Last night I was at work until 11pm. Planning to take this morning off, I woke up at 7:30am to drag myself to the DMV in order to pick up my registration stickers. (It has be a miracle that I haven’t received a ticket yet. My tags expired in February. A miracle. Well, maybe not, considering I’m a White woman who drives a car only 6 years old.) I finally passed the smog test on Tuesday, and the guy who helped me out said that although they were sending in the paperwork electronically, I could pick my tags up sooner if I went to the DMV in person. Not wanting to press my luck, I did so. But not without stopping at my favorite local coffee shop, Primera Taza, on the way.

I spent the majority of my time studying for the NCLEX-RN last summer in this coffee shop. Newly arrived to Boyle Heights and under the stress of passing (what I hope will be) the biggest test of my life, I sought out the familiarity of a coffee shop.

The man who owns Primera Taza is a community organizer extraordinaire. Juan started the Boyle Heights Farmer’s Market last summer, is opening a second coffee shop in South LA, started a community center, and knows pretty much everyone in BH. He gave me a contact at White Memorial when I was applying for their New Grad Nursing Program. He gave my housemate and I free T-shirts. He has offered to help out my church’s high school youth group in any way possible. He is an amazing networker. Juan wasn’t working at the shop this morning, but I asked the girl who was if she had been to the Lincoln Heights DMV. She hadn’t.

Off I went, contemplating the variety of experiences I might be having in a matter of minutes. This would be my first trip to the DMV alone. I had done my research – if Yelp-ing the DMV was considered research. On the website plenty of people complained about the time they had to wait, but one of the most recent comments was that the attractive staff made this patron’s hour-long wait better. ‘Ugh’, I thought. So when I arrived I, of course, scouted out the staff to follow up on this stranger’s comment. No attractiveness out of the ordinary, it seemed.

I collected my ticket and plopped down next to a young man in his twenties who appeared to be of mixed race, wearing a black hat, ear buds in place, playing a game on his iPhone. Behind me and to the left was a Latina woman in her thirties keeping her 4 year-old son occupied by tickling him – the kid had a GREAT laugh. I only saw one other White person. The room was pretty full but I only waited half an hour, content reading The Connected Child for a book discussion group on adoption hosted by Project Hope at Grace EV Free. I have 3.5 more chapters to read by Monday.

After only a few minutes of waiting, I realized that I was having a pleasant feeling. ‘Okay, what is that…’ I’m trying to become better at reading my emotions. I almost laughed – I was enjoying my experience at the DMV! Wha?! I realized that I felt connected, a sense of community, with the other people who were waiting. We were all there with the same sort of purpose – get in, get out. We were all there waiting – stuck, powerless. We were all there with expectations – to wait a long time, to deal with rude and impatient people. I smiled to myself. It felt good to be able to relate, to be in the same boat with strangers. We all have to go through this.

My ticket was called and Patricia at window #5 informed me that my stickers had already been sent out and I wasn’t able to pick them up in person. She explained that if I were to be pulled over the cop would be able to see that I had paid for my tags. She was cordial and friendly, not the exhausted and emotionless worker I expected. I thanked her by name and left.

I wasn’t disappointed. I felt full in a way I hadn’t experienced before. I hadn’t expected to feel a sense of community in the DMV lobby, or to hear a child’s rich laugh, or to have someone nice help me. I love that the Holy Spirit meets me in unexpected places. And I feel as if I know a little more about what it means to be human.

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