bewildering forms, exorbitant fees, and uncomfortable chairs has successfully convinced many Americans to consider tandem bikes, rickshaws, hobo piggy-back rides and all other available alternatives to automobiles. It is now believed that cars will be abandoned out of frustration before they are able to complete their mission to destroy the earth.
Airport Security – degrading. Since The Government owns most major airlines, their motive with airport security it not to prevent you from flying. Rather, airport security serves as a reminder from our overlords as to where exactly we, the citizens, stand. Having already given us so many wonderful gifts (i.e. the 4th of July, Jackie Kennedy, the Rocky Mountains, etc.) the last thing The Government wants is for us to think we’ve earned it or that we somehow deserve it. So they’ve created airport security to remind us that in the Great American Hierarchy of Being we rank just above a medium-rare steak and just below a school board member. If we ask nicely and prostrate ourselves before the highlighter-wielding GED-holder examining our drivers licenses, we might be allowed to board an airplane. Airport security exists as a reminder that, while the Government can’t keep us from flying, they can make sure we don’t feel good about ourselves or take any enjoyment from the experience. Cause wouldn’t that be a tragedy?
DMV – annoyed and condescending. The first thing to know about DMV workers is that they are better than you. Like all low-level government employees, DMV workers have an astronomically high IQ. Most are members of Mensa. Several are regularly called upon by NASA to consult on lunar explorations. As a result, they have difficulty abiding the ignorance of the American public. At any given moment, they have several dozen better things they could be doing and it is only your failure to commit the vehicle registration codes to memory that is keeping them from a life of adventure and fame. While you waste precious minutes of their life with pithy inquiries about title transfers and organ donations, they cannot help but roll their eyes and think about the heads of state they would be advising were you not standing in front of their stall. They find it exceedingly frustrating when their name placards and elevated desks fail to convey their monumental intellect. When this happens, they have no choice but to employ the higher form non-verbal communication techniques (i.e. quizzical looks and heavy sighs) that they learned in their honors courses at the local vocational-technical institute.
Airport Security – annoyed and hostile. Airport security personnel know exactly what you’re up to. If you think you’re going to pull a fast one on them, you’ve got another thing coming and by “thing” I mean wand probing and cavity search. Sure, you may look like a non-threatening twentysomething in business attire, but your decision to put your shoes directly on the conveyer belt reveals your nefarious motives. Airport personnel have been trained to ignore thoughts like “maybe it was an honest mistake” and “well, she is only 8 years old.” They know better. Years of experience have taught them that the average American 3rd grader already knows enough about molecular physics to turn a 4.5 oz tube of toothpaste, some Old Spice, a flip-flop, and an iPod battery into a hydrogen bomb. What’s this? A jacket in the same bin as a laptop? Nice try Osama. Go back around. And take your pants off while you’re at it.
It’s almost a toss-up. Both receive high marks for their ability to hassle and harass otherwise non-violent citizens. Both are exemplary in their ability to create and sustain unfathomably long lines. Both have done a commendable job of identifying and employing the angriest, most impatient people in America. Both provide the opportunity for you to be yelled at by divorcees.
In the end, I’m going to give the “Take Me Now, Lord” Award to the DMV. While airport security shares all of the DMV’s unsavory attributes, it does have one positive aspect worth mentioning: most of the people standing in line with you at the airport don’t look like they’re about to stab you. And really, where’s the fun in that?