A Trip to the Department of Vehicle Services

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On a chilly February morning, I, dear Duster Dan, braved the single-digit weather to find my way to the Department of Vehicle Services, downtown Saint Paul, MN. It worked out that my wife had a meeting in the neighborhood, and because of a thief stealing the catalytic converter from her Jeep, she needed a ride. 

At 9:55, I dropped her off at the corner for her meeting. I then descended into a subterranean parking garage, deeper and deeper. By 10:05, I was back above ground, searching the Skyway for a path to the office so I wouldn’t have to go outside. 

I failed to stay indoors.

By 10:15, shivering and sliding on the ice, I had made it to the DVS. The kind, brunette receptionist handed me a form in duplicate: I was to fill out my name, address, Social Security Number, age, birthday, weight (the nerve!), eye color, and donor status, and then find my way to a line near the side of the room. 

One of most unique things about going to a public State office like the DVS is that while Minnesota is still incredibly segregated, this was a chance to be near people from every swath of society. There was a long haired hockey bro ahead of me, saddened that he failed to get his permit. There was a tall African American man behind me in line, excited to take his drivers test, as well as his test required after his conviction of Driving While Intoxicated.

There was no sitting down; just standing in a line in a stuffy, stale room. We were surrounded by signs reminding us to abstain from using our phones or electronics, and that violation of this rule would give us immediate failures on our exams. 

Minnesota is unique in that it is one of the few states that requires drivers to take a written test before they can get a drivers license, if they already hold a license from another state. I had made it living here off-and-on as a student for seven years without having to update my status, but an upcoming birthday, a recent marriage, and a looming expiration date required me to become “Minnesota: Official”. 

I felt like I was 18 again. 

The last time I was at the DVS, or DMV as they say in Texas was a few days after my 18th birthday. My father had taken my twin and I out of school so we could get our driver’s licenses. My twin had already held one, and this would be my first. I wore a tie, so I would look sharp in my picture, which I still have to this day. Today, I wore a gingham check button down shirt, with a blue cardigan over it. 

As I approached the front of the line, a solid hour after finding it, I was ushered forward by a man who seemed strung out on creatine workout powder, and would ceremonially clean his hands with disinfectant between each patron. He told me not to be nervous, took my Texas ID, my birth certificate, and handed me a red, laminated square of paper. “Testing Center #25”. 

He pointed towards a row of computers against the wall, and wished me luck. 

I sat down in the chair opposite the touchscreen monitor. My coat and scarf draped behind me. 

“Please confirm the spelling of your name. (Option C).” 

“You may begin the test whenever you are ready. Each page will show an image, ask a question, and list 4 answer choices. Choose the best answer available.” 

“Start Test”. 

~Duster Dan