Waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles is an activity that most everyone is all too familiar with: florescent lights beaming down while customers sit in chairs waiting in anticipation to hear their number called.
Yet this test of one's patience has taken a new form.
Replace the cold glow of office lights with the hot intensity of a summer sun, and the inside chairs with a long line coiling around the building. This could be the new normal of waiting at the DMV. This is what Bakersfield's F Street DMV looked like Friday.
After six weeks of closing the doors of 170 DMVs in California due to COVID-19, the California Department of Motor Vehicles reopened 25 field offices across the state late last week. Locations were determined by size, location, service capacity and the ability to provide enhanced service to commercial driver license customers. Other DMV offices will open in the coming weeks, according to a California DMV press release.
While Bakersfield's F Street location reopened Friday, it begins its first week back in business Monday, albeit with limited services available.
On Friday, a line of over 20 people surrounded the facility with every customer sporting a mask and spaced six feet apart. An intercom announced the next customer, and text-message alerts were also offered. A limited number of customers were allowed inside, and employees wore masks and gloves.
In an email to The Californian, a DMV official said employees have been trained on safety protocols, how to maintain six feet of social distancing, and how to properly use personal protective equipment.
Customers will be rejected if they don't come with a mask, a lesson Luis Villalobos learned when he was turned away after arriving without one. He eventually returned sporting a facial covering, and had to wait once again for 25 minutes in line.
"It's not that great, but you can't really complain," he said. "It's better than nothing. It's just something we need to do."
Californians who don't have an urgent need for the DMV are encouraged to delay their visit. During the pandemic, the DMV has taken action to reduce the amount of people in need of visiting in-person. Late fees and penalties for vehicle registration have been delayed, and the launch of the DMV Virtual Field Office allows transactions without an in-person visit. The DMV also extended driver's license expiration dates that fall between March 1 and May 31.
Even with the extended expiration date for driver's licenses, some customers just want the task taken care of as soon as possible. Edgar Campas' license was scheduled to expire on May 8. He considered himself lucky that the DMV reopened the day he needed it to.
After arriving, he quickly started sweating and anticipated a wait of about an hour in the hot sun.
"I was on the phone for two hours and I figured I should just come," Campas said. "My advice to anyone coming here is bring a mask, do your best to social distance, and prepare to be hot."
The Bakersfield DMV will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays.