Unabashedly Female at the DMV


So, I had to get my Driver’s License renewed the other day before my birthday. The last time I had entered a DMV was four years ago on my birthday, and the experience was not a pretty one. I spent three hours in line waiting…a good lesson in why it is smart to get an appointment time. This time, I decided to go to our local DMV in El Cerrito, a town just north of Berkeley where I live.

What a glorious experience I had in the El Cerrito DMV. Now that may sound like an overstatement…glorious and the DMV together in one sentence, but I have to tell you, the people there SO ROCK.

First, I was greeted by a young woman who was obviously hip, wildly creative and unabashedly female. She was the friendliest person I have encountered in a long, long time. And, it was genuine. She greeted me with a sincere smile, gave me a number and showed me where to go next.

I took my seat and waited for my number. Just THREE minutes later, I was called to window 20. As I approached the window, I was greeted by another young woman, who looked directly at me, said, “Hi, can I help you?” and seemed to genuinely mean it. I told her what I was there for and she got to work.

As she was looking up my records in the computer, I noticed a faded flyer from 2005 posted between window 20 and window 19:

Shirley Chisholm

The flyer grabbed my eye because I had just been reading about Shirley Chisholm and her intelligent and courageous way that supported her in becoming the first African-American woman elected to Congress and the first major party African-American candidate for President of the United States. Then, I read the quote on the flyer, “Tremendous amounts of talent are being lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.”. I wondered to myself how much that statement is still true. I read all the time that the playing field is now even and women have so much at their fingertips that wasn’t there before. But, I also know that our patriarchal acculturation is woven into our daily lives in so many insidious ways. It isn’t spoken of, but it has made its mark on our psyches (both women and men’s).

I told the young woman waiting on me that I loved that quote by Shirley Chisholm, and she answered back, “Me too. I want to get a tattoo of it, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to shorten it so it will fit on my body!”. We chuckled together and I tried to picture where you would put it and how it would look winding its way around her arm. Then, I asked her if I could borrow a piece of paper to write it down on, and she said, “How would you like a copy of it? I’ll photocopy it for you!”. Such service at the DMV! She was not only serving me promptly and courteously, we were sharing a moment relating to each other as women, realizing the importance of honoring another woman who had made a difference in each of our lives.

As she finished up her work, she then directed me to the window to have my picture taken. I had forgotten that I would need to have my picture taken, and started to put my hand to my hair in hopes of doing something miraculous with it between window 20 and window 6. As I did so, she looked at me and said, “You are a beautiful strong woman, don’t be worrying about your hair.” I took her advice, and stepped to window 6 where I just stood there and smiled big, feeling my strength and beauty, and knowing all the talent I have has nothing to do with wearing a skirt.

I made a promise to myself, then and there, that I would let this talent fully shine.

Who knew you could get so much from the DMV?!

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2 Replies to “Unabashedly Female at the DMV”

  1. Wow, Julie! What a great story! Thanks so much for sharing it.

    And a belated but no less heart-felt Happy Birthday!! I can see the presence (pun intended! 🙂 started early this year.



  2. Dearest Amy,

    I thought you might appreciate the story personally, as you live close to this fantabulous DMV office, too. Thank you for the heart-felt Happy Birthday.



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