Too Friendly at the DMV?

It's often interesting when the journalists here on the 13th Floor have occasion to interact as private citizens with the state and local governments we ...
by | October 3, 2005

It's often interesting when the journalists here on the 13th Floor have occasion to interact as private citizens with the state and local governments we cover--be it jury duty, school board meetings, or as in my case last week, a trip to the DMV.

In_line I left work at noon to take my 15-year-old son to get his learner's driving permit. I wouldn't have missed his first experience with bureaucracy for anything. He spent much of the 3 1/2 hours that we waited in four different lines shaking his head and saying, "It shouldn't take this long."

Eventually, he took--and passed--the "law test." Then, when his number was called to have his paperwork processed, photo taken and fee collected, something unusual happened: We spent some time chatting with a very pleasant employee at Station 14. Indeed, on the way home I realized that during our entire afternoon, we hadn't encountered any of the surly stereotypes typically associated with DMV employees.

I couldn't help but wonder, though, if congenial service had actually contributed to the slow-moving lines. Indeed, in his 2003 article "Who's Afraid of the DMV?", my colleague Jonathan Walters noted, "It is a constant dilemma for DMVs just how customer friendly they can actually afford to be."

Clearly, striking the right balance between efficiency and affability remains an elusive goal.

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Anne Jordan  |  Former Editor
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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