Saturday, April 05, 2014

I had a positive interaction with the DMV. No, really.

I have had some frustrating experiences with the Pennsylvania DMV in my day. If you've known me for long, you've probably heard me tell some before. If you only know me from reading this blog or from some other venue on the interwebs, then you probably have not heard me talk about the Pennsylvania DMV, but that is only because I refrain from talking about it online, because anything I hither-to-now had to say about it might have been interpreted as a threat of terrorism.

It's not just a PennDOT/PADMV issue, though. Living in Tennessee for a couple years, things with T-DOT were no better, and my friends in New York always seem equally frustrated whenever they speak of it.

The acronym "DMV," it seems, is almost universally synonymous with bureaucratic density, inefficiency and stupidity. One might almost use the idea of having a positive interaction with the DMV as a potent metaphor for improbability: "When pigs fly I'll...." "It'll be a cold day in hell when...." "'ll be the day I have a good time at the DMV."

But this week, it happened. 

For reasons that are rather complicated, at work this week, I needed to find out how many trucks weighing above 26,001 pounds trucks were registered in Bradford County.

A similar study done in the state of Wyoming that I was using as a template cited county treasurers as the source of the information, so on Tuesday I fired off an email to our treasurer in Towanda. The next day, though, I got a response back that she didn't know, or have much idea who might.

My next guess was the DMV. It was a logical guess, but not one that I was very hopeful about that Wednesday morning. In fact, as I filled out the contact request form on and clicked submit, I was about as hopeful about getting a helpful response back as I would have been petitioning the government of Nigeria to provide me with accurate data on internet commerce conducted across its borders.

On Thursday, though, I received a courteous and not at all automated looking reply from someone at the DMV saying they'd received my question, but that it would require further research and they had forwarded it to their "research department."

This, was at least something to tell my boss, but I didn't feel particularly more hopeful. In college, saying something "required further research" was always one of those famous-last-words phrases. "Thank you for for submitting your application, we will contact you if it requires further attention." "It was just a misunderstanding, honey, trust me." "While the authors of this paper strongly propose the superiority of hydrolysis to the use of a reagent in the decaffeination of coffee, a real argument of the issue would require further research." 

Yesterday afternoon, though, while walking back to my desk and pondering how to go about getting information for another segment of the study that seems even less accessible, my phone rang. It was a woman named Cindy at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. She said their research department had looked into it, and asked if I had a pencil ready. She then directed me to a bank of non-searchable PDFs on their website that contained the information on vehicle registration in all counties in PA. The most recent data on those, however, was from 2012. So she said they had looked up the as yet unpublished numbers from 2013. And then she told me the exact number of trucks weighing over 26,001 pounds in Bradford County, and wished me a nice weekend.

And that, friends, was the day I had a positive interaction with PennDOT.


mattea kiriel said...


Unknown said...

I finished reading and could only wonder...WHAT IS THE NUMBER? I assume you're not at liberty to tell. But nevertheless. I remain curious.

Also, your posts give me hope for bloggers. There is someone who writes about the significant nothings of life who isn't writing about knitting or babies. I respect that.

Andrew said...

Why thank you, sir. And I would tell you the number... only it's written on a piece of paper in my office and I don't remember what it is. Somewhere in the 700-800 range I think.