I have the best DMV.
Hang on, I swear this is going somewhere.
See, for the longest time, I couldn't understand why my friends everywhere else in the US talked about going to the DMV like it was a horrible torment akin to having one's nails torn out by a three-headed dragon that breathes fire ants. They talked about things that were alien and terrifying to me like "long lines" and "surly people behind the counter."
When I first started going to the Fort Bragg DMV, I never had to wait. Ever. Once, there were two of us there at the same time and we were mutually shocked and surprised, as were the two DMV employees. Nowadays, you sometimes have to wait a little while, but not long -- more than ten minutes would be highly unusual.
But even better, the reason I actually actively enjoyed going to the DMV, was that they had cats. Yes, you read that right. Our DMV had not just one, but several, cats. They wandered around, they curled up on the copier, they'd come hang out with you while you filled out paperwork.
The cats aren't there anymore, though, sadly.
I may be misrecalling the details of the story at this point, but if I recall correctly, some sticks-in-the-mud launched a campaign to evict the cats, which resulted in the rather irritated DMV employees having a poll to ask us how we felt about it, and it was pretty much 99% pro cat. I certainly think the poll resulted in support for the DMV cats, yet they disappeared anyway. I don't know if all the fuss finally woke a sleeping dragon in Sacramento and they were ordered to rehome the cats, or if they were tired of the handful of complainers, but there you have it.
No more cats at the DMV. Which, honestly, while I say mean things about the people who tried (and perhaps succeeded) to kick them out, they were, technically, in the right: it was a disability issue, as people who are allergic to cats also need to be able to complete business at the DMV. It wasn't fair to force people to drive all the way to Ukiah for DMV business, because that DMV, among other things, makes you wait forever and is filled with surly employees who look at you like you're kicking their mothers when you attempt to get them to answer questions.
So anyway, the DMV cats are there no more, but fortunately, there are many other working cats in my life.
There's the Great Catsby, of course, at the Gallery Bookshop, which is my preferred provider of books and also the bane of my bank account. He joins a long and illustrious history of working cats in bookstores, because something about cats and books just goes together like apple pie and my stomach.
It doesn't stop there, though. There are the famous bodega cats of New York.
Many hotels, inns, and the like have cats, including more famously the Algonquin Hotel Cat -- the current feline in residence is Matilda, but the hotel has hosted kitties since 1930.
Tama, a striking calico, is the Station Master at Kishi Station in Japan. She's assisted by Miiko and Chibi, along with her apprentice Nitama. Another Calico, Marzipan, worked in an Australian Theatre. In England, Larry and Freya hold the office of Chief Mousers to the Cabinet Office, tackling the rodent problem at 10 Downing Street, while Mike guarded the entrance to the British Museum in the teens and twenties. Stubbs even served as mayor in Alaska, while Rusik was killed in the line of duty (possibly in a contract killing) in Russia. Rusik wasn't the only police cat; Fred the Undercover Kitty also worked for the police, and merited a NYT obit when he was struck and killed by a car.
This is all by way of saying that cats have a rich history in our workplaces and places of business, which makes me immensely happy, because, well, I like cats. And there's something about walking through the doors of a business and encountering a cat that cheers me, and makes me feel more at home.
So I wasn't surprised when I read the story of Depot, the black cat who took up residence at a Home Depot in South Carolina. You see, she'd been happily living there for 13 years, helping customers out with whatever people do at Home Depot, until the management decided, rather abruptly, to oust her -- and she likely would have ended up in a kill shelter that would have euthanized her due to her age.
The customers, however, vehemently disapproved of this plan. While many stepped up with offers to adopt her, many more petitioned to keep her right where she was. In an amazing testimony to both the power of the Internet and the intensity of cat people, nearly 2,000 people signed a petition on Change.org clamoring for safe harbor for Depot. Many commenters helpfully suggested that since the problem seemed to be the manager, perhaps it was time for management to get the boot -- do you think there's a shelter for unwanted Home Depot managers somewhere?
Score 1 for cat lovers: after seeing the unfriendly response to their plans, management backed off. Depot will be staying for now, though they said that if she develops health problems or age-related issues, she may be appropriately rehomed (which I hope means being placed in a private home, not being dumped in a shelter). Management certainly are leaving the door open to adoption still, so perhaps one of the cat's new fans from around the world will provide her with a great place to retire.
What I love about the stories of so many working cats, including Depot, is that they just appear one day when they're needed, and they adopt businesses more so than businesses adopt them, becoming fixtures in their own way. Customers often testify to the delight of having a cat around the place, and how much seeing a feeling friend can do when you're feeling glum. Cats are good at filling a space no one even knew was there.
Here's to a long life ahead for Depot, and the next time you see a cat on the job, give her a pat -- and let management know that you like seeing her around.