Friday, June 10, 2011

The Line!

Sure I do music and i have lots of stuff that centers around music, but every once in a while something happens that doesn't involve music, but is just one of those strange occurrences..
I had an experience the other day at the DMV that hasn't quite worn off yet.

We had just picked up a new car last month and were getting all the plates and registration stuff taken care of at the DMV. Amanda and I had wanted to head down to register it together so we had a bit of a time crunch to fit it into some schedules but we got there shortly after 9am when it opened.

I had picked up my papers at the processing point in front and we set about to registering the vehicle. Of course...most of this time was spent waiting..and waiting. We finally got registered and all that and were all set to waltz right out.. unfortunately though I couldn't find my parking garage ticket. Thinking it had fallen out of my pocket, I went back to retrace my steps..nothing. I had no idea where it could have gotten to and did not want to pay the $30 parking fee for a lost ticket.

I remembered though that I had gotten it validated at the processing point so i figured i might have left it there. By the time I realized this however, the line was about 9 people deep...and there were a couple of people at the counter, one of them being a woman who had some questions about some forms she had just been given. I decided i was going to wait those couple of folks out and just hop in quick with my question, figuring the lady at the desk would just be able to hand over my validated parking garage ticket.

So i positioned myself up by the front of the line off to the side a bit. In a couple of moments I was tapped on the arm...and a slightly older foreign gentleman was looking me in the eye and pointing over his shoulder.. repeating, "the line, the line." The people at the desk continued to sort out their problems while I attempted to explain my situation to the gentleman next to me, which was that I was only going to be asking a quick question and retrieving a parking pass i had left at the desk (or the desk attendant had forgotten to give back to me). Amanda was going to be late for work as well. This continued for another uncomfortable minute. He didn't raise his voice, but he just kept urgently and irritatedly insisting on 'the line!' stretching behind him. i was starting to lose my cool even though I knew that I wasn't necessarily in the was a bit of a gray area on the matter..just a fleeting question that would only take a moment of the front desk's time to answer and then I'd be on my way. He didn't see it that way.. I was budging rudely into front of 9 other people and taking advantage of everyone. I wanted to explain my situation to him fully, but was also running into the problem of realizing that the only thing he kept repeating to me was, "the line." I figured his English might not have been that good and no matter how much I explained i would only irritate him further and the rest of the people waiting behind me. I was about to give up..or explode..or try to explain one more time as my face and ears got redder and redder.

The desk cleared up...the couple in front had their papers..the lady with her questions had answers (not to her liking as i recall)...the front desk lady saw me and waved me over and handed me my parking pass (at this point i had remembered a very garbled page come across the P.A. system about a missing parking pass and figured I had missed that easy opportunity to avoid this awkward situation). So I had my parking pass and I quickly left the situation and headed right out the door..hoping to appear justified and in the right about my claims of only taking a minute. The whole exchange of the parking pass took literally 10 seconds. But as I walked out the door...the gentleman walked up to the front desk still talking about, 'the line.'

I left with a feeling of relief, but also a slight guilty feeling. I'd found my parking pass, we were registered, and fairly on time for the rest of the day... but had I done anything particularly wrong by taking advantage of my 'timely excuse' for budging into line?

I thought for the most part it was alright and culturally okay to do so. In retrospect, I should not have gone to the front of the line and stood there, but would have avoided alot of uncomfortable awkwardness, by standing off to the side and attempting to wave and make eye contact with the front desk attendant. But even that didn't take away the feeling of some sort of white privilege at work or of it being seemingly so. To the foreign gentleman who had probably waited in more lines than he could count..and probably had spent more hours of his life in lines than he cared to remember, I was probably one of the worst people imaginable at that moment. Even the quick solution to my issue did not seem to erase the fact that I had jumped to the front of the line.. whether i had used my knowledge of the system, of cultural norms, or possibly the fact that i was white which played a part in all the other aforementioned things . I wish i could have understood how he might have seen what I did. To me it made sense, but to him and possibly to others in line I looked like that ass who barrels down the highway in the passing lane even though the lane closes in one mile and everyone else sits in the slow lane waiting to get past the lane closure.

Another interesting day at the DMV...