My 2017 “Proof of Insurance” certificate and my 2017 “Registration” certificate had inexplicably both disappeared at the same time. Or maybe they didn’t. I discovered them missing at the same time, which I guess is not exactly the same thing. Though who knows, they may have run off together to “Certificate Vegas”, staying cooped up in a glove compartment leaving them itching for a scandalous “Documents Spree.”
Whatever. They were gone and they needed to be replaced. Replacing my “Proof of Insurance” certificate was a thirty-second phone call to Farmers, “Bum ba-dum-bum bum bum bum.” Replacing the “Registration” certificate was another matter entirely. That required a warily anticipated visit to the DMV. (After which some people are never entirely the same.)
I delivered my ’92 Lexus to the dealership for a “tune-up” on a Wednesday. Thursday afternoon, I am informed it was ready. A Lexus employee who confides that he’d had two recent, serious heart attacks picks me up at the house, conveying me back to the dealership. Happily, we arrive successfully at our destination.
Let us now return to this Kafka-if-he-ever-had-car-troubles ordeal.
Driving my car off the dealership lot, I headed straight for the Santa Monica branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles, to procure a replacement “Registration” certificate. No appointment. Just diving in. As usual when facing “The Unknown”, the salient lyrics to High Noon echo encouragingly in my head:
“I do not know what fate awaits me.
I only know I must be brave…”
My daughter Anna had recently performed onstage for the first time in her life, serving as drummer and lead singer for a George Harrison “Tribute Band” she had assembled with three other musicians. As I walked into the DMV building trying to “draft” on her gutsy experience, my bolstering mantra:
“Be like Anna.”
And now I was inside.
This is no nightmarish DMV horror story. The DMV I’d selected had won a “Four Star” (out of five) rating on Yelp, garnering “The Best DMV in Santa Monica” accolade. Not cheap shot intended, but it was way better than the post office.
My treatment at the hands of the DMV personnel was unilaterally friendly (by the more forgiving “bureaucratic politeness” standards), understanding and efficient. It wasn’t their fault I felt like cowering nine year-old non-swimmer Earlo at Camp Ogama, lined up on the dock, a hulking swim instructor pacing threateningly in the background, anticipating the non-negotiable “Get in the water!”
It is the loss of personal control that reflexively rumbles my intestines. Though, in this case, is this not serious overreacting? I am essentially there for some vehicular bookkeeping. Why then do I fear the impending proximity of “Mug Shots”, fingerprinting and “spends a night in ‘The Box’?” (See: Cool Hand Luke.) Loss of control, mixed with irrational feelings of guilt. Have I mentioned visiting five therapists?
Reaching the front of the preliminary “Get-a-number-so-you-can-sit-on-a-chair-and-wait-for-that-number-to-be-called” line, I stand before the desk of an affable “DMV Greeter”, breaking the ice with a conspiratorial,
“I think I’m losing my mind. It’s like my ‘Registration’ certificate, I don’t know, flew the coop, and I am going to need a…”
She cuts me off, handing me a single, printed sheet of paper.
“Fill this out and return it when you’re finished.”
I fill out the form. I return it – without having to get back in line, if you don’t count the considerably shorter “returning-the-completed-form-you-filled-out” line.) I receive a number. The humanizing “B-174.”
I find an unoccupied molded plastic chair, and I wait. Recently called numbers are posted on a large LED screen, accompanied by an upbeat, female automated announcement. As “B-174” inexorably approaches, I feel an elevating anxiety. Searching for a distraction, I notice the nearby eye chart applicants are required to read when applying for their Driver’s License. I am aware there are letters printed on that eye chart. But I have no idea what they are. Suffice it to say that did nothing to reduce my anxiety level.
“Miss Disembodied Congeniality” finally announces “B… 174.” As instructed, I dutifully repair to “Window Number Three”, offering a hopefully sympathy-earning, “How’re ya doin’?”, and we’re off.
Oh, boy, are we off.
Quickly discovering that my ’92 Lexus is a “Salvage” – meaning it’s been in an accident and has been declared a contractual “total loss” by the insurance company who then snitchily report that information to the DMV – Ms. “Window Number Three” gives me the lowdown concerning the “salvage-related” hoops I will be required to jump through before receiving my “Registration” certificate.
– Smog Check. (I has presciently brought along the still valid “Smog Check” certificate.)
– Surrender the car’s “Pink Slip.” (I had presciently brought along the “Pink Slip.” My intended goal was not to have to come back. Silly me.)
– Submit my car for a “VIN” (Vehicle Identification Number” – I just looked that up) test.
– Fill out the pages of forms I am presented.
– And procure official “Brakes and Lamps” test certification.
– Plus, shell out two hundred and twenty-six dollars for the privilege.
That’s all there was to it.
Escaping the suddenly asphyxiating DMV premises, I return to my car, driving it behind the DMV building, as directed, for “Hoop One” of a continuing series, the ominous VIN inspection test. (“Ominous” because I have no idea what it is.)
“Pop the hood” barks a brutish middle-aged man I am sure had been drummed out of the constabulary for using “Excessive Force.” (Parenthetical Question: Why do all menacing authority figures seem to have prominent boils in the middle of their foreheads? It's like a prerequisite for belligerency.)
My own personal VIN test was figuring out how to “pop the hood”, because “Bruno” was most certainly not going to help me. Against, all odds and expectations, I did it. Not on the first try, but I did it.
Scanning selected areas of my car with a miniature flashlight, as I pessimistically awaited “the worst”, the man who, if not a former disgraced police officer was at least a retired, menacing “Shop” teacher, could find no fault with my vehicle.
I had passed the VIN inspection test. With still no idea what that actually was.
My enervating DMV experience was now concluded. I had substantial paperwork to complete, and a “Brakes and Lamps” test to officially pass. Despite, my commendable prescience concerning required documents, however, I would unfortunately, still have to come back.
A compensatory upside?
I found a dime in the DMV parking lot.
More to come. Although I am starting to feel like Lenny Bruce reading his obscenity trial transcripts in front of nightclub audiences who were there to see comedy. Hey, I have to vent somewhere. And nobody else will listen to me.