Posted by: Kate | September 14, 2009

A Death Toll of Zero

A Play of Great Angst and Humanity

Setting: Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles Office

Agent X: female, approximately 400 years old, questionable personal hygiene, affinity for country music played at high volume during work hours, suspicious glare and unwillingness to speak in more than four-word sentences regardless of the complexity of the topic at-hand

Customer: female, early 30s, hair carefully brushed and shirt selected in anticipation of a new-license photograph, carrying a purse which contains a crochet project-in-progress as well as the other necessities of motherhood as well as a clipboard with many pieces of paper intended to facilitate the RMV process, slightly wobbly emotions due to first-day-of-kindergarten events but determined to remain calm and even cheerful

Agent Q: female, mid-40s, brittlely cheerful smile somehow matches the slightly frazzled hair and askew dress, appears unaware of the cheerless nature of her job and surroundings, chatty and alarmingly upbeat

Act 1

Customer: I left my checkbook at home. There’s an ATM across the street. Can you tell me how much I should expect to spend, to transfer my registration from New Hampshire?

Agent X: You have the title?

Customer: For the car? Yes.

Agent X: $75.

[Customer leaves, returns moments later, her little slip of paper now indicating that she is 8th in line instead of 10th. Takes a seat, begins crocheting a marketing bag for her grandmother. Pretends not to be surrounded by poorly behaved children and impatient workmen. Twenty minutes pass, and her number is called.]

Agent X: I need your papers.

Customer: Which ones? I brought everything I could think of, because I didn’t want to leave something important at home. [Attempts a friendly smile. Agent X is unaffected.]

Agent X: Insurance forms. Title. [Customer hands over the necessary materials. Agent looks at them, glares, and abruptly walks away. Returns give minutes later.] Your name is wrong.

Customer: Excuse me?

Agent X: On the form. Your name is wrong. Says Kate.

Customer: Oh. OK. That’s not a form I filled out; that’s from the insurance company. Can I just change it myself and initial it?

Agent X: No.

[Long pause.]

Customer: Um. OK. What do I do to get it fixed, then?

Agent X: Call insurance. They should know bettah.

Customer: OK. I’ll call them and have them resend the form with my full name. Then what?

Agent X: Bring it back heah.

Customer: Right. But do I wait in the same line, or go to a different desk?

Agent X: You just come heah. To my desk. Don’t take anothah numbah. Just come heah. And it’ll be $125.

Customer: Not $75?

Agent X: No. $125.

Customer: Can I ask why the price changed?

Agent X: The title. You have to transfer it. [Agent turns and leaves the room, with no apparent plans to return. Customer carefully packs up the papers, keeping the necessary ones in an envelope apart from the assorted extras, and heads to the other side of the room, where, fortunately, she had already taken a number for the license transfer. Crochets. Sulks.]

Act 2

[Time passes. Customer is now at another desk, dealing with Agent Q. The photography-and-signature portion of their interaction completed, Agent Q begins muttering and shaking her head at her computer screen. Customer’s heart sinks.]

Agent Q: You’re not going to like me.

Customer: [Thinks] I don’t like anyone here right now. Not even the innocent bystanders. Not even myself. [Says] Oh?

Agent Q: We can’t accept a New Hampshire vehicle registration as proof of signature. You’re going to need to go home and find something else with you signature on it.

Customer: But the sign says a registration is acceptable.

Agent Q: A Massachusetts registration. Not other states.

Customer: [Sighs] OK. Fine. They just refused to give me a Massachusetts registration, so I’ll have to come back anyway.

Agent Q: And…

Customer: Uh-oh.

Agent Q: You’re really not going to like me.

Customer: [Thinks] Done. [Says] OK.

Agent Q: Your old file was already in the system, from when you lived here before. And it says you owe an excise tax to the City of Salem from 2002.

Customer: I didn’t live there in 2002.

Agent Q: Oh, I believe you. But I can’t issue a license until that’s dealt with.

Customer: Do you know how much it’s for?

Agent Q: No.

Customer: Do you know who I need to contact to figure it out?

Agent Q: No.

Customer: [Brain begins bleeding out ears.] So, I need to go find… someone… and figure out how not to pay… some amount… and then come back here to get my license.

Agent Q: Right. But the good news is, you can skip the line and just go straight to the desk then!

Customer: Fabulous.

Agent Q: Would you like a lollipop?

Customer: [Considers the potential uses of a lollipop as a lethal weapon. Decides not to risk it.] No, thanks.

Agent Q: You don’t really seem that mad. Lots of people really get upset when this happens.

Customer: Oh, I’m not abrim with delight at the moment, but I can’t think of any reason to take that out on you.

Agent Q: Oh, thank you! Here, take a lollipop.

Act 3

[Customer leaves building, walks to her car. Where she finds, tucked happily and snugly under a windshield wiper, a parking ticket. Written two minutes prior to her return. Because the meter broke. Customer very carefully plucks ticket from windshield, enters the vehicle, and considers simply driving home via the sidewalk. Instead, opts to obey traffic laws and return home, to eat, gather more ID, and decide whether to return to the RMV on the same day or to wait and risk having another day ruined.  Remembers to dredge up a sense of pride for not having enacted the rageful frustration that began building during the interaction with Agent X.]

[Fade to black]



  1. cue the sound of my head banging against the desk multiple times.

    time for chocolate!

  2. Oh my god Kate….You are decidedly a stronger woman than I am. Decidedly so. Good on ya for not killing anyone…yet.

  3. Oh Kate! This made me giggle, mostly because I did the same thing this morning – dropped Sarah off at her first day of preschool, then went to DMV. However, my day went MUCH better than yours and I had my new photo & license in hand and was out the door in under half-an-hour!! (Not to rub it in or anything!) Hope you have it straightened out by now!

  4. The stories of the evilness of the Mass. DMV are legendary and legion! Dealing with them will surely be the dues you pay to re-enter the state. Pound of flesh, probably.

  5. It’s funny because it’s true…

  6. I have a headache now. Yes, it was actually creeping in prior to my reading this post, but it’s a full-on headbanger now.

    Despite the nagging pain, I am in total awe of you. Because someone woulda gone DOWN today.

  7. Welcome back to Massachusetts, my dear. LOL.

    Yep, I have one of those excise tax fights as well. For a year I didn’t live there. With all that red tape and no one who cares to help out. As long as I never try to get a license in MA, I should be OK.

    I’ll curious to see how this all unfolds. Good luck.

  8. I admire your restraint. I think I would have been tempted to take out a few people with my crochet hook.

  9. I would’ve taken the lollipop 🙂 What happens if you never transfer your license over? Good luck getting through it!

  10. Oh, the wonders of the RMV. And they wonder why I haven’t gotten around to changing my name on my registration…

  11. Sorry your experience sucked today but thanks for the thoroughly amusing telling of the tale.

  12. The RMV – 9th circle of hell. You went to the RMV. While pregnant. Dealt with all that. And did not kill a single person? I am not worthy. I bow down to your self-control.

  13. […] may recall, a few weeks ago, my inordinate pride in leaving an unsuccessful RMV trip without a trail of bodies in my wake.  I […]

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