Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New California Tags and Such Fun at the DMV

The Swedish Car, posing in front of a California bungalow, on her first day in her new state, back in, um, well, legally, to avoid a fine, that official "resident" arrival day was August 1, 2009. But back then it was coolish, and it seemed like February.

The Swedish Car is now sporting her California tags. Actually just one of them, though that should change today. Florida is a teensy bit backward re auto safety and law enforcement and there, they only require license tags on the back of a vehicle. California requires them on both the back and the front. So the Swedish Car doesn't even have a bracket on the front and we have to pop down to the Volvo place shortly to get that taken care of. Another gillion dollars for a half-hour-labor-fee of bracket-installing and the Swedish car and I will be just super, thank you.

She thinks she can now vote in California and I haven't the heart to disabuse her of this.

It was a laugh riot getting this simple task--vehicle registration for an out-of-state-car--completed. I don't import these things. I just drove the one in.

It takes all of about five minutes in Florida. In California you have to fill out two forms: 1) your application to be so lucky as to register your car in the Golden State and 2) another long sheet, called a VIN inspection on which a specialist must make sure the car you are registering is really the car you say your are registering. Okay fine.

The application I found on the Internet said you could have a peace officer do the VIN inspection, so before facing the lines at the DMV office (no lines in Florida, I swear) I stopped by my local PD and asked for a VIN inspection and got a local peace officer to fill out the page--as the law said he could. It included not just the VIN, but the mileage, Florida tag number, title inspection and Florida registration number, and other really incredibly complex stuff only a specialist could report onto a form. Seemed to me any idiot could do it and as it turns out I was partly right.

Successful smog test form in hand along with application form, inspection form, and identification and California insurance cards (Did I need a passport to come to California? I brought it just in case. These guys sounded tough.), I headed to the local DMV office, where I stood in line to get my number. That's a new concept too. Very slow line to get one's number so you can wait again. Then I waited about forty minutes for my number to be called, which was okay as I got to read this month's Vanity Fair, as usual, jammed with great articles including another one about Bernie Madoff the Crook and one about Farrah's creepy last few years, and same same about Michael Jackson. Riveting. (Farrah looked great even a year before she died. I hate her.)

They called my number. The very snippy, dark-haired lady behind the desk looked at my VIN inspection form and asked me who had done this abomination? My local PD, said I. Well it will have to be redone, he has filled it out incorrectly. How so? I asked (I thought) very nicely. Well for one thing he has filled out the mileage, but he has not checked whether it is in miles or kilometers. You will have to go out, bring your car around to the side of the building and wait for the inspector to do this again, correctly.

I'm registering a car from Florida not France, so one might presume one could just go ahead and check the "miles" box and be done with it. "Are you suggesting to me that you know more about my job than I do?" She asked me this very quietly but I could see she was going to strike me very soon, especially if I dared to ask her another question. Maybe they are all grumpy here, I thought, because the Governator is making them take three Friday's off in a row without pay to save the state some money. I'm crying for them. Really.

So, I went 'round the building and wasted another half an hour on another inspection. (It was "miles" by the way. What a nice surprise! I'd suspected it all along! And it really was my car! A revelation!) Returned to the line, finally got waited on by a very nice lady this time, who had even kept her patience while explaining to the illegal alien ahead of me how to fill out a cheque. So as it turns out, I did not need my passport after all. Almost though. I still think I could be deported for disrespecting that DMV officer by asking her something.

All this fun cost me $300. Seems high, but here we are.

The Swedish car thinks the tags here are much prettier as they are red, white and blue. Nothing like an immigrant for patriotism.

Best line of the day came from the Volvo guy when I stopped by, post registration nightmare, to make sure they had a bracket to install for my new plate on the front. I was born here, I said, apropos of nothing. They would have the bracket the next day, he said. "And welcome back." I love the sound of that.

Everything is better, it seems in California. The weather is better; the people are thinner and healthier; folks are going "green" all over the bloody place; everyone has nice white veneers on their teeth so they all photograph well; and everyone rides his bicycle with a complete outfit and a matching helmet. But there is this one thing:

The DMV and Tag Office work better in Florida.

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