Red - Column for 3/14

Car Troubles

This weekend my love and I are driving around and we drive by the Department of Motor Vehicles (they changed the name to Motor Vehicle Administration sometime in the early 90's). He says "We're going to have to visit there someday soon." And I reply cheerfully, "that's OK, I'm good until March" ... "Oh, F*ck" I then say in a dejected voice as it dawns on me that it is March, and actually well into it. See, I had checked the tag on my car 5 months ago noted that I wouldn't have to worry about it for some months, promptly forgot about it, and hadn't thought about it at all in the intervening 5 months.

Well, I had already scheduled to take a day off on Monday so I thought I would take care of it then. I was hoping to have it as a real day off, but, Oh well.

I wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to go through the expensive and time consuming process of having a car that has the right tags for the location that I live in. And, basically, I failed.

I started out cheerfully enough with registration and title to test the water. Having dealt with mind boggling bureaucracy of the Maryland MVA in the past I was pretty sure that I wouldn't make it all the way through the system on the first try, so I started early.

And after waiting in the information line, I discovered that, yep, I couldn't do it with what I had.

I needed to fill out this form and I needed a Maryland something something fee inspection.

"could please repeat that?"

a "Maryland mumble mumble fee inspection., next"

I think, well, maybe the back of the form will tell me, it is after all, a dense blur of 8 point type. ...nope, no mention of an inspection. I'm beginning to wonder if she made it up. But, I trundle off to the neighborhood service station, which advertises that it does inspections. And up there on the board it says: State Inspection $55.

"I'd like to get my car inspected please." I say hoping that this is the right type inspection.

"Oh, you have to leave your car here all day." says the acne speckled attendant. It's about 11am at this point.

So I'm not going to get the car registered today.

I go away and think about it. I still want to do the right thing. So the next day I make arraignments to leave my car with them all day. (The same kid who told me that the day before, said it about four times during the conversion wherein I was asking if I could leave the car at 7 AM and pick it up at 6 PM, which sounded a lot like all day to me)

And I still have to arrange to take another day off of work to get the silly thing registered.

I drop my car off to get her safety inspection in the morning and walk to the Metro from there. About the middle of the day I get a phone call and the mechanic tells me that my car which was perfectly fine when I dropped it off is going to cost $620 to fix. Well, $55 of that is the inspection, and I got her oil changed, 'cause it was about that time. And she probably does need new tires in the back. But where does the other approximately $300 dollars come from...the turn signal.

My seven-year-old car, if you are turning left, doesn't shut the turn signal off by herself. You have to flip it up for her. Now, this little minor annoyance, which I'm so used to that I turn the turn signal off when I drive other people's cars, is not a safety issue. The turn signal still works.

I think he basically saw someone he could fleece.

Oh, and of course, to get a second opinion I'd have to pay $55 to someone else.

So I gave up, came home and had the car registered in California in less than five minutes using the internet.

Columns by Red