I got new plates for my car today! I am elated. But I am also a Bad Boy… check out the expiration date of the old plates: July 2009, eight months ago. I’m surprised I never got arrested.
I bought this VW beetle five years ago. I know, I know… could I drive a more gayer car? Well, the answer is “yes”. In the nineties, I owned a neon blue Miata. That car was so gay that I had to enter through the rear hatch.
I renew my Colorado plates. They’re good for another year, and they cost over $300 for taxes and fees.
I move to San Jose, California. I am still a little sad about breaking up my 14 year relationship a few months earlier, so going to the DMV is the lowest priority on my list. I know you can do this thing where Colorado will prorate the cost of your car registration and refund you the difference, but it’s kind of a pain in the ass to do and I think it’s easier just to keep my current plates.
I’m *supposed* to register my car within 30 days of moving to California. But I had just gotten the Colorado plates three months earlier, and nobody knows where I actually live, right? I still owned a house in Denver and was getting mail there. What the California DMV didn’t know didn’t hurt them
… until my Colorado plates expire. But hey! They give you a 30 day grace period, so I could ignore the problem for a while, right? Going to the DMV is such a nightmare, I might as well put off the chore.
Oops. I forgot about the plates all through the month of August. Now it was after Labor Day, and I should really do something about the problem. My plates are expired, and if pulled over I could get a huge fine, or even get my car impounded. I visit the California DMV, which has really long lines and is only open a few days during the week to save money. It’s packed with people like me who are new to the area. I bring all my paperwork, and am told I need a smog test for my car.
I get my car tested for emission from this really cool chop shop near work, where these two vatos hook me up to the machines. I am tempted to ask them to install lifters and lights under my fenders, but resist. The chop shop guys say it takes a few days for my successful results to be sent to the California DMV. I could pick up my new plates in about a week.
Except that I moved to Alexandria, Virginia in October of 2009. I can’t pick up my license plates in person, since I now live across the country. That’s ok, I am told… they can send them in the mail, and since my roommate was nice enough to forward my mail from San Jose, I decide to keep going incognito and pretend my car is from California even though I just drove it cross-country to Washington DC.
I call the California DMV, wondering where my plates are. They say that they are very busy due to budget cutbacks, and the process takes 6 to 8 weeks (!)
I check back at the beginning of the month, to be told they are still running late in Sacramento, and it might be closer to 10 weeks. Note that I could have gotten my plates the next day if I had brought all my forms back to the DMV in October.
By the middle of December, my ex-roommate still hasn’t seen anything in the mail, so I call the DMV – a process that takes over an hour of hold time on the phone. They say they never got the proof of emissions, so they can’t send the plates. Thanks a lot for not telling me that, assholes.
I call the vatos, and they send the paperwork again. They swear they did it the first time, but I’m wondering if they are lying. California DMV cashes my check and says the plates are in the mail. I ask if they can send them to Virginia, where I now live, and they get cranky. Do I really live in California? they ask. I decide to play dumb and wait.
But the plates never show up. Of course, the DMV doesn’t bother mailing them with a tracking number, so I can't tell what happened. I’m wondering if the San Jose post office is trying to forward them to my new townhouse, or maybe they got lost in the mail during the huge snowstorm the month before. Each time I call California, it takes an hour to get through, and I can’t understand the person at the other end of the line, anyway.
I decide to give up and punt. I was supposed to register my car in Virginia in October anyway, so I’ll do it like I am supposed to. However, California still has all my original paperwork, since they don’t accept copies. They have my title and registration from Colorado. So, there is no proof whatsoever that I own the VW I am trying to get new plates for. Two trips to the Virginia DMV assures me that there are no exceptions – I need to get a duplicate title before anybody can do anything.
I try to work with the California DMV to get a duplicate registration. But since they are still working on the *first* one, their computer can’t do that. Luckily, Colorado still thinks that my car is registered with them, so I send in an application for a a copy of my title.
I call VW financing, and they send me a letter saying that my car is paid off and that I own it fully. I send that onto Colorado, but the application is returned, because the VW financing letter is not notarized. Hrm, I thought it was notarized. But since Colorado doesn’t send *back* the original paperwork, I have no way to telling. I request another letter from VW financing, and make sure it is notarized before sending it onto Colorado once again.
Please keep in mind that each time I request a letter from my financing company or from the DMV, it takes about a week to get a response. In the meantime, I’m driving around with expired plates. I park my car in front of my house one night, since the garage is full of a woodworking project I’m in the middle of… and I get a $50 ticket from the city of Alexandria for parking on their streets without valid plates.
In the meantime, I get California to send back my original paperwork. By some miracle they found it! So, I decided to give up on the duplicate title, and collect everything for another visit to the Virginia DMV. I think I have everything: my forms, my Colorado registration, and a check for $200.
…and then I promptly lose the entire envelope full of my paperwork. Everything is in there: my passport, my social security card, and my original registration. I have no idea where the envelope could have gone: I drove some friends to the movies on a Friday night, and the top of the convertible was down. Maybe it blew out of the car. Maybe one of my friends stole it – I don’t know.
In the meantime, Colorado gets back to me. Yes, the second letter was notarized, but it is missing some magic words, “UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY”. It turns out that Colorado has a special form that needs to be filled out, and even though VW financing should have known that, they completely forget. I request a third "release of lien" letter from VW financing.
I rip apart my car looking for the missing packet of forms. I even remove the upholstery in the back seat, thinking that maybe the envelope slipped between a crack in the seats. It takes me several weeks of sadness, before yesterday I pull out a map to try and find my way through downtown DC. The map opens, and out falls the envelope full of stuff! It had gotten wedged inside the map, which was folded into itself, hiding the package.
I went to the Virginia DMV – my fourth trip in four months. It took about an hour, but it’s a lot nicer than California or Colorado’s DMV offices. I have new plates, and I’m set for the next two years. I calculate that I've easily spent over 50 hours trying to get my car registered over the last eight months.
But I’m not sure I’ve learned my lesson about procrastination and having a bad attention to details. If you need explanation why I am a Bad Slave, and why Master Thor sometimes needs to have a lot of patience and a often needs a strong paddling arm… this would be a good example. i’m sorry, Sir, for driving You around the last few months in an illegal car. It won't happen again