Greetings from scenic,

Category: Philosophy
Tags: Life Dmv

Waiting at the DMV

There is a beautiful and dreadful monotony to it: the way that the high-and-mighty government founded on the weighty principles of (in the American case) personal freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, whatever that should mean for an individual, copes with the progression of time. From the distilled truths set forth by the forefathers of this country in times older than any one of us can recount we find that the modern facilities and machines created in the image of this truth still drip and shine with the reflection of these principles which our forefathers name "self-evident truths", and in the reflection of these reflections the machines continue to tumble down in time until they resemble something of a fun-house reflection of the old-world facilities and machines on which they are based.

Institutions and offices like the DMV, Post Office, Fish and Wildlife Offices etc. etc. are among the most ready examples of this machinery.

Especially in the dirty South I noticed (growing up) that the pace of things tends to be slower: people move less often, restaurants and old general stores tend to stick around longer, and the day-to-day life is (accounting for seasonal weather) more or less the same across months and years. I would muse endlessly during the wet and balmy North Carolina Spring, captured in reverie during my Geometry lesson (sponsored by the NC Board of Education, taxpayers everywhere, and viewers like you: thank you!) about the slow life of a geometry teacher in Randolph Co.: about how trivial each and every decision made each and every day really was once you pan the camera back and notice how much heavier the decisions of say a 20-something college graduate in the prime of his life in a new city and heading a brand new project at work or how much more complex the thought process of an older financial planner managing a multi-million or -billion hedge fund must be: they are men of another caliber to whom the decision of eggs or bacon, toast or sausage in the morning is laughably irrelevant.

But staring in this same abyss I realize (perhaps in the same up-stroke of the piston) that there is a quiet wisdom in this kind of life: that relegating oneself to the eggs-or-bacon-toast-or-sausage decisions is what made my teachers seem so wise and at-the-helm of things, at least to me, an impressionable high-school kid at the time. And indeed they seemed wise in their simple and Southern manner. But as I grew older I saw that these figures, teachers and mentors, seemed less and less admirable, likening themselves only now to people of small and cute-sy consequence: a teacher so-and-so working at such-and-such high-school whom you might see at a relative's wedding somewhere down the line and introduce to everyone as "my high-school Calculus teacher" or "my middle-school Social Sciences teacher" and no more but no less. Someone whom life has left in the rear-view, essentially, unable to quit or uproot or otherwise lash out and change something fundamental for reasons of husbands and wives and mortages and kids and cars and boats and rooted family. My perception of these figures in my life had completely flipped once I had graduated high-school and entered college, moving out of my parents' home more-and-more over the course of four years or so; but still these figures lingered somewhere in the back of my mind and I've come to notice them more and more recently.

These comfortable people seem to gather at the DMV: there is likely a thesis in the works regarding this (and for that reason I will not venture to draft a thesis for fear of having covered duplicate groundwork by accident) but rest assured that any given workday around 1 or 2PM a cross-section of this above-described population is gathered in the DMV while another division is occupying the Post Office waiting to send a letter or a package while yet another dispatched squadron is purchasing a hunting license and somehow the full remainder of the rest of the batallion is driving exclusively to-and-from the various stages of the theater of war. And while they sit in the DMV absorbed in their little reality they'll smile and wave at you and ask How're you young man? and advance little niceties like this.

I undoubtedly respect these folks (but still I admire them less for their helmsmanship than for their Tolstoian soldier-in-the-trenches-playing-cards attitude on life) but that is certainly not the flavor of life I have come to expect: when one surrenders to the ebb and flow of the tide of reality such as these folk have then one is either truly smart or truly dumb, it is (unfortunately) often difficult to tell: however I will still always wave back to the old lady at the DMV and reply I'm doing fine ma'am how're you today.

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