Thursday, July 04, 2013

An Ethical Dilemma at the DMV

I've discussed the problem of people not giving up their seats for pregnant women on the subway. Well, what's the proper way of accommodating pregnant women at the DMV?

I faced this conundrum when I was renewing my license earlier this month. The DMV I visited, in downtown Manhattan, made you wait in two lines — one to get your paperwork ready and one to process it.

The first line only took about 20 minutes. (At the time I figured, "Great. I'm almost done." Then I got to the second line, which took an hour and a half.)

When I was almost done with the second line, I spied a very pregnant woman getting into the first line. No one acknowledged her or did anything to hasten her progress through the queue.

Photo courtesy of Digital Journal.

By that point, I'd spent almost two hours in line (or as a real New Yorker would say, "on line"). Even I — a fine specimen of a man — was pretty uncomfortable. I can't imagine how a woman in her eighth or ninth month of pregnancy would handle it.

Were I truly a gentleman, I would have given up my spot and switched places with the pregnant lady. But I was already late for work and couldn't imagine setting myself back another two hours or more (the line had stretched out since I arrived, so who knows how long it would have taken).

Finally, I got to the front of the queue. By that point, the pregnant lady had reached the second line. I wondered then if I should persuade everyone to let the woman cut to the front, or at least have someone hold her spot while she sat down.

But then I saw there was another, less noticeably pregnant woman in line ahead of the very pregnant woman. This took me back to a moment on BART when I asked if people could get up for a pregnant lady, only to be told by another woman that she was also pregnant (in my defense, she was a bit overweight and it was pretty hard to tell).

Anyway, back to my DMV experience. Around that time, my number was called by the clerk and I dealt with my business. When I was done, I just skulked out of there and figured I'd let someone else be the hero.

A cowardly act, I guess, but what would you do?