FUNNY BUSINESS: Pushing my luck with two good trips to the BMV

November 19, 2007

Like a lot of people-which is to say, most Indiana residents-I have long greeted going to the license bureau with the enthusiasm customarily reserved for dental surgery. The difference, of course, is that you get drugs for your root canal, but not even a double helping of nitrous oxide could make a fun afternoon out of getting new license plates.

Well, hold on to your hats. I had to go to the license bureau twice last month, once for a new license and once to plate a new vehicle, and it was actually pleasant. Both times. Without pharmacology.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "He did, too, have drugs." After all, this is the license bureau I'm talking about-traditionally, the only branch of state government despised by everyone, regardless of race, color, creed or party affiliation. Even Amish people hate going to the license bureau, and with good reason. Amish people have always had better technology. We're talking about the government agency with the Kenner Close-And-Play computer system.

Add to that their reputation as the most disinterested-in-public-service public servants in all of state government, the customary two or three trips before you have all the required paperwork with you (including your automobile information plus a utility bill, passport, third-grade report card and note from your mom), and the time even one trip steals from your life, and you can see why people traditionally preferred a nice wisdom tooth extraction.

But no. I did this without even so much as an aspirin, and enjoyed the experience, except maybe for the license photo. I always look like an escaped convict in my license photos. Which is different from my passport photos. In those, I look like an escaped mental patient.

But I digress. The point is, going to the license bureau was pleasant. How weird.

It reminded me of the days long ago when AAA had license bureaus in its Indianapolis offices. You walked in and people actually smiled when you said you needed a new driver's license. They acted like they'd been waiting all day for you to come in for a new escaped convict picture. Ah, yes. Good times. (Good times which may be coming back, by the way, as AAA and the BMV are teaming up again. I think they should call it "BAMAVA.")

Well, it was almost like that the other day. And how, do you ask, did this come about?

I made an appointment.

Yes. In one of the more sensible moves I have seen enacted by government, and particularly Indiana government, and more particularly the latest incarnation of Indiana government, you can visit the BMV by appointment at certain participating branches-Beech Grove, Carmel, Fishers, Greenwood, Plainfield or South Meridian Street Indianapolis. Or rather, you can until the end of this month, when the pilot program runs out.

You just go online, pick an available time, and show up. No more sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours on end, memorizing the driver's manual because you forgot to bring reading material. You just check in, transact your business and leave.

What's more, the people are nice. The ones I dealt with were, anyway, at the Beech Grove branch-especially Shelly Kirby, who told me she loved her job behind the counter.

"It's like speed dating," she explained, "without the dating part."

Of course, being a government job, and being MY government job, there had to be a screw-up somewhere. The computer (see above under 50 Percent Off At Toys R Us) coughed up a government-job-size glitch, substituting the dealer number for the price of my truck. For a short while, the state of Indiana was under the impression that I had purchased a used Ford F-150 for $405,000.

"Hmm," said my new friend Shelly. "For that price, it better have a cupholder or two in there."

Imagine that. Convenience and comedy at the license bureau.

So here's to the BMV. Your program is a good one. With this kind of progress, we can almost remove you from the list of Things We Love To Hate, but let's not get carried away. After all, you're still a branch of government.

Redmond is an author, columnist and speaker, and a consultant on business writing and workplace issues. His column appears monthly. You can reach him at mredmond@ibj.com.
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