It was Tuesday morning. Better than Monday or Friday the news coverage had advised when they showed the long wait at the DMV– Department of Motor Vehicles. I couldn’t believe I was having to subject myself to the pain of standing in that long line. I’d sent in my renewal form earlier than usual.
But a lot of things have been different from usual over the past months. My attention has been so scattered that sometimes I lose my focus on the most basic tasks. I’d been watching the mail for my new registration that was due in December. One night when I returned late, preoccupied by all that’s going on in my life, I was glad to see the DMV envelope in the stack of mail. Rather than waiting until the morning to attach the sticker, I rushed out to put it on my Camry license plate, afraid I’d forget the next day and risk getting stopped since it was already late January.
The following morning, I realized I’d made a mistake; the tag I’d put on my license plate was the November tag for my husband’s car. I’d attached the sticker so firmly that it would likely split if I took it off. Then I looked for the registration card that went with it and I couldn’t find it. I frantically searched the car and the house and couldn’t find it anywhere. Desperate, I dumped our recycle bin on the driveway, combing through empty food containers and torn pieces of paper. How could I have thrown out a registration card? I’d never done that.
The only thing to do was to go to the DMV and lay it all out; I hadn’t received the card for my Camry and I’d destroyed the one for my husband’s car. I didn’t need this stress but I had to take care of it before either of us got a ticket.
I stepped into the line in the back row of the DMV office that was filling up at 9:10. There were two windows to process registration. I knew the man at the second window, John who was the father of a boy who’d gone to school and was in Boy Scouts with my sons. John had a somewhat gruff manner that had been off-putting.
That morning on my walk, I’d prayed for God to help me navigate my day. I anticipated challenges of dealing with the DMV, then driving to Sanford and feeding Mama lunch, returning home to Durham to gather financial papers for my attorney, and then driving to Raleigh that evening for my DivorceCare group. I knew I would need help to get through all those stops along the way.
Standing in the line and waiting my turn, I watched to see how fast the two windows handled each case, and prayed to get the worker who would ease my way. I decided that if I ended up in front of John, I wouldn’t mention anything about being separated. His voice was fuller than the woman at the other window and I didn’t want my business broadcasted to everyone.
It was my turn.
“Back Row,” John called, and I walked up to his window.
I stood before him and his facial expression didn’t change.
“Hey John,” I said. “I’ve got a situation.”
I gave the simplest explanation I could. In my typical way, I told him too much.
“Wait a minute there,” he said, his voice in that matter-of-fact DMV manner. “Which car is it that you need the new sticker for?”
I went back, more slowly, trying to stay calm. It felt like trying to explain an Algebra word problem and that always gave me pause. I told him that I’d accidentally thrown out the card for my husband’s vehicle and added that the renewal I’d mailed in for my car, that was due in December, I’d never received.
He looked up each car in his computer system.
“Says here they sent you the card for the Camry. Did you see that it went through on your bank statement?”
I couldn’t tell him that I was practically cross-eyed from all the statements I’d been looking at over the past week, angrily pulling together for the attorney’s list. I’d never noticed the DMV entry.
“No, it hasn’t shown up in my statement,” I told him, trying to sound more sure than I was.
He typed in something on the computer and then responded.
“These kind of things happen,” he said without looking up. ” You’re not the only one.”
My first wave of relief washed over me.
“Well, thanks. That makes me feel better. I’ve never done this before.”
His tone changed while he worked on ordering my new registration cards.
“How are Brooks and Ross doing?” he said, asking about my sons. We’d spent so many hours together as Scouting families at honor banquets, family camping nights, and our sons’ Eagle Scout ceremonies.
I updated him on the boys and he told me about his son, Andrew.
He handed me two papers to sign.
“Always a lot of paperwork,” he said, and I took the pen from him.
I finished and gave him the check for twenty dollars; a small amount for my huge relief.
“I hope you’re doing well now that you’re past all your troubles,” he said.
Oh, he’s remembering when I went through breast cancer, I thought and was startled at first that he recalled those days of me wearing my wig to events, my puffy Prednisone face. I was touched by his kindness.
“Well, we’re actually going through some troubles now,” I said, feeling like I had to say it, to tell him the truth. “David and I have separated. It’s been hard, but like before, we’ll get through this.”
He looked at me for a moment, as if waiting for what I said to register.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said, with a softer voice.
He handed me my new stickers and cards for both cars. My error had been corrected.
“Thanks so much, John. This is such a relief.”
“You’re welcome. I wish your family the best.”
I believed him as I walked to my car, thankful that he had been the man at the window.
Mercy can happen. Even at the DMV.
How About You?
Have you ever been in a situation where you were surprised by the Mercy you received?