The California Department of Motor Vehicles gave me an early birthday present this year, validating our long unspoken love for one another. But we will get to that.
In October of 2010, the registration for my 1999 Silver Volvo V70 station wagon with turbo and spoiler(yeah!) was scheduled to expire. As often happens in the case of responsible and modern law abiding citizens, the registration was updated, fees were paid, and a receipt of my online activities was delivered to my inbox. The experience was unnecessarily complicated, but no more so than filing the forms in person. The Renewal Notice and instructions thanked me for following the law, and suggested that I allow up to 8 weeks for my Registration Tags to be delivered. And so passed without my consideration, the first of several mythic signs of things to come.
Nine weeks later (read, 'over two months later'), the X-Wing was a moving liability and an outlaw of the CA DMV. I spoke with several representatives and several machines (though I suspect more machines than I know), and shared my issues with the DMV. "I'm concerned," I said, "and I think we need to talk. It's been awhile since we really worked WITH each other, and I'm beginning to feel like you ignoring me sometimes." DMV reassured me that they didn't mean to ignore me, and that they had just been really busy recently with all of the State's budget worries and their upset clients. I said I understood and that I wasn't angry, even while they diffused the responsibility so expertly that no one in particular seemed to blame. The reassured me that my tags would arrive soon, and that someone was taking care of it. I was forgiving, and for a second time I dismissed a signal.
Weeks passed and Autumn turned to Winter. My days had become busy with special projects for the City, my evenings mired with applications to graduate schools, and in all of this haste and distraction the DMV and I had grown apart. We didn't speak much anymore, and its absence only occasionally crossed my mind during the most uninteresting of meetings with people in expensive suits. That is, until a Thursday.
"What the fuck is this?!" I waved the white carbon paper slip angrily into the air. "It's not a Monday, it's not even a Wednesday!" I spun about in search of my offender. "Damn you parking maidens!" I shouted into the eerie, empty fog, but there was no one.
San Franciscans understand the embittered relationship that residents have with the City's street cleaners, an ongoing rivalry that has become part of the City heritage and will perhaps continue for generations to come. Despair, frustration, a sprtiz of self hatred and a fundamental resentment of all powers that be may be rallied with the first recognition that, yes indeed, the paper on your windshield is you getting screwed again. In fairness it's not an enormous ticket, and the basic reasons are understandable. But imagine my disbelief when I - while just coming to terms with my fee after the standard 25 seconds of existential anxiety - realized that I had not been cited for obstructing the infamous street sweeping gangs of San Francisco; it was instead a bittersweet blast from the past.
CORRECTABLE CITATION -
EXPIRED REGISTRATION TABS. $65.00
Alas, our relentless love was catching up to us. I made a note to myself, that I would finally call the DMV myself and get this straightened out personally. On Monday.
Well on Monday, I had another ticket. To be specific, I had another ticket for the same "CORRECTABLE CITATION", within three days of the last one, I hadn't driven my car all weekend (which is what you get cited for, operating a vehicle with expired tabs), and it was issued by the same officer. To add to this messy relationship, the bishe had struck on Valentines Day. I knew then in my heart that this had become personal, and that the DMV was lashing out in jealousy over my other love and my ridership on MUNI. How petty, this sabotage!
I arrived at the office and called the DMV immediately, and an hour later I was explaining my situation to what I believe was an intern (do they have those?). Agast, she asked why I had not resolved this sooner. Appalled, I reminded her that I did not have the registration tabs because I never received them from the State DMV. Defensive, she informed me that it was illegal to drive without tabs and that I should have gone to the DMV in person. Nostalgic, I explained that my last unscheduled personal visit to the DMV took almost 4 hours and that I was told it would be resolved by now. She said I was lying.
That conversation predictably went nowhere, but I was at least able to schedule an appointment for the week after my trip to DC/NYC. I was directed to the website to make a reservation, which was positively useless for anything but some extended reading. After selecting my date and time carefully (I would take an extended lunch break on a day in mid-March with no meetings), I was required to call the DMV to confirm the appointment - to which the representative said, "Yes, you reservation is confirmed."
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