Archive for June, 2008

Ah, Los Angeles 5

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Licenses and Registrations and the DMV, oh my.

You know you’re pushing your luck. Residents tell you that the cops watch for people from out of state, especially Nevada since it’s much cheaper to register cars there and a lot of Californians have decided that cheaper is better. But,  if caught, the fine makes you think the state and its cities are trying to cover budget deficits with traffic fines.

You know that sooner or later you have to bite the bullet and reregister your car and identify yourself as a Californian. Odd compliment of feelings accompanies that thought.

Your neighbors and friends say that you do everything via the mail but then they realize you can’t do it that way because you’re not renewing, you are relocating. They look away to hide their look of compassion or, in some cases, gloat, and turn back to you with a positive gleam in their eyes.

You are advised to make an appointment with the dmv. An appointment? Oh yes, they say, it’s much quicker. Get smogged first. Smogging is getting your exhaust checked first. They seem to think here that only California, Colorado and New York have such a requirement. That sounds a little far fetched but then so do most things.

You go to the smog check only station which means they don’t do any repairs and are less likely to steer you wrong. You strike up a conversation with the attendant who is Armenian and tells you a brief and horrid history of the Armenian people and that there are a million Armenians in Los Angeles. That too seems a little far fetched but… Your car passes without a problem. Easy.

People advise you to go to Glendale because it’s one of the few locations that can handle the car and driver’s license at the same time. There used to be one in Hollywood but the powers that be decided that no one drives in Hollywood therefore the dmv there was unneeded which seems to fly in the face of reality but….

You go on line and make your appointment. Easy! You read the requirements. Easy! Glendale is a perfectly acceptable and accessible suburb. It takes 15 minutes to drive to the dmv there. Easy! You stand in the appointment line, appropriately set off by a red carpet and reach the state’s representative in moments, easy, who takes a look at your documents and points out that you are not even close to what you need.

You drive home. Not so easy. Dig through all of your stuff for things you can’t imagine them needing. Take a couple of weeks to recover and then make another appointment.

Drive back to Glendale. Easier because you know where you’re going. No one’s even on the red carpet. Breeze. Your documents pass muster. Fabulous. She says, “you must do the car first.” So one of you starts the driver’s license process and the other parks in the “Verification” Line. A woman who looks like a recent star of a soap opera walks around your car. You would be attracted to her except for the feeling of repulsion emanating from her very core. She hands you a slip that says you have the car you claim to have and storms off to repulse the next customer. Iffy.

You go back to the red carpet line and they smile and send you to a seat where you wait for your number to be called. “Wait a minute”, you say, “I have an appointment.” “Yes, you d”o, they say. “Watch for your number”, they say. Concerned. You watch and listen and the seats around you are like musical chairs with people sitting and popping up to disappear into the land of hope and legality. Your number doesn’t come. Jaw tightened ever so slightly.

Your number is called and you hurry to station 24. There are actually 27 stations with 27 people manning them and the number of people they process every hour is staggering.  At 24 sits a woman who has the same icy gaze as the soap opera star. Your stomach sinks a little. It turns out that she is about as nice a person as you have ever met. She smiles nicely and you chat amicably while she enters the info about your car. “Your plates?” she asks “What? My plates?” “Yes. I can’t give you new plates until you give me the old ones.” Oh. A little cranky.

she finishes the paper work and gives you everything, driver’s license paperwork included with a warning about dire consequences if you fail to return within a very short time with your old plates and waves goodbye. You walk three blocks to your car and remove plates that have spent a long time on the car and put on the California plates which look odd and improbable. Impatient. You return to her desk without waiting and hand her the plates and she smiles at you like you were best friends. You find your mate who has spent this whole time getting her driver’s license. She’s waiting in line for a test. “We have to take a test”, she says. A test? You search your memory about tests for out of state relos and can’t find anything but admit the faultiness of your memory. The line for the test doesn’t make appointments. So, you have your picture taken and swear you will return for the test in the very near future. One and a half hours and the car is legal and you are in limbo. There must be a word for this feeling.

You pop in after a weekend of rest. You’ve looked at the on line tutorial and are positive there’s nothing on the test that could trouble you. You wait in line to take the test. They give you the test. The questions in the tutorial were written by a person with a command of the English language and a logical mind. You recognize none of the thirty questions. Most of them seem to have been translated poorly from some dead language. e.g. You can leave child in a closed up car while you shop if you: a- leave another child over 12 in the same car; b-leave the keys in the ignition; c-want to burn in hell. Being someone who thinks that leaving children in a closed up car is too good a fate for them, you pick c which is the right answer. Many questions about turning wheels this way and that when parking and then the favorite: A blind person with a seeing eye dog comes to a corner. You must: a-run through the intersection as quick as possible-it’s what we all do but it’s clearly not right; b-honk to let the person know you are there-depends on how mellow your horn is; c-come close to the person so that he or she can hear your engine (what if you have a Prius that doesn’t make any sound once stopped?) and d-Get out of your car, help the person across the intersection, return to your car, pull out your gun to keep the angry drivers behind you at bay and proceed. D seems reasonable but C is the answer.

You hand in your test and wait in the results line–the longest wait of the whole ordeal. The tension in this line is amazing. People ask each other in an amazing array of accents how they answered this or that. Finally, your name is called and you passed. The administrator, whose English is worse than your dog’s, explains the two you missed. Thus informed, you still have no idea what the right answers are. The sense of relief is explosive until you are asked to look over the information just typed into the computer and you find out they have your birth date wrong and, no matter what you say, you have to start all over.

Ah, Glendale.