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  • Katarina Garcia


Updated: Apr 4, 2020

I get out of my white mom-van and consider leaving behind the stroller. I quickly rethink the idea and open the trunk. I take my 1-year old son out of the tangled contraption we call his car seat and place him in his decaying stroller riddled with breadcrumbs and a few old fries. I check the baby bag and make sure I’ve packed the cheese puffs and sippy cup. We’ve had breakfast but we haven’t had lunch yet. It’s fine though, this shouldn’t take very long… Or at least it didn’t last time. We make our way through the parking lot and enter the glass doors of the infamous Department of Public Safety.

I stroll my son down the long hall and we’re met by the security guard who asks me what I need done today. I tell him I need a new license with my new last name, since I got married 4 months ago and am barely doing this whole name change thing. He looks down at the kiosk and checks me in quickly. I am then directed to a row of chairs where I take a seat and wait to be called up by the girls at the front desk. They’re making sure we have all the correct paperwork before we begin the long wait. I look around and see women, men, and children all very zombie-like. We are the walking dead, I think. I take a seat at the end of the row and wheel my son next to me. Immediately, he begins to get fussy. No surprise at all, so I let him out and off he goes running into the vast space that is the DPS. He begins running through Waiting Room A and then Waiting Room B. It’s never a good sign when a facility has to have two waiting rooms to accommodate its guests. He then runs into the photo area where people are getting their license photos taken. I quickly change my mind and decide I’m not going to chase him around for the whole time we’re here. I strap him down into his stroller and start wheeling him around. This is the only way he’ll stay calm.

Slowly, the women at the desks are calling out numbers. “S3101… S3102… S3103,” the big lady screams. I begin to realize, like the intellect that I am, they are going in order… and I’m number S3120. At about 3 minutes a pop, it takes about an hour before I’m finally called to the desk. The woman quickly asks if I have my marriage license and driver’s license on hand and hands me an application to fill out. I’m directed to the adjacent waiting area to continue waiting for my number to get called. I look around and quickly notice something. These people don’t look like they’ve been here a few minutes. They look like they’ve been here for HOURS. I continue strolling my son around and think, Well, at least I’m getting my steps in today. As if I even count my steps like all the perky moms out there with their Fitbits. As I’m making my rounds through the rows of the different waiting rooms, I begin to listen in on different conversations. I overhear a woman say, “Yeah, Marcy said we’re going to be here all day.” The optimist in me immediately thinks Marcy has no idea what she’s talking about. The last time I was here, I walked out with a new license in less than 10 minutes. Boy was I wrong.

It’s been maybe an hour and a half when my phone dies. I knew this would happen, but I thought maybe I could make my 10% stretch my entire stay. As I turn the corner with my stroller, I make a startling discovery. The outlets are capped. All of them. And it’s not just your average baby safety plugs, these are thick, white caps that even warn you not to remove them. What kind of hellhole is this? First, we’re greeted with a sign that says no food or drinks allowed. Then, they restrict our right to use our phone. It’s obvious that probably everyone’s phone is dying at this point. They want us to suffer.

As I continue walking around, I hear another man say, “Man, if someone were to open up a food truck outside, they’d make a killing.” I never thought I’d come across a multi-million dollar idea at the DPS, but there it is. As I look up at the television listing all the numbers being called out, I realize it’s going in a systematic order like the women at the front desk. I realize there’s at least hope. S3110 gets called, then S3112, then S3114 and all of a sudden it stops. Next is L4309, then R0003, then Q4509. Okay, this is fine. They must just be catching up the other letters. But then come S3123, then S3134, then S3115. They are no longer going in order and it’s anyone’s game out here. I begin to lose hope. My optimism quickly fades and I don’t know how much longer I can do this. My feet are tired, and we’ve run dangerously low on cheese puffs. Not to mention, we’re out of water. As I’m strolling my way around, I find a grimy water station and figure this will have to do. Our survival depends on it. I fill Maxon’s sippy cup to the brim and pass it to him. He begins chugging it and I think maybe he can last another hour.

I begin to ask myself why I would ever bring my 1-year old son with me to the DPS anyway. Then I quickly remember as I catch a whiff of his diaper. He’s had a stomach bug for a week and can’t go to daycare. The fever and lethargy have all subsided, but the explosive diarrhea has not. The doctor said to give it another week, so at this point, I’m just accepting the fact that this is our new normal. I wheel him over to the bathroom to change his stinky diaper. I’m still slightly scared my number will get called as I’m changing this mess, but I realize I can still hear the muffled announcements over the intercom out in the waiting room. As I enter the bathroom, I’m immediately greeted by a beige changing table. Immense joy fills my heart. For all you mothers out there, you know these are not always at every location. At least the DPS has a heart for the children. I quickly change his explosive diaper and we make our way back out into the battlefield.

Everyone looks like they’re giving up hope. I scan the room and notice two other babies and two pregnant women. We are the brave warriors of the world. I begin to wonder and doubt that celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian have to put up with this nonsense. I’d pay good money to see Kim K. sit in a chair for three hours to wait for a poor-quality picture. Highly doubt these celebrities go through the grief us peasants go through. As I’m wandering off in my own head, in walks in a tall lady with her twin infants fastened in a double stroller. Alone, I might add. She is the bravest of them all, and I begin to bow down at her feet.

A few more rounds around the perimeter of the waiting room, and I gain the courage to talk to the brave mother. I am her biggest fan after all. She tells me her sons are 4-months old and that she does this all alone. No husband, no family, just her. I am more enthralled and commend her for her bravery before my son begins to get fussy. So there I go, doing laps again. Before my phone had died, I had walked 0.46 miles. Surely I had walked a mile by now. I look up at the television and out of the corner of my eye notice someone walk out. I focus my view on this woman and find it is the brave mother leaving with her infant sons. I am devastated. My one source of inspiration has given up and I no longer have anyone to look up to. This place is not for the weak. My phone is now dead, we have less than 8 cheese puffs, and I’m going crazy. In an effort to cope, I start doing something unheard of in today’s time. I start talking to people. I start off by talking to the elderly couple that keeps waving at Maxon. They are one number after me and are just as frustrated with the order of the announcements. I then walk over to a young, lesbian couple and mention how long they’ve been there. They are irritated too, but they are more concerned on how I’m hanging in there with my little one. I thank them for their concern and wish them good luck as I continue on with my journey.

Then the dark thoughts begin to come in. I begin to wonder, is this all really worth it? Do I even want to be married? I slowly snap out of it and remember that my husband is pretty cool, so maybe he’s worth it. We’ve come this far after all. Next I begin making promises to God. I tell him if I get called next, I’ll take my son to church this weekend despite my fear of him acting out. “L4300,” the robot calls out. I guess this weekend’s not the weekend. Sorry, God. Maxon’s hanging on by his last strand when finally the gates of heaven open up and my number is called by our savior, the robot. I briskly walk over to Station 10 and take a seat. My son immediately starts throwing a fit and I begin to feel overwhelmed. I try to place my thumbs on the fingerprint scanner, when all of a sudden I am saved by a beautiful woman. It’s the lesbian couple coming to my rescue. This sweet woman takes out her phone and begins playing YouTube videos for my son and he instantly calms down. I try to help out and she insists she’ll take care of him while I do my business. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and continue signing the necessary documents. When our session is over, I thank the beautiful woman for her help and she swears it was not a big deal at all. In this moment, my faith in humanity is completely restored.

I make my way down the hall and wish goodbye to a few of the prisoners I’ve made friends with. These people are my family. I wish them the best and push the clear, glass doors open and take a breath of fresh air. I am happy. I am free.

I look down at my new license excitedly. I look like a fat potato.

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