Jack Ohman

Editorial cartoonist, writer and Joe King’s alter ego

The California dream - a good day at the DMV

05/08/2013 4:23 PM

05/08/2013 4:42 PM

One of the few things I've been dreading about living in California is going to the Department of Motor Vehicles. As an owner of several motor vehicles, and a trailer (yes, I own a trailer), I knew that standing in line at the DMV (IN CALIFORNIA!!!) would be a nightmare. You people have so many residents, and they're all wanting to get their vanity plates done simultaneously. 

So imagine my surprise when I went to the DMV and it was pleasant. Efficient. Orderly. Quick.


They do have terribly complicated forms, of course. I felt like I was filling out a form to revoke my U.S. citizenship, but I managed to get through it after I boned up on my Latin and calculus.

Anyway, since I previous resided in the very lightly populated, rectangular state of Oregon, where I knew several DMV employees by face and had a a rather jocular relationship with one of them, my foray into the California DMV seemed overwhelming. 

Besides the crush of humanity, I had to take a written driving exam, without studying. I had forgotten about studying, very much like I did in college in 1978-1981. So I was reading the DMV book in line while I was waiting to get my Soviet-style photograph taken by the People's Bad License Photographic Collective, and just decided to go in cold.

They sent me to a small room with a computer screen. The test was kind of set up like the check-in at Southwest Airlines, except I couldn't buy my way into the A Group. 

The first question was, I thought, incredibly obscure and deceptive. I think it was this:

"QUESTION ONE. When yielding to an emergency vehicle while pedestrians are walking bikes across a solid double yellow line, should you move to the center lane and:

A. Text your friends, Amy, Tad, and Eric while simultaneously drinking a tall boy, wiping your dashboard with an Armor All towelette, and buying the Theme From The Twilight Zone off iTunes.

B. Light emergency flares and throw them into oncoming traffic for fun.

C. Ignore all law enforcement vehicles and swerve violently across four lanes of traffic to drive into a sign that says, DO NOT DRIVE HERE."

They got a little easier after that one.

"QUESTION 13. When driving a car, should you:

A. Be safe.

B. Be very safe.

C. Be very, very safe."

Suddenly, the screen informed me that I had passed the written test, and was now allowed to leave the DMV. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw two things. One was a sign that said there was a "DVM" Express Center across the street, which made me feel better, because you never know when you'll need an fast veterinarian. The other was a car directly ahead of me, exiting the DMV parking lot--or DVM, I get confused-- that turned left, driving by the sign that said "No Left Turns."

Maybe they should make the test a little more difficult.  

About This Blog

Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award and the national SPJ Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com. Twitter: @JACKOHMAN.


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