Breaking news: The RMV still sucks

Do you remember how the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles used to be?

There were these long lines snaking endlessly through dark, cheerless rooms, hours spent staring at the flakes of dandruff on the back of the person standing in line in front of you, your face a pale green reflection of the grimy, institutional paint on the walls and the fluorescent bulbs above. And when you finally got to the front of the line, the cranky clerk, with her torpedo-shaped boobs, cat's-eye glasses hanging from a gaudy chain around her waddled neck and towering beehive hairdo would look imperiously down at you, announce that you were standing in the wrong line, slam her window shut and go off to the back room to smoke cigarettes with all the other psychopaths who worked there.

Well, that's all changed. Nowadays, the RMV is modern and well-lit and automated and efficient. And it is staffed by friendly, well-coiffed people who love their jobs.

Yeah, not so much.

I spent a couple of hours at the Beverly RMV recently. You no longer have to stand in line -- instead you get a little paper ticket, with a number and an estimate of how long it will be before your number is called, and you sit on benches and wait for your turn. The estimate is, of course, a lie. And there is still mass confusion. And the people who work there are still cranky old broads who seem to loathe their jobs. There was one who called everyone under 40 "missy." As in "stand over there in front of the screen, Missy, I haven't got all day."

Seriously, who says missy anymore?

But most of all, a sense of injustice still permeates the atmosphere of the RMV. Maybe the employees can no longer get away with slamming the window shut in your face (in part because they don't actually have windows anymore), but they have other ways of making you feel abused.

When I was there, two windows were open in the licensing area. It was the one night of the week when the branch is open late, so it was crowded with people who were bleary-eyed from work. Some of us had started to chat a little bit -- bonding in a superficial way, like people do at a Red Sox game or when taking public transportation or at some other natural disaster.

Out of the blue the woman who kept calling everyone missy announced she was forming a special line for all the people who'd just passed their driver's test, abandoning the system of paper tickets, numbers, and mis-estimates. It was every newly-permitted pimply-faced teen for him- or herself.

So now there is one window open. Window 2.

"B192 at window 2," the automated voice purrs over the loudspeaker. For a moment, it seems almost utopian. Everybody looks at their ticket and sighs.

"B-192!" the registry lady screams from behind her windowless counter. "B-192!" And a young woman re-checks her ticket, realizes that is her number, leaps from her seat and hustles over to window 2.

"Jesus Christ," the registry lady says. "What are you, deaf?"

Those of us left on the benches look at each other and laugh nervously and roll our eyes, whistling past the graveyard. We look at our tickets one more time, as if the answers are printed there beneath the numbers and the lies, as if the tickets will make things go any faster or more pleasantly, as if the tickets have the answer to the questions that everyone is asking themselves: What the hell am I doing here? Would it have been worth it to drive to Reading or Melrose after all? Why the hell didn't I just keep my maiden name in the first place?

And why didn't I just renew my license online?


Anonymous said...

Well, once again...I can not believe not one person has responded to this laugh out loud blog entry.

koloratur said...

Ooh, I'll comment! Yeah, I don't understand why people at the RMV are so horrible. But then again, I also don't understand the people who see an opening for a job at the RMV, and think to themselves "At last! An opportunity to spend MORE TIME in the RMV! What could possibly go wrong?"

Gienna said...

Ha! While I was sitting there, I kept thinking to myself ... What could possibly entice someone to work here? And then I thought to myself ... I wonder how much they make?

Anonymous said...

as a former employee of the registry in reading, i must protest this post. yes, there are plenty of rmv employees that are assholes. usually, they are the older people. most of the employees, however (at least in the reading branch) were quite pleasant and only got upset when customers disobeyed the rules, tried to use fake documentation, or cut the line..etc. how would you like it if someone came to your desk, demanded that you speak a foreign language, handed you a phony document that would get you in trouble and ultimately cause you to lose your job? and how would you like it if you had to deal with about 100 of these people per day? now you might understand why sometimes these people are pissed off and sometimes take it out on innocent licence renewals.

p.s. working at the registry pays very well, the benefits are great and because it is a state job, you get a LOT of holidays off. thats why people choose to work there. it beats working retail, thats for sure.

Gienna said...

See, that's why I wondered if I should have gone to the Reading branch. Because clearly, the people who work at the Reading branch are all very, very nice. And not at all scary. And, did I mention, very nice?

... Just remember I'm an innocent license renewal, OK?

Simply Charlie said...

Believe me, the Reading RMV isn't all it's cracked up to be. I had a horrendous experience there a few days ago. It's full of cranky old people. What I want to know is why they don't have the technology to do credit/debit card transfers for tax and registration, yet they can for a license.
The RMV is like a nursing home.