Hell Hath No Fury Like the DMV

In Buzz, October 2018by Christa Gala

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“Go to Siler City,” they said. “It will be easy.”

All summer I’d been reading about the DMV debacles blanketing social media—the long waits, the chronic understaffing. Surely, it couldn’t be that bad. These complainers were simply doing it wrong.

I figured Siler City would be a good place to get my son his driver’s permit; one social media friend posted that she’d been in and out in 45 minutes. We rolled up at 7:05 a.m. and were seventh in line.

Things moved painfully slow once we’d checked in. Like sloth-slow.

All of us waiters (many moms) were like teenagers, gossiping, passing on information and identifying each other by our numbers. “What number are they on? What number are you? We’re 7. Who’s in there now?” People had come from all over: Sanford, Graham, Fuquay-Varina. It was interesting, until it wasn’t.

The line stopped moving periodically to accommodate people who had made appointments four or five months earlier, setting us all back 45 minutes or so since there were only two people working. Drivers needing road tests were bumped to the front of the line but only one person was administering the tests.

The mood turned surly—at least mine did—shortly after lunch. I joked (kind of) that we could somehow waylay the next person who showed up with an appointment. They were easy to recognize. Calm and superior, they exited their cars with woeful smiles, saying things like, “Wow; how long have you guys been waiting? I made an appointment.”

Yes, yes you did. You better keep walking if you want to keep it.

Did I say that out loud?

Anyway, after two really crappy fast food meals and a clerk who confided we likely wouldn’t be seen, my son said, “I’m done,” and carried the chairs to the car at about 1:30 p.m.

We drove home, permit not in hand, and I stewed. It really stuck in my craw. How had I failed at this one fundamental thing? Back home, I got to work, seriously this time, messaging friends who’d been there and done that. Here’s what I heard:

“Fuquay-Varina used to be quick, but not anymore.” “Cary is a nightmare.” “I had decent luck in Clayton, but it was still four hours.” “Avent Ferry is not bad; there are lots of workers.” “I’ve heard no one knows about Lillington; try there.”

Everyone said, “Get there early.” And one friend gave me this advice: “Make sure your kid studies for the test because my daughter failed it, and I really wanted to kill her after we’d waited that long.”

So as my printer churned out all 98 pages of the driver’s handbook for my kid to (forcibly) study under my watch at the kitchen table, I plotted the following day.

When the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., my husband said, “Are you really doing this again?”

“Hell, yes,” I said, muttering “bastards” under my breath. We left the house at 6 a.m. with camping chairs, a cooler with ice and drinks, snacks, the driver’s handbook and enough documentation to sneak my son out of the country—including a passport, birth certificate, power bills to show proof of address, the Driver’s Ed certificate, 98 pages of highlighted handbook and his first lock of hair. Okay, not really that last thing, but you might want to throw it in there just in case.

This time we were fourth in line at about 6:45 a.m. By 7:30, the line stretched around the building. We were done by 9:45, permit in hand, and I will admit there was a lot of waiting room praying involved.

I’m sorry I can’t tell you where I went. I’ll have to go back soon for the real thing for my kid and, frankly, I don’t want it to be crowded. You understand.

I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you; just make an appointment.


One week after we went to the DMV, a local news station did a story about the long waits. The DMV said it would fill 80 existing vacancies and add 20 more positions to alleviate waiting times at busier locations, in addition to moving employees from mobile units to fill in gaps. We’ll see.

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