In Offense to Crapiness

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Last week I noticed my license was weeks expired. A shocking realization to some but for me it was more like, "Oh look! I'm late again," because that's kind of what I do best. Poor Hal, who has decorated our house with calendars; who personally texts me daily tasks so that I don't forget to take our son to the dentist or, you know, school. I blame my father who has the same absent-minded tendencies and my Nana who planted all those damn fairy gardens in my brain when I was a child.

So. When I noticed my license was expired I wrote myself a note on my to-do list, tagged the kitchen calendar, tacked a reminder to my desk and texted Hal a message to "please for the love of H, remind me to renew my license next week!"

Two weeks later I went to the DMV. It was last Friday, and because of the "furlough friday" confusion? The place was empty. Like, crazy empty. The kind of empty that scares. Quiet, too, once I got past the maniac in the trenchcoat who burst into the DMV five minutes after I arrived screaming "every motherfucker here is a FAKE ASSHOLE PIECE OF SHIT!!!"

Apparently he was talking to me because I was the only person there? That's okay. I gave him a friendly nod and went on filling out my forms, thrilled knowing I'd be out of there in no time at all. Say what you will, Crazyman! I'll be home by breakfast!

I handed my license and paperwork to the nice lady behind the counter. Paperwork I had to re-do because I apparently filled everything in wrong.

Eventually, I re-learned the English language and resubmitted my forms, which DMV lady immediately and expertly started processing.

Until...

"Oh. Oh. Can't renew your license, I'm afraid," she said. "Says here you have an unpaid traffic violation from February 2008, miss, Woof."

Woof is what everybody at the DMV has always called me. I don't know what is so hard about saying Woolf or even "Wolf." Or fuck, man, even Wolfe would suffice, but Woof it was and Woof it so often is. I am as used to answering to Miss. Woof as I am "Rachel" which is what everyone always calls me also, I assume because Hebrew "R" names are easily confused. (Rachel also happens to be my sister's name.)

"What? Are you serious?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am, quite serious. Looks like you've been receiving court summons for twenty-two months now with no response. The good news is that your license hasn't been suspended. Yet. But could be any day now... tomorrow, the next day..."

Dramatization #1:
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"... If I was you? I'd take care of this yesterday. Especially as I cannot renew your license until this is taken care of which means you are driving on an expired, soon-to-be-suspended license. Bad idea."

"Wait. I'm so confused right now. How did this happen again?"

The woman blinked behind bored eyes and shrugged. Clearly she hated me. I was asking questions, on the verge of getting hysterical.

"Ma'am? I don't know."

"Let me explain. I got a ticket but I took care of it! Like, WAY more than two years ago, I swear. I went down to the courthouse to fight the ticket and was told it had been 60 days, wasn't in the system and therefor there was no ticket to fight. I was told I was free to go and to have a nice day, Miss Woof!"

"Could be a mix-up on our end. Happens all the time since budget cuts. You still have to go downtown to the courthouse to sort it out, I'm afraid.

"Really? Isn't there someone I can call?"

"Budget cuts. No more operators. NEXT!"

...And with that? I left the DMV bound for downtownsville, but not before I called Hal and burst into tears because WTF and OMG, was I in trouble? Did I accidentally become a wanted criminal at large? What if I went down to the courthouse and they arrested me!? It was almost too much to bear.

Dramatization #2:
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"I'm sure its just a mix-up like she said, Bec! Don't cry. It's going to be fine."

Lies. It wasn't fine. But that's for later in the story. For now, let's talk about the disaster that was the Los Angeles superior court on Hill Street AKA Cattle-Call-of-Doomville.

Last time I spent an afternoon at the courthouse was when I came to fight my moving violation, which no joke was for "cutting off a police-officer going 10mph" or in MY side of the story: I merged in front of a cop during rush-hour traffic.

Apparently Mr. Police officer was having a terrible day because it was indeed the most insane ticket I've ever received (and I got my share of speeding tickets in my younger years, lemme tell you.) But this? Was just laughable. I would fight it in court on principle! Obvy! I mean, not only was it INSANE but dude marked the wrong intersection on the ticket. Larchmont and 3rd? Doubt it. I was on BEVERLY. OH, SNAP!

My car was also listed wrong, my name completely butchered (Rebecca Wook) not to mention the most obvious proof of my innocence. I drive a GREEN station wagon. Who tickets a green station wagon and then sleeps at night? Anyway. My point IS: I had a case. I had a realgood case.

So, in April of 2008 I went downtown to snag myself a court date except was told that the ticket had not been processed.

"What do you mean?" said I.

"It's been 60 days and your ticket isn't in the system which means, you're free to go Ma'am. Just sign here."

"Uh... awesome! He must have seen the error of his ways and torn up the ticket! I mean, I got pulled over for merging in front of him during traffic. Isn't tha-"

"Sign here, Miss Woof."

"Oh, right, Sure."

So? That was that. Or so I thought until last Friday. Apparently police officers have AN ENTIRE YEAR to submit tickets. Mine was submitted weeks after my courthouse appearance which is why it didn't register when I first went downtown. Long story short (kind of. This is feeling very long, actually) my court summons were sent to the address that was listed on my license. An address that was five years old.

I learned this after waiting in line for hours in a room maxed to capacity with the kind of characters I wish I had a secret camera in my forehead to capture on film. Twitter doesn't quite cut it:
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When it was finally my turn to speak to a woman behind the window, I explained my story, handed her the paperwork the DMV had handed me and watched as she stapled a bunch of errant papers together. On the top was a piece of paper marked "collections" with the sum of 742.00 circled at the bottom.

"The only way to renew your license is to pay your bail in full."

"But I want to FIGHT this ticket! I'm innocent! I merged in front of a po--"

"Window 21, miss Woof. Next."

But I didn't make it to the front of window #21. Instead I waited in line for forty-five minutes before having a panic attack due to the crowd. (I have issues with large crowds in enclosed spaces. Remind me to tell you the story about how I became hysterical at Archer's kindergarten orientation. PTA President is not in my future.)

So I called Hal, once again hysterical that "I'M INNOCENT! But wait! I'm guilty because I should have changed my address but NO! NO! Rewind! I don't want this to be happening to me today! Why is this happening!? Ahhhhh!"

Dramatization #3:
Photo 535
After some time, I calmed down.

And after some more time, I called called the Collection Office from the safety of my no-lines-necessary car. Unfortunately, once I got a collections operator on the phone, I was told that the earliest court date they could give me was seven months from now.

In order for that to happen, I would have to drive on an expired license until then. "And in the meantime, there's a good chance your license could be suspended..." they told me.

I could:

1. Pay the fine and plead "guilty" to the crime of "merging in front of a cop going 10mph."
2. Plead non-guilty and risk possible jail time with LiLo.

Fuck. That.

So?

I cried again. I cried all over the phone into the very bored ears of Collections Officers before finally agreeing to pay the fine over the phone. Except I would need to GO BACK to the courthouse to pay, in person, a $10 processing fee. Which is just RUDE.

So Wednesday morning, bright and early I went BACK to the courthouse. BACK to the line. BACK to new friends with stories that made mine seem like a virgin in a whorehouse.
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And I'll admit, after the initial anger at myself for being too lazy to change the address on my license, etc, etc, I found myself staring down the barrel of relief. The more I probed people for their stories, the more I realized how lucky I was. I could afford to pay my "bail." I wasn't going to lose my license. All I had to do to remedy the situation was write a check and go home.

So an eight-hundred dollar mistake (including fees and parking) it ended up being but also an eight-hundred dollar reminder that yes (I'm going to say it. Again.) I am lucky. The whole situation could have been so much more serious. I could have ended up with a suspended license or worse...

Instead? I just had a bad week...

...But bad weeks yield good advice so for those who care to listen, here's mine:

1. NEVER merge in front of a police officer, even if you drive a green station wagon and are only going 10mph.
2. ALWAYS change the address on your license when you move.
3. Marry the kind of man who no matter what he's in the middle of, will pick up the phone for you and listen kindly as you scream hysterical things. Who will interrupt you, sure, but only to tell you EXACTLY what you need to hear to feel better.

I may have a wallet full of expired cards, a calendar full of missed events, a bank account full of less money but to hell with all that. I have Hal.

Goddamn winged-horses! I did it again.

GGC

50 comments:

Across The Water | 12:14 AM

That is an impressively positive spin on a very crappy experience! Good work Ms. Woof/Wook/Wolfe.

Cave Momma | 12:34 AM

Good LAWD that is ridiculous! Good for you for turning it into a positive but geez, I'm sorry for all that crap.

Mikaela | 12:38 AM

Wowser, what a week! In the end you handled it well, I would have been so much crankier at having the pay that fine... "The injustice!" my brain yells at me.

Mikaela | 12:41 AM

Wowser, what a week! In the end you handled it well, I would have been so much crankier at having the pay that fine... "The injustice!" my brain yells at me.

Beenie | 1:02 AM

Oh holy shit! I'm relieved you were able to take care of it. Because I? Would be completely fucked if I had to come up with $800 to get my license back. Glad it's all resolved and you were able to give it a positive perspective.

sarah doow | 2:24 AM

Thank you for the advice and thank you for the dramatisations. They were brilliant.

infemity | 5:54 AM

ok, not feeling so bad about my $38 library fine now :) glad you can look at the bright side.

Chrissy | 6:07 AM

This shit made me nervous, but in a good way, because it's not me that it happened to.

Pres. Kathy | 6:21 AM

I am glad everything worked out in the end. You are so blessed to have such a winderful husband!

Rachel | 6:50 AM

That's a giant PITA all around. Glad you were able to get it settled! I hate dealing with the DMV.
Slightly unrelated but I am a Rachel and constantly get called Rebecca...because they are similar and all. That letter R apparently throws people off.

Desiree Fawn | 6:57 AM

Oh man, what a crappy thing!
I'd have been throwing things at that point.... total jerks!

Sammy | 7:33 AM

Awww. You've got a good man Miss Woof. ;) And so sorry to hear about your court house traffic violation drama! That really stinks, and they are so unhelpful!!

Rachel C | 7:48 AM

Another Rachel who often gets called Rebecca here! I didn't know it happened to Rebeccas also, interesting.

Wolf, Woolf, and Wolfe are pronounced differently? I didn't know that, but I promise not to pronounce any of them Woof. How should I be pronouncing them?

Adventures In Babywearing | 7:58 AM

This was so stressful for me to READ. Can't imagine your real-life living it. So glad all is well. Relief is an awesome awesome feeling.

Steph

Red Stethoscope | 8:02 AM

Nooo! I wanted to start crying with you! The world is so cruel sometimes. For the record, I didn't even know you were supposed to change the address on your license! Umm...whoops! Also, $800? I hate the system. I'm glad you have Hal to calm you down. He sounds like a keeper.

Ashley | 8:46 AM

You know what could have been worse?? Didn't you have a background check when you got your new place? What if they would've seen your "criminal record" and denied your application? Oh, man. You lucked out :) But yeah, for $800 I would've been SCREWED.

This Scientist | 8:57 AM

I love it when you talk about always being late, as that is me to a tee. I don't mean to be late, I just am late. It drives my husband bonkers.
I was also happy to see this post today because I just returned from a morning at the courthouse, trying to get my daughter adopted by my husband. I thought I could do it without a lawyer, but 2 hours of legalese later... WHY'S SHIT GOTTA BE SO COMPLICATED? $2000 retainer plus $200/hour? For the cheap lawyers? OMFG.

Anonymous | 9:19 AM

What a horrible experience!! Ugh, California >:( .

I know it is too late now but someone in my brain I keep thinking "did you keep the paperwork that they asked you to sign at court the previous time?" B/c maybe that would have helped? *shrug* I dunno but at this point, just move on. I would also be f----d if I had to pay an $800 fine.

mel | 10:01 AM

Wow. Sucks! But I can totally beat that. I had to spend 32 days in jail for 4 unpaid speeding tickets because of clerical error that said I had pleaded guilty and therefore was unable to post bail. FOR OVER A MONTH! You think the angry ladies who scream NEXT are bad! Try dealing with county jail babysitters. No one listems to you when you wear blue scrubs and plastic shoes.
To this day I am deathly afraid of police.

Cass | 10:04 AM

Yikes, I feel for you Rebecca. And now I'm a little terrified because I need to renew my license before next Friday. I would have done it online but I forgot I never changed my address when I moved (2 places ago) so I can't.

I'm envisioning a situation like this, will be crossing my fingers that there's nothing on my record I don't know about.

Jenny P | 10:12 AM

I think I just developed an ulcer from your horrible ordeal. What a disaster!!! I'm really bad about keeping receipts and other important documents so this is a reminder for me to keep EVERYTHING.

I'm way impressed by how zen you wound up handling it!

PS I know zen isn't an adverb but I thought it fit!

Redneck Mommy | 11:10 AM

Is it wrong I kinda giggled through your account of harrowing DMV tragedy? Only because I had a similar experience a few years ago. It was a culmination of trying to register a new minivan, a license two days from expiring and discovering I had 498 dollars worth of parking tickets accrued. 2 more dollars and I'd have lost my license and had to go to mandatory traffic school.

My husband was less than pleased and I haven't forgotten that afternoon.

In the scheme of things, it could have been worse.

Could have been more like your experience.

Snicker.

Big love to you Bec.

Amy | 12:02 PM

Awww such sweetness out of such crappiness. My husband is not nearly as supportive when I screw up. And the pronunciation of your name as "woof" cracked me up.

Sara B | 12:48 PM

awhh!! Hooray for Hal!

AVB | 2:44 PM

This only proves Hal really IS The Incredible Hulk.

Lx - my mr lugs | 3:41 PM

Three cheers for being lucky and positive :)
Hip hip hooray X3

Jess | 6:07 PM

I live in VA. Which is the state where the terrorists from 9/11 had their licenses, so VA is PSYCHO when it comes to tickets and licenses ands such.

About 2 years ago my hubs got an inspection/registration ticket. He didn't take care of it. We moved. His license got suspended, and he didn't know (cuz we'd moved). So when he went to the DMV to renew his license, they not only didn't renew it, but they called the police. And he got taken to jail because there was a warrant for his arrest from a inspection/registration ticket causing a suspension. So when he used his one phonecall to tell me he was in jail, it wasn't pretty.
Luckily, he works for a law firm, so he only had to spend 18 hours in jail.
Can we say TOTALLY asinine?
So yeah. I get your pain. Needless to say when we moved last month, I changed my license the very next day.

Aged one | 9:03 PM

I died laughing! So very sorry I can't leave a comment as a result. (Loved this blog!)

carona | 10:48 PM

I'm glad it all worked out! Even when something is just wrong sometimes you just have to put it behind you and let it go.

Someone once told me it was illegal to pass a cop so even if I'm in the fast lane and he's in the middle lane going 45 in a 65 I will not pass. I'll fade back and merge behind him every time.

@mel: 32 days in jail??! That's scary.

Tammy | 8:11 AM

Oh my goodness! I feel stressed out for your day. Isn't the system just crazy?

tara | 9:47 AM

i think i need a hal. i have to go to the dmv on monday. hold me.

Alethea Fitzpatrick | 10:23 AM

Well at least you got a good blog post out of it!

Anonymous | 11:00 AM

JUST GOT BACK FROM THE MOST RIDICULOUS THING EVER AND THEN I READ ABOUT YOU!!! i'm not alone!!! I needed my fingerprinting done for my job so i made an online appt. the appts are done through an official agency but then you actually get your fingerprinting done at like a UPS or similar place. I get to the really far away place- ON TIME which is a miracle!-the waiting room is empty, it's my lucky day! The guy calls me in, can't find my name in his cpu tells me he can't make appts and can't do prints w/out one. So I call the agency and ask for an appt and since no one is here there are obviously many appts to be had but NO! The lady says " there are no appointments available today" I explain that it's empty and she says "i understand that MA'AM(real snotty like) but there is no time for me to click on and i can't override the system. So I was sent home to make another appt for next Saturday. RIDICULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Overflowing Brain | 11:47 AM

So, almost the exact same thing happened to me, including the court and the 700 dollar ticket, except mine was when I was 21, a full time college student and I found out when the 700 dollar collections notice arrived at my doorstep. Oh and it was for speeding on the 710.

Only, my license did get suspended (without my knowledge) and that stupid ticket cost me about a thousand more dollars in insurance increases at a time when my husband was a medical student, I was a teacher and didn't hardly have the money for it.

And yet, I still feel pretty lucky. Because it still could've been worse.

Thomasin | 7:16 PM

There are several reasons I read your blog, and this post is now another reason all by itself. Life in CA--you make it come alive.

Amber, The Unlikely Mama | 7:55 PM

I had a similar thing happen to me once. I had received a noticed that my license was suspended for an unpaid parking ticket that I honestly just forgot about. It was like $35..an amount so insignificant I didn't pay it. Opps.

When I went in to pay the fine to fix things (another 50 on top of the initial amount for fun?) I found out my license had already been suspended for at least a year. For a ticket I NEVER received. For a play I had never driven let alone parked. For a car that wasn't mine that I had never owned. You get the drift. Someone effed up.

Had to spend the day in Newark at the court house proving that I had never owned a white Ford something or other. Then once they were convinced this wasn't me that had parked illegally in the ghetto...I was cleared on that charge.

STILL had to go back to the DMV to give them this clearance and then pay $100 to reinstate my licenses because even though only ONE of those tickets was actually mine, the fine for each on the DMV's side still stood? WTF?

I won't even get into the $500 in tickets I got from parking badly in NYC over the course of a few months. That I ignored. That took like 3 years to catch up to me. That got me a warrant for my arrest. Fun times!

Stef | 11:43 PM

Loved the story and hilarious dramatizations. But sorry you had to go through it all to get the story.

I had a similar thing happen to me. When I was 19, I got a ticket for making a left-hand turn in what was (unbeknownst to me) a no-left-hand-turn zone. Weeks later, I went to the courthouse to pay the small fine while out Christmas shopping. I remember thinking that I had fifty bucks less to shop with. Fast-forward to Thanksgiving the following year. On my way to Grandma's house, I got into a car crash. I called to let everyone know I would be late for Thanksgiving dinner. My dad and my grandfather meet me at the scene of the accident, where the attending police revealed there was a warrant out on me stemming from that illegal left-hand turn ticket, which I had PAID. Almost a YEAR AGO. So dad and grandpa are there to watch me get cuffed and taken to jail. Luckily, thanks to them, I wasn't even there long enough to get deloused and changed into my uniform.

Sheesh. I think this sort of thing must happen more than it seems.

Chelsea | 10:21 AM

I love your posts. you always make me laugh. the dramatizations are killing me. too funny!

Emsxiety | 7:37 PM

This is also the reason I am still with my husband after 21 years. He listens to all my ramblings.

April | 9:13 PM

I found your blog through Stumble! and I'm so glad. This sounds like a really hellish ordeal. I'm always glad when my mistakes are fixable, and things aren't worse, but I still get so mad at myself. Bah. But yes, you are very lucky, and things could've been so much worse! Oh, I love your dramatizations by the way!

Tracey | 3:02 AM

i love Hal. And i've never met him.

At home i have a Hal too.

Thank frick for that.

Can we call you Miss Woof now too? Kinda makes me chuckle!

Maria Baker | 6:33 AM

This blog is so great. I just spent my daughters nap reading some of your archives, though I still have alot more to get through. I found myself many times agreeing with you, thinking "dammit, you're right...you go!" Not sure how I stumbled onto this site, but now I'm here for a while. Great job. Thanks.

My Bottle's Up! | 12:17 PM

just getting caught up... and now that i've read this, i need a xanax.

and some more deodorant.

4068sabina | 1:53 PM

I sure could take a lesson on how to handle adversities in life... you tweeted and made it a much better experience than what it could have turned out, had you chose the other option (miserableness - which would have been the option I would have taken).
thanks.....until your next adventure..

Moxie-Dude | 2:56 AM

Don't you feel like "authority" is in the hands of IDIOTS!!!

Well you took care of it AND turned it around. Good for you!

Rebekah Wolf | 2:07 PM

I happen to sort of share your name. Mine is Rebekah Wolf and I have the SAME problem with people calling me Ms. Woof and Rachel! So funny!

meredyth | 9:01 PM

um, I've had my license suspended a couple of times for basically similar stuff. I don't pay attention and then I forget about it until I'm on my way home from work (where I'd been driving someone fairly important in my car) and getting pulled over for a headlight or turn signal and discovering that I don't have a license. Now I pay everything IMMEDIATELY and am pleasantly surprised when I find a ticket from a few months ago only to learn I PAID IT EARLY! It has been one of the hardest lessons for my adult self to learn. Although the fighting it in court only to discover it wasn't there would have thrown me for a loop as well. Could you possibly have argued that since it wasn't forwarded according the the forwarding address the post office had for you you weren't responsible?

Ray | 12:05 AM

Ohmygoodness! You are just too funny Rebecca! I mean: I know it wasn't funny at the time, but this entry cracked me up. The tweets were especially funny. Glad everything's taken care of but I'm sorry that you had to pay so much. Sheesh! And I'm glad you have Hal. He's awesome. ;o)

"...every motherfucker here is a FAKE ASSHOLE PIECE OF SHIT!!!"

^^Don't you just love maniacs like that! Ha! =P

P.S. Loved the dramatizations. =D

Allison the Meep | 5:45 PM

Jeez. Fucking L.A. DMVs. That is a very sad story, and your reenactments were perfect.

I once sat in the DMV for fucking HOURS to register my wealthy asshole boss's girlfriend's car. Why? He was busy cheating on her with skanks at the Beverly Hills Hotel. And she was busy cheating on him. So that left me to take care of their bullshit. Oh, and when it was time to pay, he had conveniently forgotten to give me money to pay her $300 fees. So I had to pay it with my money. My minimum wage, working for a misogynist asshole, money.

Lauren | 8:25 AM

Reading this post was basically peeking through the windows into our lives. Me, freaking out about SOMETHING, being hysterical and thinking the world is crashing to the ground...and my husband, the calm to my storm, the roots to my blowing willow branches, the anchor to my drifting ship.

I love how real you are.