Note: This series is broken up into three parts due to its being too long–kind of like the lines at the MVA. So check back tomorrow and Thursday at 4:00pm for the continuing, never ending saga of the MVA. Just like the real thing!
Well, it’s about that time.
The state of Maryland considers me legally too young to responsibly imbibe alcohol in my own house. Same goes for pornography, cigarettes, and marijuana. I am also considered too young to vote and have my voice represented in our country’s system of democracy. But the state of Maryland does consider me fit to pilot a two-ton killing machine at up to 60 miles per hour through public places with lots of pedestrians.
Of course, the government has ways of making sure that only responsible people apply to get their permits. You have to be at least 15 years and 9 months of age, you have to live in Maryland, you have to attend school, and you have to have enough self-control not to set the Harry S. Truman Parkway MVA on fire while going through the process.
What’s wrong with the MVA? The MVA is hell for teenagers. And adults. And anyone, really. The MVA is the equivalent of that wedge of broccoli on your plate you need to eat to get dessert—you know it needs to be there, but you can’t help but feel that it was made especially awful just for you.
And I’m not the only one who feels that way. Online reviewers give it a one out of five stars—the lowest possible rating. Norman Bates’ hotel in Psycho would have a higher TripAdvisor rating than that.
I’m not saying that the people who work there and run it are inept or mean…far from it. But the whole place gives off an unfriendly and overly bureaucratic feel that you don’t want to project towards the people you’re trying to help—especially teenagers who are experiencing local bureaucracy for the first time.
Let’s take a look at the problems the MVA needs to fix.
If someone were to adapt Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s dystopian tale of efficient and soulless bureaucracy run amok, into a movie, there would be no need to construct a giant LA soundstage—most of the filming could be done, very effectively, in our own Annapolis MVA.
The MVA avoids windows like Mitt Romney avoids his Massachusetts gubernatorial legislation. The only portals to the outside world are the sliding doors in and out of the facility. Optimal places for a skylight have been wisely covered with some plastic industrial surface. But never fear, for there’s fluorescent lighting, creating an artificial brightness reminding you that the State of Maryland still wants you to be able to see—they just don’t want you to feel pleasant.
Little numbered booths line the sides of the MVA, each staffed by a person with a computer, processing Important Government Things. The booths look like cattle stalls. In between the cattle stalls are rows of ugly, hard gray benches where people sit while waiting to be called to the stalls. You’re called to the stall when you see your number (on a ticket you’ve been given previously) flash on an overhead television monitor. So at best, this resembles the world’s unfriendliest airport, and at worst, the world’s friendliest concentration camp.
And don’t even get me started on decoration. There was one fake plant and even it looked wilted. There was no art to be found anywhere, unless you counted that staged photo of an elderly man and woman reviewing their social security options on some propaganda poster.
You’d think that, with tax dollars galore, advertisements for repair shops and insurance companies running on a screen in plain view of the desolate benches, the MVA might want to spruce up the place a bit and make it look a little less like the place where JK Rowling conceived of the soul-sucking Dementor characters. Interactions between governments and the people should not take place in ugly, artificially-lit, cattle-herding buildings. Not good interactions, anyway.
Join us next time for part 2, in which I discuss the ins and outs of the permitting process and why it needs to change!