Experiences, Peter&Beth

What not to do at the DMV

DMV Going with the Flow

The other day, I had to visit the California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to update my driver’s license. Even though I set an appointment months ago, I was concerned I’d have to wait for hours. The DMV has been in the news quite a bit lately. The paper has run a number of features and editorials about the radically long wait times and the seemingly incompetence of the entire department.

Driving over I could feel the tension building inside me. I asked myself where this feeling was coming from. It felt like I was back in the corporate world I left nearly 20 years ago. It was the feeling I used to get as I was getting ready to go into a stressful meeting.

I calmly reminded myself to let go and ‘go with the flow.’ I told myself I don’t need to plan everything and it is okay to relax. I’ve been talking to others about the benefits of ‘going with the flow’ and not resisting. I know it works.

I finally made it to the office and found a convenient place to park. I double checked to make sure I had all my documents and headed into the building. As I walked over I could see a huge line wrapping around the building already – and it was only 9:30 in the morning.

I took a deep breath, checked my thoughts, and reminded myself for the zillionth time I had an appointment. I chose to walk calmly into the building to see what I should do and not automatically get in the long line.

Walking in I could see people everywhere…! There were so many people quietly waiting in chairs lined up like a theatre and others scattered about in the open space. I quickly looked around at all the different signs and noticed an empty line for people with appointments. I slowly walked over and stood in front of the large counter trying to figure out what to do next.

A woman motioned me over and asked if I had an appointment. “Yes,” I replied. She then asked if I filled out the questionnaire online.

WHAT? I never saw a reference to a questionnaire on the website. Oh no, maybe this is where I have to get in the long line circling the building.

I told her I didn’t complete the questionnaire online. She effortlessly pulled out a pink piece of paper, circled a couple items and told me to go complete it behind a grey half wall on the other side of the large room. I nodded and turned around looking for the place to complete this questionnaire.

As I turned around to find the place to fill out this form, I realize I’m clueless as to what to do next. I repeat to myself ‘go with the flow’, ‘go with the flow’… as my nervousness, fear, and confusion starts to rear its ugly head. IT’S THE DMV, GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF BETH!

Eventually, I figure out what she was talking about and quickly completely the questionnaire at one of the kiosks. I record the confirmation number on the pink paper she gave me and head back to the same counter – where there still is no line! Another clerk calls me over to review my documents.

Nervously, I wait to make sure I have all the correct information for her. I reviewed this requirement several times on their website because I DO NOT want to make a return trip. Eventually, she gives me another piece of paper and tells me to wait for my number to be called. As I turn around I see a hundred people waiting to be called. Once again, ‘go with the flow’, go with the flow’ shows up in my head. Breathe Beth, Breathe.

As I sit there trying to figure out how long I have to wait based on the numbers being called, my number is called!! Good thing I didn’t go to the restroom. As I locate the right window, I notice some handwritten signs that say, Cash, Check, Debit only. By elimination, I realize credit cards aren’t accepted. It quickly dawns on me I have to pay something for this license, but I have absolutely no idea how much. I have some cash, but not much.

I go to the window and ‘go with the flow’, ‘go with the flow,’ keeps running through my head as I once again try to calm my agitation.

Internally a debate rages. Do I ask how much money I need? Do I volunteer I might not have enough to pay for the license thereby ensuring I have to make a return trip…ARGH!

I decided to just take it one step at a time versus pushing for the next step before it’s ready.

I used to live by planning, scheduling, and pushing for the next step. Now I’m trying to live more in the present and this trip to the DMV has become quite the challenge for me.

The clerk asks a couple questions as she works on the computer and I BREATHE SLOWLY. Trying to adjust my thinking is a challenge and taking my own advice is much more difficult than sharing it with others. I again remind myself that it’s easy when you trust the Universe to handle the ‘how.’

I‘m thinking, ‘This is a trip to the DMV! It’s not like I’m putting my life on the line in a battlefield halfway around the world. Why are my thoughts so negative? Why do they automatically try to send me down the rabbit hole of ‘This is so difficult!!’

The woman begins talking to me again, bringing my attention back to the DMV. She tells me I need to look through the documents she hands me and sign them if it’s all correct. As she walks away I realize she is going to copy the documents and not going to abandon me.

ABANDON ME? Where did that thought come from!!?? Remember Beth ‘go with the flow’, ‘go with the flow.’

I quickly scan the material. All is fine, I sign and wait for her to come back.

When she returns she indicates the fee is $28. I quickly go through the little cash in my wallet and pull out a $20, two $5s and three $1 bills. I celebrate in my head and give her $28 even. I made it through this mental hurdle. The photo is the last step and she sends me to another line.

After I get my picture taken, I leave the building and the line looks even longer. I finished the entire process in less than 30 minutes. YEAH!!

I congratulated myself as I walked back to the car, realizing the appointment saved me a ton of time and aggravation.

Why was I so nervous and uptight? I made it through the entire process in very little time, but the negative energy I generated while anticipating the worst was still with me.

This was a relatively simple act of living my life, but it came with so much negative emotion that it lasted the entire drive home.

What if I had changed my negative perspective to one of no opinion or no judgment and truly went with the flow instead of resisting something imaginary I created in my head? How much easier would my life be?

This experience was very helpful for me to see how I effortlessly created resistance to a particular event that didn’t need to be there. It is a good lesson in pointing out how much easier my life could be if I move forward without negative assumptions or judgment and opened up to all the possibilities for the things I want.

This is a good example of how during the course of the day, we create resistance for ourselves. Peter and I have been working on this for a while and yet, it’s still part of our thinking. We are excited to learn more, create tools to help us, and live in the flow.

We hope you join us on this journey of discovery.

About Peter and Beth Bostwick

2 thoughts on “What not to do at the DMV

  1. Wow Beth, you were so lucky it only took you 30 min. I was there for close to 5 hours, no appointment. I felt my blood pressure rise for the 1st 3 hours but I did employ the “go with the flow” attitude too & changed my perspective, thinking “at least I have the afternoon off from work” and “ at least I have a granola bar in my bag since I didn’t have any lunch “ and “ at least I brought a book to read to kill the time .” That helped the last 2 hours go by quicker. It was a pretty aggravating experience but I reminded myself that we all have to go through it, so the DMV folks weren’t just singling me out to punish me. But now I know for the future, getting an appointment is the way to go! Thanks for sharing your ordeal. Glad I’m not the only one who felt my anxiety & aggravation go through the roof. It definitely was a lesson in patience.

  2. Great story about how our expectations can sometimes get the better of us. I think that you’re being too hard on yourself, however. It is very difficult to put aside the past experiences that help define our expectations and the visceral sense of stress that results from seeing long lines of people. Yes, it would great if we didn’t bring in these negative emotions or could easily let go of them, but I think that this is particularly difficult when the physical environment of the DMV tends to reinforce and magnify our initial negative reactions.

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