We’re not here to rip the Motor Vehicle Commission. As regular readers may recall, we were understanding when the agency reopened its locations July 7 to crowds apparently far larger than state officials expected.
Of course there are lines — there always are lines — we wrote at the time. How Gov. Phil Murphy and his team handled the situation moving forward would determine their competence, we said.
My son and I headed to our local location (in Randolph) a little more than three weeks later — seemingly enough time to get things in order and hopefully allow for the initial surge to die down. My son, 17, needs to get his driver’s permit.
Here’s how our day went. You decide whether the MVC — which Murphy praised earlier this week — has things running as well as they could be in the middle of a pandemic.
6 a.m.: We arrive, two hours before opening, to find the line already wrapped around the building. Twice. My son waits in a chair; I run to get food.
6:30: By my loose count, there are 223 people in line (and growing by the minute). The governor’s call to not come early — and not to spend the night — clearly is not being heeded. The parking lot, by the way, already is full. Cars are starting to park on the main road. I start doing work in the car.
7:55: I make my way to the front. Out of curiosity, I find a fellow father-son combo — about 50 people from the front — and ask how long they’ve been there. I’m told 4 a.m. I’m thinking the extra two hours didn’t make that much of a difference. The people at the front of the line said they had been there since 10:30 the night before.
I immediately think of camping out to get tickets to see U2. It’s impossible to explain to my son how big they were — or that people in my generation used to camp out for concert tickets. But never for the DMV.
8:05: The doors open. A nice and informative MVC employee starts going through the line and asking to see forms. She provides what’s needed for those with incomplete applications. It helps speed the process and is appreciated.
The first few folks are allowed in. As are people with blue tickets. I’m told they are leftovers from the day before, which is worrisome. Do some people wait all day and not get in? The crowd is polite —but you can tell the blue-ticket people are not liked. They are getting the looks that people with a FastPass get at Walt Disney World.
8:30: The MVC employee finally reaches my son. He’s No. 123. We’re feeling pretty good.
9:10: My son gets in the building. Hard to ask for more.
9:12: My son exits it the building. He has been told to return 90 minutes later — and has a text with a new number on it: G101.
Have to admit, this is the most troubling moment. Seems as if we should be able to go online and get an appointment for 10:45. Not sure why we had to wait. Shouldn’t we be past this in the state that lays claim to some of the greatest scientific minds the world has ever known?
Or, think of it this way: U2 hasn’t been big in decades — or, back when there still were records (the first time). Shouldn’t the process have been updated by now?
10:40: We return after a quick trip home to go to the bathroom. It should be noted: There are no public facilities at the MVC. And, while I understand the health issues — and more importantly, the liability issues — it seems crazy that the state can’t provide Porta Potties when they know hundreds of people are going to be waiting. Isn’t that a public health issue? We wait in the car. Which is idling.
11: Still waiting. We walk to the front and are told it should only be a few more minutes. And I’m told by bystanders that they have reached capacity for the day. There’s a sign in the window saying as much — but that sign is permanently taped to the glass.
11:15: Finally, he’s inside. Shouldn’t be much longer, I think. Feeling OK.
11:30: My son texts me, tells me he has made it through the first line, where his six points of ID had to be approved. And, as everyone knows, this is the hardest line at the MVC, no matter the reason you are there. He just needs to take an eye test and get his permit. He takes a seat and waits to be called. We might be home by noon. Feeling good again.
Noon: Still waiting.
12:30 p.m.: Still waiting.
12:45: He is called, he is processed in just a few minutes, and he walks out the door with his permit — nearly seven hours after first arriving. We head home.
That’s our story. You decide if this is reasonable.
I’ll give all the MVC employees high marks for professionalism and attentiveness. And everyone was wearing a mask — except for the security guard, which more than one person pointed out.
The question is: Should we expect more?
Should there be a better signup system? Waiting three hours to get a return time doesn’t seem to make sense. To be fair, we chose to come at 6 a.m. — but I left the facility feeling that the people who arrived at 8, or later, may not actually get through today.
They become blue-ticket folks. And no one wants that.