RTO and the DMV: Lost Brethren

Yesterday I had gone to the DMV to get my motorcycle plates replaced. I misplaced them someplace when I put the bike in storage, while I was away in India. This was my second visit to the DMV in two weeks. And yes it took two visits and about 4 hours of time to complete a simple task.

For the uninitiated, the DMV is “apna” RTO, or whatever it is called in your part of India. Department of Motor Vehicles here in NYC as elsewhere in the US, deals with everything concerning your license to drive, and the car and motorcycle registrations etc.

In this one aspect of a government department, I think our RTO is so much better. I never thought I would say this because I detest the RTO too, but not as much as the DMV.

For anyone who has been to the RTO in Bombay, especially the Tardeo RTO, you understand what I am talking about. Its as chaotic a place as can be. Agents are ready to pounce on you and promise to get any task done in as short a time as your wallet can afford. Most cases they do it. And there are so many of them that as an individual person, if you want to go through the proper procedures, you are going to be given the proverbial run around.

For years I used to frequent the RTO for various reasons. Get license renewed, get registration renewed, get duplicate license, you name it and I’ve done it. To the point that I knew the clerk who sat at window no 138, which was the window that handled all licenses issued in 1990. All in all it’s a corrupt bumbling bureaucracy, where work gets done, but not in the way it should be.

Now in the US, one would expect that things move in a more organized orderly and efficient manner. Right. Nooooooo, you crazy innocent human being, that’s the biggest misconception in your brain since you found out that the world isn’t flat. Government offices here suck, and suck big time. And the DMV is right at the top of the list when it comes to “sucking”.

In this latest round of DMV trips, I reach the place at 8:15 in the morning and am about 150th in line !!! Standing in the cold, does nothing to temper my mood. The office opens at 8:30 and we are herded in. For all the crap about security and terrorism, the security staff they have at the DMV makes me laugh. The personnel who man the gates are frankly dumbass. I doubt they are even high school graduates, but act as if they are the lords and rulers of all they survey.

So I get into this line to get a token. The task of giving a token is entrusted to three women. One is Hispanic and two African-American (see I am PC !!). They take forever to give a simple token and so the line crawls. Of course in the middle they discuss about their breakfast and what they will eat at lunch which is at least 4 hours away and damn to the people in the line.

After about 30 minutes I get my token. And another 20 minutes later get to the window to meet the clerk who will help me with my business. No. I go there and am told that I don’t have a document they need. I try to make the clerk understand that I have all the documents, but no, she is not ready to listen and all of a sudden raises her voice and creates a brouhaha about how I am arguing with her etc. Everyone is staring at me, and its not a pretty feeling. But then I thrive in such encounters. I stand my ground and ask her to show me the rules and she calls her supervisor and breaks into some crocodile tears. Fucking shit !! The supervisor, thank God, has some more sense than this dumb clerk and explains to me what the issue is at hand and also the solution.

So that ends my first trip. I go back a second time after a week, armed with every possible document known to mankind……ok u get the gist !! Same spiel…..same clerks, same token and then the wait. Thank god this time its another clerk and things go a little smoothly. She tries to bowl the same googly and luckily the supervisor had told me the solution, so I go on the backfoot and smack her googly for a four….. !!

The job is done, the plates are in hand and I am on my way out.

On the ride home, I contemplate about how inept and inefficient government agencies and departments are in the US. They sadly hire the worst talent in the land. People who otherwise would not get jobs in the private sector, get employed in post offices, DMV, Social Security Offices, and Traffic Violations Bureau. I am not being a snob here, but frankly if you have encountered this, you will know what I mean. In the US one expects a very high level of customer service and in most cases its delivered in private enterprises. But in government and public sector, it’s the pits. There is no means of redressal and in most cases, you are met with the dumbest people on planet earth to deal with.

Well, you would say that the situation is the same in India, and so why am I so bothered. Its not like I have never encountered this. But wait. Why it bothers me is because these dumbass people are paid a huge salary for zero job efficiency. My tax money pays their salary and government employees make a shit load of money for the kind of work they do. Postal workers start at 42K a year, and a month of paid vacation and a huge pension plan and all medical benefits. You need a high school diploma for that. An architect with a 5 year B.Arch degree starts at 42K $ a year, 10 days of vacation and maybe health insurance. That’s what rankles me.

In India, government employees aren’t paid all that much. In that scenario, I can understand and sometimes sympathise why they don’t enjoy what they do. But here in the US, there is no reason for them not to work to their full efficiency. And frankly, if they don’t want to work, then we can get people from India to do their work.

This is just one of many experiences I have had with dealing with government departments and its always the same.

In hindsight, I miss the RTO and the visits there in a way. At least they were fun and you went with the expectation of things not happening as they should. Here at the DMV, it’s the expectations of things happening the way they should, and the subsequent disappointment that hits home.

All in all, I am sure, that our RTO is as good if not better than the stupid DMV here.

So next time you go to the RTO to get your license renewed, do not despair. It can be worse here in the USA.



  1. Arzan: I empathize with your DMV experience, but look at the bright side of it…you got the job done after two trips. At least you were able to speak to the supervisor and got the right information. I am not sure I can say the same for India…you might have left without the proper information, and made to run around and get stuff on a stamp paper etc, etc.


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