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Have you been to the Motor Vehicle Department lately? No?
Neither has anybody else.
When you go to the MVD, you don’t know whether the staff will have the answers to your assorted registration-related questions. You can’t say whether you’ll pass the vision test. As you set out on your journey to the department’s office on Central Avenue, you know only one thing for sure: You’ll have to wait your turn.
And that might not come for a long time. That lengthy line of chairs beneath the window is always full of paperwork-toting residents, some reading books or listening to iPods, all of them prepared for the long morning or afternoon ahead.
But these days, the chairs look more like an Andy Warhol piece: one empty plastic seat after another.
When we visited last week, two staff members presided over the spookily quiet room, and when we spoke with them, they seemed relieved to have the distraction.
They said the office had seen very little business over the past several months, and we speculated together that worries about stability at Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as general anxieties about the U.S. economy, had led to fewer car sales – and less need for people to visit the MVD.
The availability of online MVD services offers a possible benign reason for so many unpeopled days. High gas prices – and very affordable bus rides from Atomic City Transit – might also be having an effect.
Whatever the cause, it unsettled us.
We, like everyone in Los Alamos, have known for a while that times, as they say, are tough. Although people have cut back on their trips to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, local business owners across the county speak despairingly of receipt totals. Realtors have discouraged homeowners from putting their houses on the market right now. Everyone seems on edge.
However, it hadn’t really sunk in until we stood in the doorway, staring at that vacant room: Even the MVD is suffering – the place no one ever wants to visit but, in order to drive legally, has to. It seemed as though the MVD – at very least – was beyond the skinny fingers of an economic slowdown, but it doesn’t anymore.
However, there’s hope: At least we still have to wait at the post office.