Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The DMV

For those of you who wait until the very end of the month when your license plate sticker is about to expire before going to the DMV to renew them (especially if you can't renew them online because of incorrect information), there may be twisting, doubling lines, and entirely full parking lots in store for you. This was my experience. However, there was an upside.

While waiting in line with pleasant people, I watched, with humor, the shocked expressions of the people just coming through the doors at the length and twisting nature of the lines at the DMV (as if we were waiting for coveted concert tickets). Each one had a reaction varying from ironic laughs followed by knowing looks to those of us already waiting, to hands thrown in the air and walking back out in disgust. This made for amusement and a kind of communal feeling between those of us in line waiting - we were in this line together.

Since I had time to wait, I watched the interaction between each member of the line community when s/he finally made it to the counter and received assistance from the employee of the DMV. These DMV workers were efficient, barely looking up from their computer screens as they talked to the member of the line community. Sometimes there was no discourse exchanged, just an exchange of papers, followed by..."Next!" They were "on" full-throttle.

When my turn finally came, after being rerouted to various lines, I decided to do an ethnomethodology1 on the worker helping me and break the unspoken rules of efficiency only, especially when the lines are twisting all over the building. I talked to her. I talked to her about the craziness of the end of the month. I ventured that they (the workers) were really tired at the end of the day. Then, I complimented one of her funky rings. She said, "thanks," stopped (she had been working diligently throughout the conversation) and looked up at me and then at my necklace. Then, she continued to work. But, I got her to stop and look up at me for reasons unrelated to efficiency. My ethnomethodology was deemed successful. And my tasks at the DMV were complete.

You do the theory with Weber and bureaucracy creating alienation (good Intro to Soc example).

1"Ethnomethodology is "the study of common social knowledge, in particular as it concerns the understanding of others and the varieties of circumstance in which it can take place." -- Simon Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, p. 126."

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