- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Patrons who showed up yesterday at the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles expecting to get learner’s permits, renew registrations or pay fines for tickets were turned away because employees inside were attending a customer service training session.

The DMV announced last Thursday that it would close for an “employee development day” so all 400 employees and contract workers could meet for workshops, many of which focused on customer service.

But some District residents didn’t get the message.

One frustrated man, who did not provide his name, showed up at the DMV’s main office on C Street NW during lunch hour and left in as bad a mood as if he had been forced to wait on line for half a day.

“It’s hot, I parked four blocks from here, I spent $2 on the meter and they’re closed,” he said before turning and starting back up the block. About 20 feet later he turned back toward the entrance. “It just had to be today,” he said, and continued walking.

Gordon Thomas, 23, of Northwest, said he was trying to pay a ticket.

“I can’t come back,” he said. “I’ve got to work tomorrow.”

Some patrons were more understanding.

Michael McMillan, 33, who lives on Capitol Hill, said he stopped by the DMV while out on other errands.

“I’m not really that upset,” he said. “If I had planned it, I could see where people would be upset. All employees need development, though.”

A brightly colored sign taped to a free-standing letterboard outside the entrance to the building read “D.C. DMV Closed.” Several more signs were taped to glass entrance doors and a letter from acting DMV Director Anne Witt apologized for any inconvenience.

Because the training session was going on, the front doors to the C Street building were open. Many of the patrons, who showed up at a pace of about one every three minutes, opened the door before the signs caught their attention. They would stop, door handle in one hand and in most cases a pink or yellow administrative form in the other, and read the sign. The majority still went inside, where a security guard confirmed the closure.

They came out just as quickly.

“I understand they want to have some sort of employee workshop, but there should be some sort of backup to say they’re still processing, but just not as much,” said Bernard Herrera, 50, of Northwest.

Mr. Herrera was not feeling well disposed toward the DMV to begin with because the purpose of his visit was to solve a dispute over whether he had, in fact, already paid a fine.

“That’s bureaucracy,” he said. “What can you do?”

Adrian Shima, 33, of Northwest, took the closure in stride. A foreign diplomat attempting to get a temporary parking permit said he would come back tomorrow.

“I have nothing to do anyway,” he said.

All city DMV offices will resume regular hours today. Ms. Witt told The Times this week that closures like yesterday’s would not become a “regular event.”

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