City Paper is not for tourists
Although service at the DMV has improved over the years, the insufferable waits and seemingly uncaring attitudes of employees at the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles during its heyday of dysfunction still get played for laughs all the time. Act cleaned up or not, our DMV has sucked up enough citizens’ money, work hours, and happiness over the years to justify an eternity of pot shots. But a recent parody of the agency has accomplished the impossible: It almost makes you feel bad for the men and women staffing our most maligned of city agencies.
Nicholas McKenna, a 25-year-old District resident, has created an online spoof of the D.C. DMV that has been live since January. The fully functioning site, which looks an awful lot like dmv.dc.gov, complete with working phone numbers and forms, pokes fun at DMV wait times (measured in days and hours rather than minutes), the infinite forms of identification that must be presented in order to obtain a D.C. license, and everyone’s favorite vehicular ass-kicking, the boot. But in addition to the more mundane take-down of operations, the satire features some racially charged stabs at DMV employees and outlets.
A “Message From the DMV Director,” written by fictional agency head Shae Kims, is all broken English and misspelled words. The letter tells residents that “Everyday, we is thinking of new services and featurs to be makeing the DC DMV a better place to live, work, and play.” A “DC DMV Star Employees page” gives biographical info on some of the faux workers, including a “former prostitute” and “recovering cocaine addict,” each of which is accompanied by an actual mug shot of a black woman. Among the services offered at the mythical “Anacostia Branch” is a fried-chicken menu.
With the exception of a piece about two white women, escapees from an Alabama prison who have held up the Anacostia Branch, and “Owen Parker,” “one of the most popular employees at the DuPont Circle Branch” who’s in charge of “making sure the olives are stocked in the martini bar,” all of McKenna’s characters are black. “I’m not a bigot,” says McKenna, who works for a digital mapping company by day and cooks up Web parodies in his spare time. “I have friends everywhere, grew up with all kinds of people, all kinds of food, but a good parody has to be detailed.”
McKenna, who is half-white and half-Asian, says that interactions with the world’s people, through a childhood spent in Saudi Arabia and a diverse group of friends, informs a lot of the stuff on the site. The fried-chicken menu, with its hot wings and chitlins platters, he says, got some of its spice courtesy of an African-American friend. “My friend Gary is black, he lives in Rockville, and I’ve gone to their family reunion.”
“It’s poking fun at stereotypes,” McKenna says. “I’m not racist. Well, maybe I am, because I do it to everybody.”
McKenna’s attempts at equal-opportunity request include a soon-to-be-public fake campaign site for “Delores Redd,” an imaginary dark-horse Republican D.C. mayoral candidate, and a newly added Dupont Circle branch on his DMV site, whose home page has a picture of shirtless, partying men and offers video rental, personal training, massage, and Martini services. Other amenities include “Gay licensing”—special permits that contain information such as “AIDS/HIV status,” “type of car driven,” “favorite Madonna and Brittney Spears albums,” and “gym membership login.”
Janis Hazel, spokesperson for the agency said, via e-mail, that “the DC DMV won’t…dignify this website with a comment. We have more pressing issues before us which all pertain to providing residents and visitors to the District of Columbia with accurate and timely customer service in all DMV transactions which reflects our continuing commitment to ensuring the safe operation of motor vehicles and public safety.”
Despite the department’s refusal to acknowledge the site and its contents, McKenna suspects that someone at the DMV has been reading over his work. “Looking at my statistics, there are a large number of visitors from something something something at dc dot gov,” he says.