Red Green Repeat Adventures of a Spec Driven Junkie

Lessons from the DMV - Kindness

This is the final series of insights I gained from my recent DMV experience. Other parts of the series are available at:

You (or future me) will be better prepared for the next DMV by having a better attitude towards the DMV.

This article will take you about three minutes to read.

Heinrich Roth - Plate source and more information

The Hardest Thing

“Being nice” may be the hardest thing to do at the DMV.

Yes, be nice to the people at the DMV, even if:

  • you have been waiting way longer than you planned to wait.
  • your documents are not accepted.
  • rules were not what you expected to them to be.
  • you have to come back to the DMV and do the process all over again.


Because on the other side of the counter at the DMV is a person, just like you. They spend all day at that counter: seeing people like you, filing paperwork for you, interpreting rules, validating documents, supporting you and the operation that is a key part of society.

The DMV is a crazy place, isn’t it??

Interpreting Rules

Think of the people behind the counter at the DMV as a rule executors. There are rules set out for vehicles in society, the people that work at the DMV interpret these rules, and apply them to your situation.

Not Going Your Way

When things at the DMV do not go your way, it’s typical to get mad at the DMV, just like a piece of software. The rules are not in your favor. Try as you might, the result of the software won’t change when you repeat the same action with the same input. Software excels at repeating. The DMV is setup to as well.

The one difference at the DMV and software is that there’s a person behind the counter at the DMV. You can ask them for hints when things do not go your way. Get additional guidance. Connect with the person.

With a piece of software, if it does not work for you, there’s no facility designed for you to get help. Nothing to get more insight, guidance, or to connect to.

Hence, at the DMV, being nice, even when thing don’t go your way at the DMV will be valuable. You have a chance to get help, so next time things will go your way.

Going Smoothly

When things work, you just move on, like a piece of software. Hence, treating the DMV as humanly as possible is important. The people behind the counter are just executing rules made. They are interpreting rules in a manner to support all of society, not just to “be mean” to you.

If one gave an exception, then they would all have to give the same exception - like a new rule! ;-)

Comment Card

When things go your way, be nice. Fill out a comment card as that is their feedback system. Having your pen will ensure you can do this.

As advanced (or backwards) the DMV is, the main form of feedback is a paper comment card, that requires your own pen to fill out?!

In a way, isn’t that the most human connection that’s recorded? To write a comment on a piece of paper instead of typing the comment or pressing a button?

When you have a chance, fill out the comment card. It may be “old fashioned”, it still a simple direct way to connect to the human in all of us.


I dreaded an upcoming visit to the DMV based on past experience, cultural influences, and my DMV allergy. After the visit going well, I see the DMV in a new light.

The DMV serves key parts of society and ultimately, the people at the DMV are executing rules, like software. The difference is the DMV has people, allowing one to get additional guidance if there are issues. Being nice at the DMV will go a long way, or at least make your next visit better.

Preparing ahead will serve one in any situation. In the DMV, it will improve your experience. Reading rules for your situation, gathering proper and additional documentation, bringing items to help you wait, and writing instruments are all things that will make your DMV visit smooth.

Respecting the DMV for the function they serve society - where they identify a person, who owns a vehicle, whether a vehicle is safe for the society or the environment. The DMV carries a lot of responsibility for society.

From this, I have changed my view of the DMV and the people that work there. The DMV is a complex rule system, much like software. We expect software to execute the programmed rules, just like expect the DMV to follow it’s rules.