Well, I put it off as long as I could, but finally I had to go to the DMV today to renew both my license tabs and my driver’s license. That’s kind of like waiting to go to the dentist until you need a root canal and bridgework. Anyway, I hoofed it over to the Hennepin County Government Center at lunchtime today, anticipating a gulag-like shuffle as if in leg-irons from one counter to another while hoping the re-education wouldn’t be too painful.
The first thing I noticed when I got there was that the HCGC has changed quite a bit in the four years since it last darkened my soul. The main reception area has been re-designed, and is airier, even bright. Rather than a bunker, the lady in the information booth was in a half-moon shaped desk that looked almost conceirge-like. When I asked where I needed to go she gave me directions with what almost appeared to be a smile.
I got to the motor vehicle area a little later than I had hoped to, and was thus expecting a long line. Instead, this reception area was also well-lit and pleasantly decorated and there was only one person ahead of me and he was quickly dispatched. I stepped up to where the state employee was conducting bureaucratic triage and distributing waiting numbers. This fellow as even jovial as he confirmed that I could get both of my missions accomplished by the same person at the same time, then he gave me my number and the form I needed to fill out and pointed me to a comfortable waiting area, around which were 19 service windows arranged in a semi-circle. Regularly a pleasant voice on the intercom would say “Number such-and-such, now being served at window 18” or similar. Did she say served?
A few minutes later my number was up and I went to my assigned window where the woman there was bright-eyed and smiling. In less than a minute she had done what she needed to with my forms and had me standing on the little blue line, looking into the camera. The bright flash left a dinner-plate sized spot in front of my eyes, but I was still able to examine my new photo. Something was wrong, however. “I don’t know who that old guy is on the screen,” I told the woman. “But I’ve never seen him before.” She actually giggled.
After blinking several times I was able to autograph the last document and then she handed me my brand new license tabs. Just like that I was on my way, my head swimming at the ease of the experience (and a little from the after-effects of the flash). I wasn’t so discombobulated, however, that I didn’t see the table of cookies and juice that had materialized in the waiting room. Blinking a few more times, I confirmed that, yes, there was a table full of cookies there – chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and sugar – and a juice dispenser. No camera crews were in sight, either, as I surveyed the room. I considered the tray of cookies the way a cautious bear might sniff at an unexpected honeypot in a clearing. “What the heck,” I thought as I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie. It was soft and delicious.
Now that’s what I call my tax dollars at work!