DMV – an Unwitting Coconspirator in Delayed Torture

27 October 2008

I was three weeks overdue for renewal of my driver’s license – not a huge deal as I haven’t owned a car since 2002 – and Thursday was my day to submit to the vagaries of DMV.  My strategy for dealing with this perennially pilloried municipal agency has always been: arrive late in the day and hope that you have missed all of the post lunch crowds.

The DMV office in Georgetown was staffed with a full cadre of the expected – less than friendly, less than helpful – including the woman who saw me looking about the room uncertain where the queue began.  There was no one at her counter when she instructed me to “wait behind that line,” a barely visible stripe of green painted on the floor.  After I positioned myself behind the line, this woman pauses for a beat and then chirps out a “next” without a sliver of humor or hint of irony.

Don’t you ever get tired of being a cliché was the question that was caught by my brain-mouth filter. 

Twenty minutes later an animatronic voice announced “Now serving Restaurant Refugee at window number Eight.” 

The woman behind the desk at Window Number Eight was slightly friendlier than the woman at the information counter.  She confirmed my details and then flatly stated “you have $2,067 in unpaid fees – how would you like to pay for that?”

Confident a mistake or computer glitch was at hand, I smiled slightly as I said “that doesn’t seem possible, ma’am; I haven’t owned a car in over six years. I renewed my driver’s license in 2004 and there were no unpaid fines then.”

“We’ve integrated a new computer system in the last couple of years so the tickets might not have popped the last time you renewed.  I’ll print them out for you.”

Two pages of evidence weighed heavily in my hands.  I recognized the plate number immediately; it was for my car – my dream car, the car that I bought just before I got engaged, the car my now ex-wife hated throughout the marriage, the car that she – just for spite – insisted on being in her pile of settlement property.  In the four months between our separation and the divorce, before the title on the vehicle was transferred to her name, she amassed almost 50 parking tickets.  Expired meters, no parking zones, multiple fines on the same day, yeah, there was intent.  This was a Fuck You bomb with an eight year fuse. 

“Are you alright, sir” the suddenly concerned woman from Window Number Eight asked me.

I just laughed the laugh of a man who knows he’s out of luck, options, and soon to be two grand.

“You take Amex?”