Not so long ago I stood in line at the DMV in my city. It was an enormous facility, and the rules were arcane and totally hard to understand. I had visions of having spent an hour or more driving across town with all my paperwork in order only to be told that something was missing or wrong, and being sent back home. It was actually a little stressful, because it was the last day of validity of my driver’s license, and I had no car, only access to rent-a-cars, so that would have been an end to my mobility, and hello Lyft (the better version of uber)!
Even when I got there I was scrambling to find a notary or a bank to officialise my documents, all the way up to my appointed slot on line. I am not kidding that the place was a zoo. There were lines everywhere, including made-up lines in the middle of the floor. People were sitting, being made to sit, it was like an exercise in how to humiliate the general populace, an exercise that petty officials often adopt.
I was one of those humiliated, meek people, and while I stood in one of the hundreds of lines, I read a banner they had hung about a charity that the staff at the DMV were supporting. The headline statistics were as follows:
- 33% of all girls in the US are molested by the age of 18
- 20% of all boys are molested by the age of 18
- The majority are molested by people known to them
And I am having a visceral reaction to this. As a father I can’t take the idea that someone would molest one of my kids. As a non-binary with all the crazy things that go on in my head, I can’t handle the idea that someone has so much evil in them that they would breach such a fundamentally intimate and sweet part of another person, that they would rob them of their quiet vulnerability. There is no greater crime than the theft of innocence.
And as I was standing there I asked the minder of the line I was standing in, some random crowd control line in the middle of the room that led to nowhere and nobody, just exactly what this charity was and how I could find out more about it. Well, when I came to the front of the line that I had been in, instead of being directed to a new line, he took me to someone on a counter behind the window, and he said that I was curious about the charity.
The man behind the window took my paperwork, and started to tell me that the charity was something that the team at the DMV had gotten together on and had agreed to support, because children were being victimised. He was quite eloquent about it, and so I said, how can I contribute…and he told me well, you could just add some money onto the cost of getting your driver’s license and it will get allocated appropriately. So, I said, great, and he said how much, and I was thinking, well it isn’t very much, so was almost embarrassed to say, but said $100. I think he was floored. He didn’t say anything. But I think the few people who do give might give a dollar or $5.
Anyway, whatever obstacles I might have had at the DMV more than disappeared. I did need to have my documents witnessed. I had not. He witnessed them for me. There are several other lines I was supposed to wait in. I no longer had to do that. He did it for me, taking care of everything.
When it came time to wrap things up, he was apologetic that their computer systems were down, so they would not be able to print my license on the spot and would have to mail it to me. He took me to the woman who was going to give me a letter as a receipt. He told her of my act of generosity, and then thanked me for it, and then gave me gifts from the charity—bags, pens, coffee cups…not just for me, but for my kids, for my wife. And then he told me I was so nice.
The woman then asked that I sit and wait for the letter and that she would call me when it was ready. 5 minutes later she called me forward and handed me my brand new drivers license. I said, “oh my gosh, I thought I was going to get a letter, how did you do this.” She just smiled at me and said, “thank you for your beautiful gift.”
I was in and out of the DMV applying for a new license in under 30 minutes. Not bad. I went next door and to celebrate I bought myself a very cute new dress. Now how about that!
But in truth, when faced with stats like that, how could you not be moved? Is our society so far gone that we prey on the vulnerable in this way? It really is sad. We have become unmoored.