My friend insists that he should queue for one day at the DMV to renew his driver license. He’s unwilling to wait and no amount of my advice can persuade him otherwise. I tried. I told him police won’t care for the next two months whether his license is expired or not, but he refuses to believe me. Or probably he believes me but his lack of English skills makes him uncomfortable. “I don’t know how to talk with the police if I am stopped. I don’t know English. If I hold an expired license, I won’t be able to explain.” He said. I really don’t understand his argument. The police won’t hold the expiration against him and why he’s so worried. Then I think about all the other people who are desperately queuing outside of DMV. Are they in the same situation? Are they having the same mortal fear of the police due to one reason or another? Judging from the number, there are so many. I really don’t understand there could be so many people with such an unreasonable fear. Or am I missing something? As an immigrant, I have this unreasonable fear of my own inadequacy of understanding my environment. There can be a whole new logic and reasoning system existing which I am not aware of and I can live to suffer the consequence of this ignorance.
So he arrived there this morning at 8AM and was shocked to see such a long queue. So he left and didn’t know what to do next. In the afternoon, I managed to find time to drive there to make inquiries. There are only twenty people loitering along the canopied passage outside. Last time when I was here, I asked a lady who works here, but all these ladies are overworked and it is hard for them to answer the same question over and over again. So I didn’t get a clear picture of the procedure of the place. This time I changed my strategy. A grandmother figure was standing nearest to me, but she looks like she’s expecting somebody. With her eyes constantly surveying the parking lot, she’s obviously anxious for somebody to arrive. Most likely she’s as ignorant of the whole procedure as myself and needed somebody else’s help to get things done. So not her. Next is an Asian woman who look like me. If this is back home, I am surely going to select her first for information. However this is not back home. This is Edison, New Jersey, where there is a parade of different people who look like me. The diversity of this town is astounding. She can be from anywhere in East Asia and her cultural background can be very different from mine. The fact that we look alike only makes it easier to make the mistake of considering her somebody from my hometown and misjudging all the verbal and non-verbal cues. Also she looks to me a wife waiting for her husband and very likely the husband is the one who knows the in and out of the place. I can be wrong but… The third woman looks like an Indian American or a Latino American. She is obviously bored sitting on the edge of a raised wall along the passage. She looked around with her intelligent eyes and were ready for some diversions. She’s the perfect candidate.
“Is this the queue?” I asked, wearing the best smile I can manage. This is obviously not a queue. Is this the best opening line I can offer? It is not worthy of me or my interlocutor.
“No. I am not in a queue.” She said and her tone told me that she’s very happy to have somebody to talk to. And what a promising beginning.
“I guess you already have the number and are waiting for your turn to go in.” I said.
“It’s for my daughter. She’s 17 and insists to come here to get her driver license. We’ve been here the whole day, since 7 o’clock this morning.” She said, volunteering a lot of information, much more than I expected. I am so good at judging people. How wonderful. Since when did I become such an expert in this.
We talked and she said she’s the mother of four children, all grown up except this daughter who’s going to be a high school senior next month. But she’s so young. So I said and so I felt the happiness in her eyes. Then she told me the whole thing. She’s here at 7AM and the line was as long as to the farthest edge of the lawn that we couldn’t see from where we stood. Then at 8:30, each person was given a number and she’s fortunate to get one for her daughter. Then they stood in queue until 10AM when she finally moved to the front of the queue to give all the information and the phone number to the lady at the desk. Three text messages was subsequently dispensed: the first one is a trial message to see that you can get the message. After that you are to wait somewhere else for the second message to call you in, which she received at 2PM. Then the third message came in to ask you to step in to finally start the process.