Friday, July 7, 2006

Proud To Serve

Yesterday my husband and I attempted to begin identifying ourselves as Maryland drivers.

For comparison: receiving a Virginia license and tag was a commitment of about an hour, rounding up. Of course, Virginia makes you pay for this privilege by applying a yearly, personal property tax to every vehicle you own, but after yesterday, I would gladly have exchanged sexual favors with every member of the Virginia legislature in exchange for them promising I'd never have to enter a Maryland DMV office again. We were there for five! hours!

Maryland has clearly decided to employ only one kind of person at the DMV: rude and strange. They switch emphasis to one or another throughout the day, to trip you up. If you get to the counter prepared to deal with a rude person, they will just be strange. If you come prepared to deal with an oddball, they will suddenly become literate and rude. We learned that the best thing to do is not speak at all, but silently hand our paperwork when asked.

And the paperwork. To receive a Virginia license, I had to prove that I was breathing. This explains the congestion on Virginia roadways better than any graph I've ever read.

Maryland wanted proof of everything. Proof of your name, where you live, where you came from, the works. I fully expected them to trot out a scale when I gave them my weight.

Maryland also imagines itself efficient. Therefore, you are assigned to a letter group first, which denotes what you were coming to do. The letter was followed by a number. People with out of state licenses were given Letter A. Letter A apparently stood for, "I know you didn't bring your Ass into my state for a license! Back of the line!"

They called Bs and Cs with regularity. "A" people sat and watched as the lone person handling A cases took ten minute stretch breaks between customers and left people sitting in the chair across from her desk for lengthy periods of time while she disappeared in the back. All of the equipment needed to give either a license or a tag is present in front. I am still unclear about what she was doing in back. I'd say sex, but she was really unattractive.

After about three hours, we received licenses. Then it was time to go play with the tag people. My husband was lucky. He only had to fork over hundreds of dollars to make up the difference in sales tax between Virginia and Maryland. This is to prevent Maryland residents from cheating and going to a neighboring, lesser tax state to buy cars. The fact that my husband has never been a Maryland resident, however, apparently doesn't get him off.

I, on the other hand, did not fare so well. As a former Maryland resident, I confused them. Here are highlights of those conversations:

DMV: This car has an existing title in Maryland.
Me: I used to live here.
DMV: But it doesn't have tags.
Me: Right. I am getting tags today.
DMV: So why haven't you had tags since 2003?
Me: I was living in Virginia.
DMV: Well, you should have titled it in Virginia.
Me: Virginia never told me that. They just issued tags.
DMV: I'm not surprised. Virginia isn't together. They aren't even a state.

~I am not making this conversation up.~

DMV: Virginia isn't a state.
Me: (realizing I must play this game): Right. It's a Commonwealth.
DMV: That's why they didn't tell you you had to title your car there. (chuckles)
Me: Hmmm. When I turned my old Maryland tags in? To. This. Office? No one here told me I had to retitle it either. When I said I was moving to Virginia.
DMV: Hmmm.

~I had to fill out a form for a duplicate title. Then:

DMV: Well, you missed your emissions test date.
Me: I had the car inspected last week.
DMV: Once you have a car inspected in the state of Maryland, you never need it inspected again. But you do need an emissions test. Which you missed.
Me. Because I was living in Virginia.
DMV: Well, you'll have to apply for an extension for your test date before we can give you tags.
DMV: And it takes a day for that to show up in the system. So come back tomorrow.
Me: They don't test emissions during inspection?
DMV: No.

Fade to black. I go back this morning.

DMV: Your driver's license says your last name is X.
Me: It is.
DMV: Your title says your last name is Y.
Me: I got married.
DMV: You should have told us that yesterday.
Me: I did.
DMV: You should have gotten your license before you got your title.
Me: I did.
DMV: Well, nobody put it in the system. You'll have to come back.

At this point, I am remembering with longing when I used to ride a bus. You only needed money for that. There were minimal lines. No one cares what your name is, or whether or not you come from a state. There is a bus stop right outside my job.

I'm thinking it over. Strongly.


Dilly Dilly said...

I broke my license at New Year's. I sat on it or something and split it in half. I have taped it multiple times, would rather risk a ticket than have to go to MVA to get a replacement.

BTW the least idiotic MVA seems to be the one in Laurel... I have experienced Largo, Glen Burnie and one near Baltimore and all made me want to move to Canada. Laurel was only a 2-hour process to change my name and 3-hours to inherit a car from a dead guy (fave quote from that? "We can't authorize this without a signature." Um, he's DEAD! So a woman there told me to go outside and 'get a signature' and come right back in. So I forged Daddy's signature because MVA told me to.)

Boutros said...

Funny, that is almost exactly what the VA DMV was like for me earlier this summer. I certainly did NOT get out of there in under an hour, that's for damn sure.

kerry said...

You should come to Frederick next time! I never have issues there - KNOCK ON WOOD!

Sorry Maryland hasn't been more welcoming!!

laura said...

I thought your story had prepared me for the trip to the MD DMV ... but it didn't ... I only had to deal with personnel in the rude category - one woman who thought I was a dumbass for not having thought to call my auto loan people and request a title. And my auto loan people can't get me the title before 21 days. So much for the 60-day limit ... MD really should give you a year b/c that is how long it takes to deal with the DMV.

Remember - sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason - that means YOU, MD DMV worker!