Susan wrote about our trips to the DMV twice before on this blog.  Once here, and another time, here.

Last week, I found Susan’s DMV registration form tucked in her “to do” pile, and noticed the annual registration was due on November 8th.  In trying to decide what to do with her car, we decided it would be easiest for us to transfer the title to my name for now.  So, I called DMV, and thus began a blog-worthy experience:

Step 1: Call DMV.  Wait on hold for 40 minutes.  Told by a representative that I would simply need to fill out a “Title Transfer without Probate” form.  Appointment made for 3pm on 11/4.

Step 2: Arrive at SF DMV on 11/4 at 2:45pm.  Told by the security officer that I’m too early and thus cannot stand in the “Appointments” line.

Step 3:  Stand to the side for 10 minutes watching depressingly negative and abrasive interactions between SF residents and various DMV workers.

Step 4: Told to stand in the “Appointments” line.

Step 5: Told to sit down until my appointment time is called.

Step 6: At 3pm, told to get back in line.

Step 7: Once at the front desk, told to fill out the back of the title form and then come back to the front of the line.

Step 8: Fill out form, stand at the front of the line, directed by a different DMV representative to fill out another form then come back in line again.

Step 9: Fill out form, stand at the front of the line, accused by a waiting patron of “cutting” in line.

Step 10: Finally given a number.

Step 11: Called to window 12.  Explain, for the 4th time, that my beloved sister died on October 16th, and I need to transfer the title of her car to my name.

Step 12: Told that titles cannot be transferred until 40 days have elapsed from the date of death, and I must come back and repeat steps 1-11 again on December 3rd.

Step 13:  Burst into hysterical tears.

Here are some of my thoughts as I reflect on my Public Display of Grief:

The line between tasks as positive distractors and tasks as emotionally overwhelming is not so fine when it involves a high-stress, angry place like the DMV.  I will need to put on some serious emotional armor before December 3rd.

A simple “I’m sorry for your loss” from a stranger goes a long way, even if it may not be heartfelt or sincere.  I’ve been calling account after account, and it’s amazing how many people just jump into “You need to fax us the death certificate.”

I have been a huge Harry Potter fan for years, and I now have even more appreciation for the depth of Rowling’s ideas.  If I were a witch at Hogwarts, I would now be able to see the thestrals pulling the carriages from Hogsmeade.  Maybe it’s not seeing death itself, but the intense feeling of losing a loved one; in any case, I feel peculiarly connected to others who have experienced this kind of pain and loss, which is so new to me.  My (and Susan’s) aunt has been providing much comfort and understanding, sharing about her own grief when she lost her husband.  Today, I received a call back from Susan’s NY Life (retirement account) representative.  It was 5% business and 95% empathy.  She lost her mom a few years ago, and hearing her speak of her grief made me feel like we were instant friends.