Monday, May 16, 2005

This Is Why People Hate The DMV

As I posted before, I got a great deal on my new (used) car. I’m very happy with the purchase, but it would be great if I could only drive it. The first stumbling block was when the owner’s mother insisted that she needed the plates off of the car so she could turn them in before the end of May. She was afraid that she’d lose $60 if she didn’t, so they took the plates off the car and turned them in. I didn’t really think it was a big deal, until I tried to figure out how I was going to register the car. You see, in Connecticut, if they catch you driving an unregistered vehicle, even if it’s to the DMV to register it, you get a court date and they tow the car away.

That meant that I had to figure out a way to get it registered so I could actually use it. I did some research and found that I could register it in CT since I still had a residence (the condo) there. I’d register it there, and later move it to Mass if necessary if I was still living there. I finally got the title all set, and went on to the DMV. I’ve had the pleasure of registering cars in several states, including Florida, California and Washington, and I’ve never had anywhere near as much trouble as I’ve had in Connecticut. It would be one thing if it were the first time I’d ever been there or the first time I’d ever had trouble, but the sad truth is that I’ve registered several cars in CT since the mid-80’s, and I’ve never, never had it go easily or quickly. One thing you’ll notice when you walk into a CT DMV is a sign. It says that violence is not tolerated, and anyone making threats to the DMV employees would be harshly dealt with.

I knew I was in trouble the second I got my ticket. When you go into the CT DMV they ask you what you are there to do and make sure you have the correct forms to fill out. That’s a great way to start, no complaints there. They give you a number printed on a ticket and you wait for it to be called. I saw that on this ticket they had an expected wait time printed: 2 hours and 31 minutes. So I left and came back about a half hour before it said I would be called, which worked out just fine. I got to the window and everything went great until something popped up in the computer. She said that I had not turned in the plates on a car I had owned years ago, and I knew this was not true. I had traded the car in and the old plates had been turned in when I got the new ones. She told me that until I could produce a form from the Tax Assessor’s office I could not register a car or even get temporary plates. I was beginning to understand why people hate dealing with the DMV.

So now I had to try and fix this tax problem without being able to drive to the Tax Assessor’s office. Leave it to CT. I called the Tax Assessor’s office and I finally got an answer. It seems that since the state did not record that I returned the plates, the town kept right on taxing me for 2 years afterward. The woman on the phone was having a great time explaining this to me. She then asked me if I was sitting, and told me that I could have the problem solved if I paid them $985 (if I remember the number right). She was laughing as she said it, but stopped abruptly when I let out a surprised “WHAT?!?”

Smart woman. She figured out that not everybody would find a $985 tax bill as funny as she did. She explained that the initial figure was not very much, but the interest compounded over the years had really added up. It did not matter that I never received a bill. They had no intention of reducing the amount for any reason. I’m sure they did send a bill, but I was not there to receive it. I was in the Navy at the time and was living in San Diego. She did say that after 15 years the bill was automatically deleted, and when I looked at the dates, I found that it had been 15 years already. I asked her about it, and she told me that it took sometimes 2 years for it to actually be deleted. Great.

As you can probably guess I was a little hot about this, being in the military causes problems like this all the time. I decided to avoid CT altogether and just register the car in Massachusetts, even if it would mean more travel to get the car once I had it registered. So today I called an insurance agent (since my insurance company does not insure in Massachusetts) and told them I had bought a car and needed to register it in Mass. He had me bring in the title, and 10 minutes later I was all set with insurance. I also found, to my complete surprise, that I would not need to go to the DMV (actually, it’s the RMV in Mass). The insurance office would take the paperwork down to the RMV and get my plates for me! They told me that even if I had to go in and do it myself that it probably wouldn’t take any more than 20 minutes.

I will believe the registration problems are over when I have the plates actually screwed onto my car, but it looks good. Maybe I’ll be driving again by tomorrow night.

Hey, and if you’re wondering, no news on the job front. If you’re praying or sacrificing animals in attempt to improve my chances, make sure you mention LaLa too. She’s looking for work also. Too bad we can’t make a living blogging.