Friday 8 April 2022

Unexpected Kindness at the RMV

Remember the snow storm I wrote about here?

During one of my forays outside to shovel snow, I stopped for a rest. It happened that I was standing at the rear of my vehicle, the vehicle my late husband drove. I kept his SUV rather than my small car because it was newer and better for driving in the snow.

In Nova Scotia, our license plates are attached to the rear of our vehicles, and on them we must have a sticker with the date of expiry of the vehicle permit. As I waited for my heart rate to fall out of the imminently-exploding zone, I noticed the sticker said FEB22.

People, I had been driving illegally for over five weeks.

I tried to renew the permit online, but the plates were in my husband's name and the system would not allow it. Apparently, the death of a plate owner automatically triggers withdrawal of that plate from the system. Since deaths are registered with the government, and license plates are issued by the same government, the computerized system blocked renewal and I needed to go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles in person.

I didn't realize that I wouldn't receive a renewal notice - or a notice of any kind - in the mail to warn me of this deadline. If you ask me, this is a stupid system. No one in a position to change this HAS asked me, but I would generously share my thoughts with them if they did.

Anyway, I wanted to get this issue dealt with as soon as possible and was determined to do it yesterday.

Yesterday I also had a physio appointment for my decrepit knee, plus the usual four visits to my mom to put in her eye drops.

I know this story is wandering all over the place, but bear with me.

Partway through the physio appointment I began to feel very warm and not very well and knew I was headed toward fainting if I didn't get cooled down, so I had to leave the appointment early, embarrassed and stressed out. I have fainted a few times in my life, and I've almost fainted a few more times, and when it happens it usually leaves me feeling "off" for several hours afterward, as (I suppose) my body adjusts to the stress. This time I felt even worse than usual, because I felt so alone without my husband to talk to and to check up on me.

By the time I had some juice and a nap and attended to my mom's eye drops, it was getting close to closing time at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

I was worried that I might feel faint again, I was worried that the police would stop me for my out-of-date sticker, I was worried that I would get a cranky RMV employee, and I was emotionally not all right, considering this was one more link with my husband that I would be severing. That may sound dumb, but it's the way it feels every time I have to provide information that officially affirms my husband is forever gone.

Fortunately, the young lady at the counter was extremely helpful and kind. She processed the paperwork quickly. The last thing she had to do was choose a new plate for me. She rummaged through the drawer of plates, choosing one, hesitating, then rummaged some more and came up with a different one. She showed it to me and said she picked it because it had the numbers of my husband's birth date, and was that okay or would I like a random number instead.

I felt such relief at her kindness. I don't know what, if anything, was in her background to bring her to using this method of choosing a new plate number, but I found it very comforting and thoughtful. Some folks might not, but she phrased her choice in such a way that it would have been easy to say yes or no without needing to say more. I chose "yes please!" with emotion and gratitude.

At the end of a not-great day, this young civil servant made me feel visible and cared about. Although I ended up having a good cry afterward, the world felt a little warmer and life a little more tolerable. It was a reminder that people with kindness and empathy can be of any age and found in the most unexpected places.


Sheena at the RMV, I'll remember you.





Boud said...

Such a good person. I remember vividly the awful feeling with every encounter involving announcing partner's death yet again. Too much.

Susan Kane said...

Such a story. Man. Nothing is ever easy, esp. when the floor comes up racing to your feet.

Elephant's Child said...

Unexpected kindness frequently brings me to tears. And this post has them pricking at my eyes.
What a truly lovely gesture and the perfect way to complete a less than stellar day. And yes, I am also a fainter, and it does leave you feeling 'off' for quite a while.

Mike said...

In the US you could at death's door and the DMV wouldn't be that nice.

Bonnie said...

That was a very special person. I can't imagine all the things like this that you've had to do and how difficult each one must be. What a blessing it must have been to have her help you!

Marie Smith said...

Such an unexpected act of kindness can mean so much. Sending a hug across the Strait, Jenny!

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

It warms my heart to hear that people like this still exist out there. ANd I sincerely hope you're feeling better now.

dinthebeast said...

In hope your knee is feeling better soon. The DMV has been helpful, if a bit slow, to me ever since I lost my driver's license. Those people working there are just people, and have good and bad days just like the rest of us.
We messed up and waited a couple of months to renew Briana's registration, so it was kind of expensive, but we do have the proper sticker on the plate now.
How much longer does your mom need eye drops? I seem to remember mine only being for a week.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

jenny_o said...

Boud: It's hard, isn't it?

Susan: It does seem like nothing is straightforward any more.

EC: It seems counter-intuitive that kindness would be the thing that makes a person cry, but I'm the same way. It undoes me. And I'm relieved to hear another fainter say that it has lasting effects. I wondered if it was just me.

Mike: For many years I dreaded going to the RMV here because you had a choice of two employees to deal with and I couldn't decide which one was worse. Things have changed. I think they reached retirement age :)

Bonnie: I've put off more than I should because it just feels too difficult unless there's a crisis. This was a crisis! And I was so thankful to have randomly met such a kind person.

Marie: I think the fact that it's unexpected says something about our world, doesn't it? But I agree. Thanks for the hug; I'm still feeling brittle today.

Charlotte: It's nice to see, isn't it? I feel better physically. Emotionally, still raw.

Doug: You're right - people are much the same no matter what. But for many years there were just two employees at our RMV and they were both crochety old women. I disliked having anything to do with them! That's what I was remembering when I had to face going in person yesterday. I'm glad I'm not the only delinquent regarding vehicle registration. I was in shock when I saw the date.
Mom needs the drops for just two more days, thankfully. It was four weeks in total - antibiotic plus steroid for the first week, then continuing with the steroid for another three weeks. Sunday night can't come fast enough for me :)

Susan said...

I've been following but not commenting much. What a kind heart the young woman has. I really don't know how karma works in this world but sometimes it seems to sense we need a boost. You are doing a magnificent job of getting things done.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely story. Like here the public service has become much more professional and pleasant to deal with...mostly.

Joanne Noragon said...

This is the kindest story I've heard in forever.

messymimi said...

That was a blessing. You're in my heart, i hope you have no more fainting spells.

River said...

This is why I try to be kind. I know how much it means to people. Some days it is harder to do. I'm glad you had that kind young lady at the RMV.
I'm not a fainter, have only passed out once after donating blood, they asked me to not come back.

Mary said...

Like EC, the kindness of Sheena had me tearing up on your behalf. Take care. x

Martha said...

What a beautiful story of kindness! A moment like this really hugs the heart. What a kind and thoughtful young woman. I'm so happy that she made your otherwise difficult day a little better.

(And I agree with you about renewal notices. We used to get them and now we don't. Not even for our licenses! Last year I drove around for six months with an expired driver's license. Imagine my shock when I discovered that! I immediately went to renew it and the woman who served me told me not to worry. Apparently many MANY people were in the same position since notices stopped going out!)

jenny_o said...

Susan: She seemed to have empathy beyond her years. I was lucky to be on the receiving end!

Andrew: I've had the best service from younger folks at banks, shops, the hospital and now the RMV. I think some of the older employees kept their jobs for a long time due to unions, not due to good service.

Joanne: Her kindness meant so much to me.

Mimi: I wanted to give her a hug!

River: It's also harder to do with prickly people, but sometimes they need it the most. And - no wonder the blood collection people didn't want you back, lol. Fainters take too much time to get them up and around :)

jenny_o said...

Mary: It made me very emotional. I think we can tend to keep our hurting hearts under wraps but kindness allows all those feelings to finally find their way to the surface. That's how it feels to me, anyway.

Martha: She really did make a hard day easier. And what's up with suddenly not mailing renewal notices and, worse, not telling us they won't be mailing them?? Even if it's triggered by a death, like mine, or maybe by renewing online during the pandemic, they could at least email a person the notice. I can imagine your heart dropping when you realized about your driver's license. It makes me feel better about my own mistake, if that's any comfort. lol

dinthebeast said...

Now that I think of it, my eye drops were one week of antibiotic and the steroid until the bottle was empty. After the second surgery I ended up with two partial bottles of the antibiotic. I don't remember what ever became of them.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

DB Stewart said...

Love this. What an impact we can all make if we choose kindness!

Yes, the sticker system is stupid and in AB we also do not receive notices; however, I believe that if you have AMA insurance they have a digital reminder system you can sign up for. Just an idea.

jenny_o said...

Doug: That sounds about the same as our regimen. The steroid bottle is almost empty and today is the last day of drops. I think if Mom had been putting them in by herself, the bottle would have emptied more quickly and she would have needed a refill, but it's easier for me to apply them because I can see what I'm doing!

DBS: I don't have AMA insurance but that's a good system to sign up for. I think I'll remember now to keep checking the sticker on my plate ... or not, lol ... I might need to make a list of house and vehicle related expiry dates to keep close at hand.

Diane Henders said...

Wow, what a kind gesture at the RMV; made even more special by the fact that the RMV is usually painful in one way or another.

I hope your faintness was a one-time thing and hope you're feeling better now.

Damyanti Biswas said...

What a lovely story. I think this owrld runs on the kindness of strangers, and your post just made me believe that more.


kylie said...

Your DMV worker sounds amazingly insightful. I understand it all as you have explained but I'm guessing you didnt say all of that to her?

I'm so glad you were treated with such compassion, just when everything looks black, a little star :)

jenny_o said...

Diane: Yes, the RMV here (and maybe there, judging by what you said) had a reputation in years past for grudging service at best, hostile at worst. Not sure why, but it might have been that the same two old gals were there for years and years. They're gone now, and in their place, at least one kind person. I don't think they're all that good, though. I had to get a disability tag when my husband was ill and while it wasn't a horrible interaction, it wasn't overly good either. Hence my worry about getting a cranky employee this time.

Damyanti: I would agree that the world runs on kindness; I'd say kindness from everyone, though, whether we know them or not. I'm grateful for it all :)

kylie: You're right, the employee knew nothing except that I was there to get a new set of license plates due to my husband's death. She had the death certificate I brought so she knew it wasn't recent. I explained what I needed without histronics. So somehow this was just something she took it on herself to offer, and at the same time offered a random number if that was my preference. I love your description; it's perfect. A little gold star in the dark.

baili said...

you sound like an extremely sensitive person dear Jenny or this incident has made you so .i am the same kind and stories of such kind people make me cry each time .i think that our utmost duty of being human is "kindness" and i always look forward if it is happening anywhere in any corner of this world.
this warmed my heart and brought tears in my eyes ,a wish to reach you and hold you arose inside me like a stormy wind when you mentioned your sorrow regarding your feeling about the absence of your husband when you felt fainting.

but it was such a relief that mother Nature brought that "touch of kindness"(longed by your heart desperately ) to you by a sweet lady a civil servant:)

and it fulfilled the space that bothered you that day which ended beautifully i think.

you shared it so nicely and your gratitude at the end of this post melt my heart once again by reminding me really few incidents when i encountered such kind people too .
if you are nature lover and like to contemplate on nature more ,she is the best friend ,healer and caretaker in this whole world . befriending her brings one understanding of "reality " and energy to accept it and strength to move forward smoothly .
hugs and blessings!

jenny_o said...

baili: I wish our blogging community was geographically close together! Ah, well, at least we have the internet to make us feel near to each other. The day did end beautifully, you said that just right. I used to find nature a good way to lift my spirits but somehow it just makes me sadder right now. In time, I hope that changes again. Hugs to you, my friend.

Steve Reed said...

What a great story. It's so nice to hear that someone was that careful and attentive.