Snow Sunday: A Heartwarming Story from the DMV

Snow Sunday: A Heartwarming Story from the DMV


My favorite time to go to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) is NEVER. And especially not during the rush of the busy holiday season. So when I was informed that I’d have to return to the DMV and retake the driver’s test because my license had expired and not been renewed in the requisite time period (it’s a year, my fellow procrastinators, lest this happens to you) I was really in a sour mood.

I didn’t expect for my frozen heart to be melted by a couple of DMV employees, but that’s exactly what happened.

As I waited for my turn at the desk of pain, after having been sent out twice to gather the “right” documents so that I could retake a driver’s exam that I hadn’t taken for almost 30 years, I noticed a guy in the corner. He caught my attention because it was the same guy that had been sitting in the corner on my first visit to the DMV a couple of weeks before.

The guy was about 30 and was obviously disabled. He had a scar like a lightning streak across his forehead, he wore very thick corrective eyeglasses, and walked with a pronounced limp. He sat with his father, who had accompanied him the first time I saw him. His father was quietly coaching him, and when they called him to take the driver’s test, his excitement was palpable. His voice squeaked as he let them know he was ready and sat down at the testing booth.

“I hope he passes,” I whispered to the dad.

“He was in a motorcycle accident,” he said, drawing a line across his own forehead to indicate his son’s scar. “He used to drive trucks for a living.”

The father, heavyset and with a pained expression on his face, shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He seemed resigned to his role as caregiver to his adult son, weighed down by the responsibility and by the frequent trips to the DMV to let his son take and re-take the driver’s test. “It really would help a lot if he could drive, run errands, go to the store by himself.”

Long story short, he didn’t pass. He took the test twice while I was there, each time his hope slowly dissolving into frustration. But what really impressed me was the way the DMV employees handled the situation.

Both times they sat next to him, carefully explaining the questions he’d missed, gently encouraging him. There was, as there always is, a horrendous line of people waiting for their turn at the desk, but they didn’t succumb to the pressure of the busy crowd of people at the DMV. Instead, they patiently spent time with the man, showing him great respect and kindness. It was so touching, my eyes burned as I blinked back tears.

I, on the other had, did pass my written exam. Next up was the driver’s test. I was pretty nervous as I sat with the driving instructor in the vehicle, not because I don’t know how to drive after three decades, but because I was worried about the bad habits I’d accumulated over the years. We all accumulate bad habits, whether it’s rolling through a stop sign, or forgetting to be patient when we suffer through a long line at the DMV because we took something like a driver’s license completely for granted.

When we pulled back up at the building, I asked the instructor if that guy came in to take the test every day. “Pretty much,” she nodded.

I told her that I really respected how they treated him, the compassion and patience they showed him. And she said something that I’ll hold with me over the holidays and for a long, long time:

“That’s just the way we should treat people. The way we would want to be treated if we were in their situation.”


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