Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Love the DMV

The post is a bit late today, I've been working with DMV and the Commonwealth's funky V&T regulations re emissions.  It has been an interesting day and it isn't over yet.  My first stop was DMV and I had the odd experience of not having to wait before going to the counter.  Then I discovered that wasn't the odd part of the day.

The clerk was very friendly and it turned out that I didn't the form I'd brought (internet site was wrong) so I was over-prepared.  Good for me.  Then she accidentally knocked her drink off the counter.  It fell, the cup broke, and the contents went everywhere.  It wasn't water.  It wasn't even coffee.  It was a breakfast shake.  She stared at it for a minute and then said, "I'll be right back."  She left.  She came back in about a minute with paper towels.

She cleaned it up.  Two supervisors watched.  The clerk at the next station watched.  I watched.  She had to go in back and get more paper towels.  Then one of the supervisors came over to the station and I thought, "Okay, maybe she's going to pick up where the clerk left off and I can get on with the day."  Nope.  She put up a sign that said, "In Training" and then walked away.

After a bit more than 5 minutes the mess was cleaned up.  We went forward with the transfer of title and registration.  Then we did it again.  Then the clerk asked her neighbor why the system wouldn't take the transaction.  "What's the error message?"  She did it again but this time noted the error message - "Vehicle ineligible for temporary registration."  The neighbor said, and this is not embellished for the sake of the story, "You can't do it because the vehicle is ineligible for a temporary registration."  My clerk said, "Oh."  I very wisely, and uncharacteristically, remained silent.

We looked at each other for more than a few heartbeats.  Then she turned to her neighbor and said, "So what do I do?"  Turns out what happens is that you get a piece of paper which lets you drive the car for one day.  I needed emissions work - not just the inspection - so I asked, "Are you telling me that if the garage needs to order parts and spend a couple of days working on it, I'll have to come back and get another 1 day registration just to test drive it?"

"Yes."

There was some discussion and a couple of the supervisory audience members offered helpful comments.  I ended up with a one day registration.  The garage was very happy to see me with the temporary registration but couldn't believe that I only got a single day.  I asked if they could get it done and they thought probably, but nobody was available to drive it around.  Good thing I have a driver's license.  I've now driven the car well over 100 miles to reset the system and am waiting for the results (some work has already been done, it may actually pass) but I'm left wondering at the regulations.

While I was driving the miles I never would have otherwise (burning irreplaceable fossil fuels and emitting all sorts of toxins into the environment) I was regularly interacting with a Freightliner tractor that coughed great clouds of black smoke every time he went on or off the throttle.  Far more toxins than I'm likely to emit during the course of a month.  Or even a year – it was a really thick black cloud.

I'm sympathetic to the owner/operators who are trying to make a living on our highways - but really?  It really sort of makes me think I'm having my time wasted.  Could it be that Virginia just doesn't want 17 year old cars on the highway?  Or is there some other, some political? reason that the standards are so different?

I did enjoy my hours driving the car.  I'm quite impressed at how well it runs.  If you hid the odometer I'd guess it had 150,000 fewer miles on it than the indicated 212,000.  No hick-ups with the engine, no stutter shifts, no play in the steering or freaky clunks anywhere.  1996 was a good year for Toyota and the exemplar we have is - wait for it - exemplary.  But this wasn’t the only thing I planned to work on today.

I'm sure you were expecting the usual Must See TV post but this little adventure was far more entertaining than the new show I tried this week - "Last Man Standing" with Tim Allen.  I will give it another couple of episodes, just to be fair, but I'm shocked that Netflix thinks I'll like it as much as the 4.1 star recommendation indicates.  It's forced, incoherent, and chock full of stereotyped clich├ęs.

Have you been watching?  Should I stick with it or save my life for something a bit less "Home Improvement" with girls?

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