True tales of the Secretary of State branch

"Number 54." My glassy eyes looked down at my own tab. 97.
Sigh. This was going to be a long morning.
The year was 2001.

Bridget and I had just moved back into town from Boston. That meant an obligatory trip to the Secretary of State´s office underneath the East Lansing gerbil run. Time to register the old ´95 Saturn, get a license plate, a couple of tabs and a new driver´s license … and grow real old doing it.

Did I bring a magazine? No. Ugh. What was there to read? Something about how 18-year-olds should register to vote? A recap of the "rules of the road"?

There´s the wall. There´s the clock. Time is ticking away.

There goes a minute. There´s a man struggling with the eyetesting machine. See those two holes … There you go … . Good job!

There´s another one yelling at a clerk about the car he bought in Indiana. Tough luck, pal. Should have bought the car in Michigan.

That clerk is moving in slow motion.

She just looked up. Was that a smirk? She´s enjoying this, isn´t she? I know she gets paid by the hour. Her break is probably in 10 minutes and she´s hell bent on exhausting all 10 of it on her customer. She doesn´t want to get called in to assist Mr. I´m Buying A Car In Indiana.

That clock is broken. It says only four minutes have gone by.

"Number 55." Gouge out my eyes or unleash a loud, primal scream?

Then, I saw the person presumably holding number 55 strutting to the front counter. I rubbed my eyes. Could this be for real?

But, I´ll get back to that in a second.

First off, I´d like to thank Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land for her recent decision to merge 28 Chinese water torture chambers ... ur … branch offices into 14. The plan is to shut down the downtown Lansing and East Lansing branches and open some Super Wal-Mart-like setup around Frandor.

Hooray! It´s a bit like Obama closing Gitmo. The dirty deeds need to be done somewhere, but it´s better to start anew than relive the painful memories every time I want to go to BW3s or park in the gerbil run.

Land thinks she figured out a way to get me in and out a Secretary of State branch office faster. Her idea sounds a bit like cowherd management, but I´ll try anything. The new setup has someone making sure I have all of my paperwork. That´s important, as you´ll soon find out.

Besides, this is all in the name of progress. The state is broke. We shouldn´t be paying for more leases when fewer will do. God willing, technology will ultimately make all branch offices obsolete some day.

I don´t think I´m alone here. Visiting the Secretary of State´s office ranks up there with a tooth drilling in the "Least Desirable Event" category.

Why else would Internet transactions have doubled in recent years? Could it be people actually don´t like those flimsy folding chairs shutting off circulation in their legs? They don´t like watching “Pure Michigan” ads in a loop?

Anyway, let´s get back to the story. Who was holding ticket 55 on that summer day in 2001 but Charlie Bell, the graduating starting guard for the Michigan State University basketball team!

Bell led the Spartans to another Final Four that year. Yeah, he gave the ball away to Arizona in the semis, but, hey! It was really Charlie Bell!

A future NBAer was right there. In this God-forsaken Secretary of State office. Just like me!

The distraction made me miss the ticket call for 56-59. But as my eyes followed Bell out the door, I quickly plummeted back to earth with a thud.

"Number 60!" A baby started crying. I left. Maybe I´d get a pizza slice at Georgio´s or something. I gave myself about 45 minutes to an hour to kill.

And wouldn´t you know it? Upon my return, what number were they at?

Yep, 99. When I finally cleared that matter up, what did I find? I needed to hoof it on over to the credit union to get a copy of my title.

Nope. I´ll never get back those wasted four hours. I just have that story and the following sentiment.

If the secretary needs someone to turn the lock on the East Lansing branch for the last time, my phone number is still listed.

(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS newsletter. His column appears weekly. E-mail