I have had the dubious pleasure over the years of registering vehicles and/or licensing myself at DMVs in five different states. New Jersey was the worst. Bad enough, in fact, that I can say with some confidence—even absent experience in the other 45 states—that New Jersey's DMV is the worst in the country. Of all the things I love and miss about New Jersey, spending 16 hours over three days to finally register a truck is not among them. But despite its flaws, the New Jersey DMV was a great social equalizer. As a state, New Jersey has extremes of wealth and poverty, and New Jersey required you to come and sit with a “now serving” number pinched between your fingers for hours on end whether (very) rich or (very) poor. In a country marked by a shrinking middle-class and an ever-widening wealth gap, the DMV may be the last public space dedicated to bringing disparate people together under one roof to share a common experience.
A close second might be commercial air travel. Lets face it, the (very) rich are unlikely to be found flying commercial, and the (very) poor might find more pressing things to spend money on, but a pretty wide-swath of our population comes together on planes. Where else would the two men sitting behind C and I on our way to Reno for a quick Easter weekend getaway have met? The exchange started off as they often do on planes: “So, where are you headed?”
“Oh yea? Business of pleasure?”
“Well, I am proud to say my son is currently at West Point and serving this great country. He plays football and has a game in New York this weekend, and I'm going to support him.”
“Wow, man, that is great.”
It could have ended there. But the West Point dad with a close haircut, a lineman's build, and West Point jacket, did the polite thing and asked his twenty-something neighbor with unkempt curls sticking well out from underneath a hat the follow up: “So, what about you? Where are you headed?”
“Sort of. I've got an entry in the Cannabis Cup and have some meetings set up with some growers.”
And that pretty well killed the conversation. I don't know if West Point Dad knew anything about the Cannabis Cup. (I didn't, but learned a little with a quick on-line search. See, e.g.,this article.) But he probably knew enough to know he didn't have much interest in pursuing the conversation much further. In any case, I hope the two of them learned a tiny bit about a world broader than normally dreamt of in their philosophies. And at least they were both nicer than the guy who yelled at me during boarding.