Saturday, November 22, 2008

Things I'd rather do than go to the DMV

If given the choice between going to the DMV or doing something else, I would much rather...

- Go to work.
- Go to the dentist.
- Take my boys to get a haircut. (I assure you that is no easy task.)
- Rake leaves.
- Eat kim chee.
- Take my boys to have their picture taken.
- Shovel snow.
- Clip my boys' fingernails (again, not an easy task.)
- Watch CSPAN.
- Eat cow tongue.
- Change a poopy diaper.
- Watch over someone else's shoulder as they do anything in Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint or Word or anything else on the computer. (As you know, I consider this a rare common of office torture.)
- Take my boys to a vegetable eating contest and convince them to participate.
- Mow the lawn.
- Do a JAGMAN investigation. (Whenever something bad happens in the Navy, an officer is appointed to conduct an investigation in accordance with the JAG Manual to determine if someone should be punished. They're generally not fun.)
- Rub raw meat on my face and arms then sit in a cage with a tiger who hasn't been fed in a week.
- Watch the Bass Fishing Channel.
- Eat black licorice.
- Run naked through the street.
- Write the Unit Sitrep reporting to the Navy at-large that I was arrested for running naked through the street.
- Stand in the CNO's office and explain to the CNO why I was arrested for running naked through the street.
- Spend ten hours in the car driving across country with the boys in the back seat fighting over the nintendo.
- Take a swim in piranha-infested waters.
- Give myself paper cuts.
- Rub salt in the paper cuts.

Okay, so why am I thinking up this list of things I'd rather do than go to the DMV?

First, here's a little gouge for midshipmen and newly commissioned officers out there: Register your car(s) in YOUR name. If your car is registered jointly in your name and your spouse's name, then each state you go to is going to want to charge you some form of property tax and/or make you register the car in their state. If your car is registered ONLY in YOUR name (the active duty service member), then you can leave the car registered in your home state of record and not pay local property taxes in each state every time you do a PCS move.

Up until a year and a half ago, I followed that advice and it served me well. Oregon registration only costs like $54 for two years. Cha-ching!

In case you didn't know, many states have something called a "tri-state rule" that says you aren't allowed to live in one state, keep your driver's license in another state, and have your car registered in a third state. See for example this site in California:
Tri-State rule - You have to have two of the same, you can't have your vehicle registered in FL, a NC driver's license and you're a resident of GA. Two of the three must be the same.
When I moved my family to Hawaii in June 2007, I flew out with them and had like 5 days to get them settled before I flew back to Norfolk. I had to check in at the Navy Housing office and get some form of transportation for them to get around. We bought our Toyota Camry Hybrid the day after we arrived on the island.

Needless to say, I was in a hurry.

For the sake of convenience, I just registered the Camry in Hawaii and left it that way while we lived there.


Fast forward a year and a half, and now, here I am, violating the tri-state rule. I'm living in Virginia with an Oregon driver's license in my pocket as I drive my Camry around with Hawaii plates.

Virginia has had this thing where if you drive a hybrid (or other "low emission vehicle"), then you can use the HOV lane even if you're the only person in the car. Well, it turns out that you can't just drive in the HOV lane with a hybrid. First, you have to register your car in Virginia and get the special Virginia plates that allow you to do that.
So I went to the Virginia DMV to register the Camry and get to use the HOV lane.*

First, they tried thwarting me with the insanely long line just waiting to see the information desk receptionist who pre-screened you to see what you wanted and determine if you had everything you needed to get what you want. That didn't stop me though.

Next, after sitting in the waiting area listening for them to call my number, I got to the counter and the lady tried to thwart my registration attempt with one of those swift double-tap kicks to my face. You know - the type of kick that Jennifer Grey does to the school principal in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Okay, no, she didn't really assault me, but she might as well have.

She wanted some form of PROOF of my ADDRESS.

Huh???

Okay, so I EXPECTED the DMV to put up road blocks (in a philosophical sense) to being able to get what I wanted. Before I went there, I did some research on the DMV website, and nowhere did it say anything about needing to prove my address.** Well, it just so happens that I recently renewed my Oregon driver's license, and it has my new Virginia address right there printed on it.

I showed her the license, but she wouldn't accept it. She said I had to show her a utility bill addressed to me at my new address.

Um... Excuse me??? That's a total CROCK!

First, what the HECK difference does it make what address I write down on the page? If I don't write the correct address where I get my mail, then I'm not gonna get the registration I'm applying for now am I? Then I'M the one who's screwed.

Second, why is the address permanently printed on my driver's license not just as good as a utility bill? It would be a heckuva lot easier for me to make a fake utility bill than it would be for me to make a fake driver's license.

Third, if they're going to impose that as a requirement, then why don't they WARN you BEFORE you waste the time driving there and waste the time waiting in line? Why don't they POST it on their darn WEBSITE? Why didn't the receptionist at the information desk ask me, "Do you have your utility bill to prove your address?" before she gave me a number and allowed me to sit down in the waiting area? For that matter, why did I even wait in line to see the receptionist? Why don't they post a BIG SIGN at the entrance to the DMV that says,

"We won't do didly for you unless you can prove your residence address with a utility bill"???

Ahem.

I've often said that tact is not one of my strengths.

It took every ounce of my will power not to tell the lady at the DMV what I really thought. Speaking slowly and calmly through my gritted-teeth, I informed her I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I'd heard all year. If the address was good enough for the Oregon DMV to print it on my driver's license and MAIL the driver's license to me AT that address, then I think it should be gosh darn good enough for registering my car.

She agreed to go ask her boss.

Thankfully, the boss agreed.

Whew. Overcame that obstacle. Now we can successfully complete this transaction and I can get on with my life, right?

Not so fast...

Now I tell her I want the low emissions vehicle plates. She told me go back to the receptionist lady to get another form to fill out for the special plates.

Low and behold, at the top of the form, it says that low emission vehicles with new registration after July 1, 2006 are NOT entitled to use the HOV lanes.

You have GOT to be kidding me.

I asked the lady about it. She said that's what the form said and she didn't think I was allowed to use the HOV lane anymore with a hybrid. Nice. I told her that was the whole reason I was going to register the car in Virginia, and if I can't use the HOV, then there's no point in registering my car here. She tried to argue with me and tell me I had to register the car in Virginia since it's in Virginia. I just took my paperwork and walked out.

Since then, I pulled the string and did a little bit more research. In order to monitor the usage of the HOV lane by people driving low emission vehicles, they require you to register for the special plates. Each year, they evaluate the usage and decide whether or not to extend the program allowing the low emission vehicles to drive in the HOV lanes for another year. It's currently been extended through July 2009, at which point they'll evaluate and decide again.

The lady at the DMV was just clueless that was all. The form was printed a long time ago and did not reflect the annual extensions that have been approved since then.

Unfortunately, I foresee another trip to the DMV in my future.

There is a DMV office in the Pentagon though, so hopefully I won't have to go too far out of my way to get this taken care of.
Footnotes:

* For those of you saying, "But I thought you rode the bus to work?" Well, I do most days. There have been a handful of days so far where I've had to attend a conference or a meeting across town, so I have driven my car in to work. On most of those days, I have a friend who lives nearby in Ashburn who also goes to Crystal City, so he will ride with me to use the HOV lane and split the toll costs. This week though, he was at an off-site training session, and I was stuck in the traffic driving home in the evening. So although I expect those cases will happen infrequently, it'd be nice to have the VA plates on the car to use the HOV lane.

** I have since gone back to the DMV website, and found that they do require a proof of address to title or register your car in Virginia. I don't know if I just missed it last time I checked the website or if they added it recently. However (comma), in their list of acceptable documents for proof of address, it says, "Driver’s license, learner’s permit or DMV-issued photo ID cards displaying the applicant’s current address."

3 comments:

Ruth Burkett said...

Doncha just luv bureaucracy and the bureaucratic minions?

Jud said...

I can't believe you equate black licorice with swimming in pirahna infested waters.

Ah, well, all the more black licorice for me, I suppose, if we're ever marooned together on a desert island surrounded by pirahna with only black licorice to eat.

Dani said...

LOL - sounds like our fun with the VA DMV. I had to register my car in VA since my license was FL and my car was bought and registered in MD. Oh well. Hope you have better luck next time.