Tag Archives: DMV

Story of the Day: 3-10-11


Doin’ Time at the DMV: Part 2

We came home, ate lunch, and then Sarah went out to get the smog check because the car is a stick shift and I don’t know how to drive it. Which is a whole other issue that we’ll get into another time. The smog check was no big deal; it took all of 15 minutes. We got a sheet of paper saying the smog check was complete, and then headed back to the DMV.

This time, I stood in line while Sarah parked the car. When I got to the desk, I told the lady we’d been there earlier and had been told to come back.

“Do you have an appointment?” she asked.

“We had an appointment earlier,” I said. “And we were told we could just come up to the desk.”

The woman sighed and handed me a number. “If they haven’t called your number by 2:10, come back and see me,” she said. At the bottom of our number, she wrote “2:10” and circled it. At the DMV, this seemed like an act of kindness akin to giving a stranger the shoes off your feet.

We sat back down and waited. By 2:10, our number still hadn’t been called, so I went back to the desk and waited in the appointment line. The woman who told me to come back was nowhere to be seen. This time, desk duties were being handled by a woman I can only refer to as the Worst Person on the Planet.

I got up to the desk and started to explain my situation.

“Hi,” I said, all smiles, “The woman who was at the desk earlier told me to come back if our number hadn’t been called by 2:10.”

“Do you have an appointment?” the Worst Person asked, itching for a fight.

“We did earlier, but we had to go get a smog check …”

She took the number from me and threw it away.

“Once you leave, you no longer have an appointment,” she said. She handed me a number that was 27 spots further down the line than our previous number.

“But the woman who was here before told me to come back at 2:10,” I said.

“I don’t care, sir,” the Worst Person said, beginning to raise her voice. “You don’t have an appointment.”

“Well, at least give me my other number back,” I said.

“Sit down and wait for your number to be called,” she screamed. Literally, she was screaming.

“You gave me a number that was much higher than the number I just had,” I protested. “I just want my original number!”

“If you leave, you can’t come back!” she said.

“But we came back and got that number,” I shouted. “That number you just threw away! And then the person who was here before you …”

She grabbed the number out of the basket and slapped it into my hand.

“You can’t just skip ahead of everyone in line!” she yelled.

“I didn’t!” I said, “The person who was here before you said …”

“Why do you keep repeating yourself?” she asked me. “I told you to go sit down!”

“Because I can’t believe you can run an organization this way!” I shouted. After a day of driving around and dealing with the DMV, I was ready to punch someone in the face. I didn’t care that she was a middle-aged woman, she’d clearly had it coming for a long time.

“Sit down and wait for your number to be called and stop bothering me!” she yelled back.

“This is unbelievable!” I shouted, looking for support from the people around me. They were no help. They all hated me just as much as this woman because I was making them wait. “Well, I’m sorry you’re having such a bad day!” I finally yelled at the woman, and then stomped off.

By the time I got back to the seats, our original number was up. We went to the desk with our smog check and other paperwork in hand. This time, I decided the best tactic was to explain myself as little as possible.

“Registering a vehicle,” I mumbled to the woman.

The woman took a cursory glance at our paperwork.

“Do you have your plates?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “We were told we didn’t need them.”

“I can’t help you unless you have your plates.”

Sarah was on the verge of crumpling into a fetal position when I decided to make a final, last ditch effort.

“The car’s already registered in California,” I said. Thinking that maybe this woman assumed the car had been registered in another state, which was why they needed the plates … I had no idea. I was just grasping at straws.

Miraculously, my tactic worked. The woman heaved a heavy sigh – a lot of sighing goes down at the DMV – and pressed a button on her computer. We were sent to another desk to get our registration sticker, and finally, at long last, we were free to leave.

So that’s the DMV, and it’s a mess. To be fair, the state of California has no money right now, and there are now only 2 DMV offices in the entire Los Angeles area. I can understand how this would be a heavy workload as an employee. What I cannot understand is how it attracts the most incompetent, lazy, idiotic workers in the world. It’s like an outreach program for complete assholes.

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Story of the Day 3-9-11


Doin’ Time at the DMV: Part 1

When President Obama decided to try and overhaul our asinine healthcare system, the results were predictable. People on the left (like me!) argued that healthcare is a universal right that should be guaranteed by the government. People on the right said the government cannot run their way out of a paper bag – just look at the DMV. I find that to be a somewhat auspicious argument, because the government runs all sorts of things, from National Parks to libraries, that are actually quite pleasant. Besides, how often do you have to go the DMV?

Well, I went to the DMV today, and I will say, the experience has had a profound effect on my thoughts about what the government can and cannot do. And one thing they cannot do is run a freaking DMV. That place is a nightmare. There is a reason why it’s shorthand for government inefficiency. Because, wow! What a fright.

Granted, we had a bit of a complicated request. We bought a used Honda Element from one of our friends in October that we never registered. I discovered this accidentally in February when I happened to glance at our Geico bill and noticed it only included one car. Meaning we had no insurance on this car that we’d been driving for four months. Um, oops.

I tried to take care of matters online, but the DMV website is unusable. So last week we set up an appointment for the earliest available time, which was this morning. By the time we arrived, the line was around the block and there was no parking available anywhere. Once we’d parked, we found out what the appointment did: pretty much nothing. We didn’t have to wait in the long line, so that was good. But once we got up to the desk, they handed us a number from the exact same stack of numbers that everyone else got. The appointment was not a guarantee of a meeting, it was just a guarantee that we would get to do more waiting.

After 45 minutes our number was finally called. We went up to the desk and explained our situation to our “customer service representative.” He looked at the title of the vehicle, which was from Texas.

“Why do you need this?” he asked. “This title is from Texas.” As if we were experts in what kind of paperwork the DMV considered necessary.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Isn’t that the title?”

“This is from Texas,” he said.

“I know,” I said. “The vehicle was purchased in Texas. But the owner moved to California, which is where we bought the car.”

“You bought the car in California and then moved to Texas,” he said, which was the exact opposite of what I just said.

“No,” I said, “the owner bought the car in Texas and then moved to Californaia.”

“When did you move to Texas?” he asked.

“We did not.”

“Then why is the title from Texas?”

I explained the situation to him one more time, but he continued to insist that we were currently living in Texas. I shot a glare at Sarah, who was on a business phone call and paying no attention to what was happening at the desk. I have a really, really hard time dealing with stupidity. When someone gets stupid at me, my entire body tenses up, and it’s all I can do to keep from screaming in his face. I recognized this was not a good move at the DMV; we’d waited this long to get an appointment – one flick of this guy’s wrist and we’d have to start the process all over again.

He eventually figured out that whatever was happening was too complicated for him to handle on his own, so he wandered off to get some help. He returned ten minutes later, sat down at his desk, and started poking at his keyboard. After awhile, he seemed satisfied. Between sales tax, registration fees, and late fees, we learned, we owed the state of California almost $1000. On a car for which we paid $6300.

We knew the price was coming, but it was still a real pain in the ass. Why is the state of California entitled to sales tax on a transaction between two private individuals engaged in a private exchange? I don’t know, but I didn’t really feel like getting into a political argument with the guy at the DMV. It was useless trying to argue anything with this guy.

When we got the receipt, Sarah looked at all the charges. They were all described using codes like “CK-122” and “RF2.”

“Can we find out somewhere what these charges are for?” she asked. She had been on the phone during our previous confusion and didn’t know that she was just asking for trouble trying to get this guy to understand a simple question.

“They’re for the vehicle,” he said. “Those are the charges you have to pay for the vehicle.”

“Okay,” she said patiently, “but what are each of the charges for?”

He looked at her and sighed, unsure of how far back he should go. “When you buy a car, you have to pay fees,” he said. “Those fees are all listed on your receipt.”

“Right. But how do we know what the fees are?”

He ripped the paper out of her hand, frustrated.

“It’s right here!” he shouted. “Registration fee, sales tax, late fee!” There were about 30 charges listed on the paper, each of which was described using some obscure code. We decided to cut our losses and just go along with whatever we were being told. It was easier that way.

Unfortunately, we were far from finished. One of the requirements for selling a used vehicle in the state of California is that you have to have a smog check within 3 months of selling the car. We were so far from the purchase date that even if the seller had gotten a smog check, it would have done us no good. So we were sent off to get our smog check and return to the DMV.

“Do we have to wait in line?” I asked the guy.

“No,” he said.

“Do we need to bring the car here?”

“No,” he said. He was eager to get rid of us and get back to dealing with people who had a single, uncomplicated issue. So we hotfooted it out of there and headed back home to get the Element smog checked.

To be continued

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