Something happens every four years in the state of Pennsylvania, where I live, as well as many other places – and it’s mandated by law.
I’m not talking about an election. I’m talking about the requirement to renew your driver’s license if you want to continue to drive. It’s the kind of event that few of us look forward to with any expectation of enjoyment. It usually means a long wait on uncomfortable chairs before eventually going through the brief process of getting a new license after getting a new picture taken by a disinterested clerk. The process almost always accomplishes the distinction of producing a picture of oneself that’s even less flattering than the one on the last license. I actually suspect that the purpose of the picture is to get you to drive more carefully because if you get stopped for a traffic violation, the officer must assume that you are guilty based on the picture on your license – without even taking your driving into consideration.
Today I went to renew my license. To my surprise the wait was short. I may have lucked out by going to Department of Motor Vehicles at a time that wasn’t particularly busy, but it actually seemed like the office was serving a lot of people and operating with much greater efficiency than was the case four years ago. The biggest surprise, however, occurred when my number was called, and I presented myself to the desk of an employee who really seemed to be her enjoying job, and she really seemed to care about me. She was supportive and wanted to make certain that I understood what was being asked as I completed responding to a few questions on the computer, and she wanted me to be relaxed and comfortable when she took my picture.
As a result, for the first time since I got my first license several decades ago, I’m actually smiling in a picture on my driver’s license. It’s actually as good a picture as I’ve had taken recently. While there’s a limit to what any photographer can do with me, I consider the good result to be a function of having my picture taken by an employee who cared about her job and the people she serves – and she really didn’t have to, as has been proven by other clerks every four years.
Each of us can take a lesson from this encounter. When you care, you bring out the best in others – and people notice. I would have gotten my license anyway with a typical lousy picture, and it would have served the same function, but I do appreciate the experience that led me to display a truly visible smile (I swear I’ve smiled for other driver’s license pictures but it never showed up).
While I can’t believe that I just did a blog on getting a driver’s license, I’m going to follow this by doing something else I never thought I would do. I’m going to leave a positive review on Yelp for a visit to a Department of Motor Vehicles office. And yes, I did let the clerk know how much I appreciated the way that she worked. By the way, and it might be a coincidence, but I’ve been especially productive the rest of the day.