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A Day at the Most Frustrating Place in America

If Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth, then the Department of Motorized Vehicles (DMV) is the least. California has a very strong car culture due to the vast amount of sprawl from urban development. Most urban nodes are connected by freeways that are completely un-bike-able. The public transportation system is also quite questionable: the subway station is a 30 minute walk away from Caltech, subways come once every 20 minutes, buses stop running in the early evening, and bus routes seem like they are designed to make your trip as possible. With all these pitfalls, I decided to get a driver’s license and hopefully a car in the near future.

I could have gotten my driver’s license a long time ago back home in Vancouver, BC. However, I was lazy and kept on putting it off until my learners permit expired. Then it just kept dragging on until I came here. I figured that this is the best summer to get my DL since my life will only get more hectic from here.

The California DMV offers a service where you can make appointments online. When I checked the booking service, it said that the next available time is three weeks away. A friend of mine said that I can simply show up and wait in line. Another friend who overheard shared her DMV horror story with me: she waited 3 hours, got to the front of the line and the person told her that the legal documents she provided cannot be accepted and sent her back. If once is not bad enough, this happened to her TWICE!

I was determined to be the "lucky one" so I made a copy of every legal document I have and took it with me. I went fairly early in the morning so I only waited an hour or so. When I finally reached the front desk, they told me to print out my most recent immigration record at the nearby Staples. He gave me a "fast-pass" kind of ticket and I went to go print. When I returned, I was helped by a different person. He told me that I cannot use photocopies. THE FIRST GUY DIDN’T TELL ME ANYTHING ABOUT THIS! I complained and he brought of the first guy I had worked with, and he was like "oh ya, oops, sorry." Well guess what, "sorry" doesn’t get back the two hours I have now spent.

I Ubered back to campus, got the originals and Ubered back. Thankfully the guy took pity on me and gave me a faster number. A whole room of people with only a few windows open really exercised my patience. I am someone who hates waiting for anything, be it for videos to load, restaurants to serve my food, or people to reply to urgent emails.

To get a DL, I first needed a permit. They gave me a vision test and a knowledge test, then took my finger prints and photo. This whole process went by rather smoothly except for the fact that the permit guy is kind of racist. I finished my knowledge test and went to the counter. The dude took one look at me and was like "here’s the test in Chinese" and I replied "no thanks, I just finished the English version". He just shrugged and proceeded to process my information. No offense, but he really needs to develop some world view.

After a whole day of the DMV torture, I have a permit to start driving lessons. Unfortunately I will have to return to take the actual road test.

Sunny Cui ’20

Option: Electrical Engineering

House Affiliation: Lloyd

Graduation Year: 2020

Sunny is from Vancouver, BC where it rains over 200 days a year. At Caltech, she serves on the excomm of the Caltech Y and Society of Women Engineers, and plays piano with the chamber music program. When she is not doing sets and lab work, she enjoys hiking, shopping, cooking, drawing, and scouring the internet for items to add to her never-ending bucket list.