August 4, 2020

I wrote this (but hadn’t posted it yet) just a couple days before everything started with my dad, and then I forgot all about it. But this morning Todd took Kiefer to a third-party facility to *finally!* get his driver’s permit, so now seems like the time to dust off this post and share it. No sweet stories of pain and hope here, just a tale of website woe.

In the Age of Coronavirus, school is happening online, weddings are happening online, even adoptions are happening online. Something else happening online? Driver’s permits, baby! And our oldest son Kiefer got his this week! Or maybe he didn’t, I’m not really sure. If you think a trip to the DMV in person is a drag, just imagine how fun it is to navigate the website, where everything goes smoothly and seamlessly in the most user-friendly way possible just kidding it’s the worst ever.

Things on the site range from kinda slow to “is this a practical joke” unresponsive. I kept clicking submit on the account setup pages and literally nothing would happen. No swirly “just hang on a sec” circles or anything. Nothing. Sometimes, after several minutes of waiting, a new page would suddenly appear, but sometimes we’d give up and try again, and by “try again” I mean start over from scratch, because any time I hit “refresh” on one of those unresponsive pages, it didn’t just refresh that page, it refreshed THE WHOLE ENTIRE PROCESS. I submitted my son’s social security number over a connection that I certainly hope was secure four times before it finally went through. Later on in life, when his identity gets repeatedly stolen, we’ll know who to blame — me, and the hack who designed the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles website.

We finally got through the system, I signed off on all the “I promise to honestly proctor the administration of this test” forms, and then we were told he had thirty minutes to complete the test. He finished it in three and a half minutes, and passed with flying colors. The final page said something along the lines of “An email will be sent to your parents with further instructions” but, seventy-two hours later, no such email has materialized.

I re-read the website many times. I finally found a “for more information” link, and buried in that link was a little reminder: “Be sure to fill out the online application, located here!” That seems like a rather important piece of information, doesn’t it? Maybe not the kind of information you’d bury multiple clicks deep? Adding to the obfuscation, that important little tidbit came with a QR code instead of a clickable link. Why, DMV?? To seem cool? YOU’RE NOT COOL, AZ DEPT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. But whatever, I manually entered the URL and found…nothing. A landing page with links to many other things, but no application form. Upon further inspection, there was an “announcement” (in boring black small-ish type that accomplished nothing in the way of drawing attention to itself) that online applications are currently “limited.” Not paused. Not discontinued. Just….limited. What does that even mean? There’s no link to an application, no date when they will open applications again, no instructions to visit the DMV in person instead. Just the irritatingly vague word “limited.”

Below that irritatingly vague statement was a phone number I could call “for more information.” Did I receive more information when I called that number? No, no, I did not. What I received was a lengthy recording, suggesting numbers to press, followed by several announcements, followed by a voice informing me that they had received an unusually high number of calls and would not be able to assist me, followed by a conclusive click. I haven’t called back.

“Kiefer,” I said at one point during this infuriating process, “when you hear people say that the government is the answer to our problems, I want you to remember this delightful experience, mm-kay?” He chuckled. He already knows my opinions.

I may be annoyed but I’m also a rule follower, so in spite of my current irritation at the DMV, we’re not hitting the road just yet, per se. But I did take him driving in a big ol’ empty parking lot, to celebrate a test well-taken. Someday, in the post-pandemic world, he’ll get a little plastic card with an awkward photo on it, officially giving him the right to learn to drive, and then we’ll have lots of other things to worry about too. But today I’m proud of him.

I’m also proud of anyone who’s made a more user-friendly website than the Arizona DMV, which is basically anybody who’s ever made a website.

This photo was taken this morning, 70 days after our first attempt. I asked Todd if the third-party facility was run any more smoothly than the DMV, and he laughed and said no, definitely not. Poorly-run operations notwithstanding, you see before you a very pleased fifteen-year-old (belonging to two very proud and nervous parents).

The DMV and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Website

  1. Delmar Groen says:

    What a challenging process!
    My favorite part of the movie “Zootopia” is the illustration of the DMV staff as sloths. Over several decades in multiple states, the illustration resonates with me. Conversely, I have been very impressed by the new efficiencies in my in-person experience with the AZ DMV in recent years (before Covid-19)

    • elisajoy says:

      You know what, that’s true — pre-covid, my most recent DMV experiences here had actually been pretty good! (Love the sloths in that movie too, though.)

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