Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Technology Bites! (Los Altos TOWN CRIER, April 2013)

santaclaradmvThe new automated DMV!  Make an appointment online!  Or with our voice-recognition phone system!  Or with a real person via our call-back system – no more waiting on hold!NOT! Or at least, not always.My sweet silver-haired mother is at that age where she must renew her driver’s license every year.  I agreed that she would make the appointment on-line and I would accompany her down to the Santa Clara office.

That evening I asked how her day was going. She moaned. “I’ve been trying to make that appointment with the DMV, and it won’t let me do it.  It says I have to call an 800 number, and I tried it, but I was on hold for over 15 minutes and gave up.”

“Poor Mom,” I thought condescendingly.  “Just can’t cope anymore with computers.” So I went over to set things straight.

I filled out the online form: First Name, Last Name,  Address, Drivers License #, etc.  Submitted.  Red print fills the screen. “Your license number and name do not match our records.  Please check spelling and number and try again. If you need assistance, please dial 1-800-etc.”

I checked.  First Name on Mom’s driver’s license lists both her first and maiden names.  OK, so I type both names in at the First Name prompt, checked spelling carefully, checked that I had zero’s instead of O’s where needed, submitted. Red print fills the screen.

My condescension has evaporated.  Mom is not the issue.

So I dial the 1-800 number and choose the “Make an Appointment” option from the recorded menu.  A  voice-recognition recording requests Name, Address, Phone number, address, etc.  After providing data scrupulously for five minutes, I am told by the recorded voice, “Our service is not available at this time.  Please try again later. “ Click.

I redial and choose a different option from the recorded menu, “Talk to a technician.”  I am told via recording that the wait time will be between “1…hour and …1… hour and… 17… minutes.”  I choose the option  to have a call back rather than sitting on hold.  I “will not lose my place in the queue.”

Mom and I sit around chatting and taking care of some paper work.  Each time the phone rings we pounce on it – it is a friend calling about bridge. It is my brother calling to check in.  Finally about an hour and 5 minutes from start we get a call.  It is a recorded message. “This is the DMV callback system.  If you are … [my mother’s name] please press 1.  If you need time to get [my mother’s name] to the phone, please press 2.” I press 1.

The recording responds “The response you have given is not valid. If you are  [my mother’s name] please press 1.  If you need time to get [my mother’s name] to the phone, please press 2.” I press 1 again, firmly.     No good.  What is with my Mom’s phone? After the fourth round the recording says “You  have exceeded the maximum amount of time allowed to respond.  Good-bye.” Click.

The next day Mom gets on the phone again, hangs on hold for awhile, and gets to a real person, who sets her up with a preliminary appointment the next day for a provisional license and a later driving test.  Our appointment at the DMV involves minimal waiting and friendly, efficient clerks. Let’s hear it for people!


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One thought on “Technology Bites! (Los Altos TOWN CRIER, April 2013)

  1. Winifred Bellido on said:

    You have chosen the article’s title well. I have come up against these technological brick walls at times. What a waste of time.
    Happily there are some sites that are so easy to navigate that it is a joy to have them and they save hours of driving down to the government offices, waiting in line, etc. Refer your local DMV to check out‎ It works. (Thank goodness).


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