The nearest major consumer temple is Wal-Mart, an hour south on Hwy 101, along the winding coastline. No mountains have been blasted, no coastline desecrated to make way for a straight and smooth 6 lane abomination. Between our cabin in Lilliwaup and Shelton, the nearest metropolis (pop. 8,442), are a handful of little towns about the size of a home depot. You know, the kind where they have 853 different door knobs but not a single one matches the hole that’s cut in your door. Because of the different towns along the two lane Highway, the speed limit changes between 50, 55, 35, 40, 25, 30, 45 and 60 about every quarter mile. It may wear out your brakes but it keeps you on your toes and looking for the next speed change, lest you find yourself cited for a minor speeding infraction, like ever one in my family except us. (so far)
Although in the years since the 2000 census the population may have swelled past 8,442 people, the Shelton DMV still had a line stretching 7 whole people when we arrived on Friday afternoon to get our new Washington driver’s licenses. (It should be noted that since 6 of the people were a family with small children the line was actually only 2 customers long). The door had not closed behind us before we were waved over by a smiling man who was so pleasant I was sure we had walked into some hidden camera TV show or some strange psychological experiment played out by scientists to determine how humans react in surreal and incredible situations like the twilight zone. I stood dumbfounded, looking around for Ashton Kutcher to jump out in a bedazzled trucker hat and send me off to the real DMV to suffer as God intended.
The man behind the counter just smiled and joked with us as he simultaneously set up both our licenses. (Simultaneously! At one station!) Noting as he asked for our phone numbers that if we weren’t comfortable giving that information out, he understood and was happy to leave it blank. Flashbacks of my strip search, finger printing, DNA and blood samples in order to obtain my California license flooded my mind.
Needless to say we were suspicious of his intentions, assuming that he was baiting us in for a devastating blow of Sun Tzu proportions. But when a whole 15 minutes had past of us sitting there (yes they have chairs across the counter and no bullet proof glass. I guess when you treat people decent they don‘t shoot at you) he expressed deep remorse and frustration with his outdated computer, gushing an apology for making us wait almost 20 whole minutes for both our licenses. At this point I realized he was not an emotional sadist or con man, but only insane. Perhaps years of smoking LSD and watching reruns of Andy Griffith had lead him to believe he actually lived in Mayberry. I told him if he took less than 6 hours to process our request I might have a stroke and die of shock. He did his best to help us feel at home, but in the end could not bring himself to make us wait longer than 35 minutes before we were standing outside in the fresh summer breeze holding temporary paper licenses, trying to stop hyperventilating.
There really is something to be said for small town service.