Monday, July 27, 2009

Rejected: Life with the RMV

I don’t know what it’s like in other states, but I suspect that Massachusetts is far advanced in its bureaucratic lunacy. In compliance with state law, last month I brought my husband’s car into one of the few shops left who continue to shill for the state provide the public with annual state inspection service. The law does not specifically require that the wife do this, but anyone who has gotten an automobile inspection sticker in Massachusetts knows that the reported “twelve minute” emissions and safety inspection has the serious potential to turn into a multi-day headache. So if you have a spouse who happens to have no prior commitments outside of the home, you might consider having her or him be your bureaucratic runner.

As the runner for this family (for members under the age of 17), I spent a good chunk of two days between the garage and the Registry of Motor Vehicles. My husband’s car failed to pass the onerous Massachusetts Vehicle Check not because of safety or emissions, but because the license plate wasn’t reflective enough. So instead of a nice sticker with a big “6” on it indicating the month of my next run-in date with state inspections, I got a sticker with a big red “R” for rejection. Rejection always hurts.

It hurt because I knew that the big red “R” sentenced me to a trip to the nearest big city, a struggle with old bolts to remove the offending plate, a wait in line, dealing with government workers, and a return trip to the garage, which included another wait. But wait, there’s more! I showed up at the RMV not the 10 early minutes I had planned, but an hour and ten minutes before it opened! Apparently, they had changed their schedule to reflect the poverty of the state and let us all figure it out ourselves.

So I waited outside with 50 other uninformed people for it to open. I haven’t heard so many expletives used since my own car failed inspection for the same sham of a safety regulation last year and I couldn’t budge the rusted bolts on the license plate in the RMV parking lot – but those were all from me! When the out-of-town cop showed up with donuts for state employees hiding in the building, I swear, I thought I was going to be witness to an honest-to-goodness revolt! As soon as the doors opened the talk of overthrowing the state government ceased and we all filed in like sheep.

The replacement of the plate was “free”, but as the second person in the finally unlocked door, the first to be taken at the counter, I was still twenty minutes inside the building. Overall, the event took an hour on the first day, and three hours on the second. For you English majors, that’s four hours for the privilege of having my perfectly good, adequately insured, 35 mpg gasoline-fueled car legally on the road for another year. Oh yes, that’s only if you’ve paid the state registration fee, any and all parking tickets or moving violations, or as I discovered from the would-be revolutionaries near me in line, even child-support(!) which is now linked to one’s license to drive in this state.

Happily, my papers were in order.


C. August said...

It is good you have chosen a posture of compliance and prostration. Compliance with any and all state and federal laws, known or unknown, is very important for the stability of state and federal functions, and thus for the people's general welfare. Your compliance signals that you are not a threat, and you are thus allowed to continue freely functioning in the proscribed manner in which the state has seen fit to grant to you.

Rational Jenn said...

Fun fun fun! We got to go to the DMV today, too. Morgan got dressed up:

Are kid's driver's licenses tied to school attendance in MA? Our law changed a few years ago to let kids get their license at 16, but only if they had regular school attendance. If not, they have to wait until 18. But the compulsory attendance law declares 16 to be the majority age.

It's been an issue for high school dropouts who are 16 or 17 but didn't get their licenses. And it impacts their ability to get a job, because, you know, no license. Also, homeschoolers who can graduate at 16, enroll in junior college and take classes, have been denied driver's licenses because, get this--they are not in attendance at a high school or a home school. Evidently, college attendance does. not. count.

Okay, didn't mean to go on a rant. Just wondering about how DLs are handled in MA and if the bureaucrats up there dangle them over teenagers' heads as a carrot to get them to attend school

Beth said...

Your story is vaguely reminiscent of the bureaucracy which has completely undermined property rights in South America exquisitely analyzed by
Hernando de Soto in his book The Mystery of Capital. We are headed toward the same unless people wake up to the destructive effects of government "safety" regulations and the myriad of other interventions purported to be "for our own good."
One more example of how the dead had of government undermines our efforts to lead productive, peaceful and free lives.

LB said...

C. August: That's me. I'm all about compliant, non-threatening behavior. Just living the life of quiet desperation my father recommended to me.

Strangely, when the others in the queue were talking about anarchy and storming the cop car, I spoke up about the value of policemen, and the need of a good, limited government. I'm quite sure they just thought I was weird and decided not to talk so loudly in my direction from that point forward.

Rational Jenn: Love the outfit! Seeing her at the RMV would have made my stay there a bit brighter. I don't know about the tie to school attendance in Massachusetts, but nothing would surprise me (except that another state beat us to the absurdity). I'll have to check that out.

Beth: I'm going to have to add that to my stack of books, aren't I? I just recently finished listening to Shaping Justice, the Kermit Hall lectures you recommended (finally finished listening commuting to and from OCON - they were great). Still on the Dirty Dozen (haven't move from the Foreward yet - but I will).

Doug Reich said...

I recently took a car into register it with the state (since I had moved) and they informed me that instead of the usual $40 fee, I owed them $2600. That is because I could not prove that I had paid sales tax in the former state. The $2600 number came from her hurried call to "a guy" at the state DMV.

I walked out, and my exotic "red barchetta" now sits in a secret, undisclosed garage, with an old registration sticker and a frown.

LB said...

Well, that was fun! Of course, not for you, but it made someone at my house very, very happy to hear it and I got treated to a drum solo (including a stick toss) on my desk!

Thanks. Hopefully you'll be able to "dream with your uncle by the fireside" soon.

Doug Reich said...

wow! Didn't think anyone would get the rush reference!

Ps I'm a drummer too, looks like someone in your house and I have a little bit in common. Neil's one of my heroes !

LB said...

It's Stephen (#3,#6).

He doesn't play much anymore, but I do insist he play at least once a year for my birthday! To me, this annual event is worth the 40 sf of livable basement space we give up in having the 7-piece kit (a la 1980's) set up all year round! (Now the 86 linear inches of vinyl lining the shelves is a different matter.)