Saturday, November 19, 2011

At the DMV

I spent three hours at the DMV the other day.  I know, I'm not the only one.  It seems like if anyone wants to complain about inefficiencies in government, or about long lines, or if anyone wants to just generally complain, the DMV seems to be a perfect target.

For this reason, every time I've gone into the DMV, I've done my best to be cordial and polite, and tried to recognize that the people who work there probably receive complaints all day.  Plus, I'm sure they hear 'jokes' and other comments even when they're not at work.  So I do everything I can to treat these people well when I find myself at the DMV. 

However, I found my patience wearing thin in my most recent DMV endeavors.  Here's what happened ... my sob story, if you will:

We bought a new car.  Well, we bought a used car, new to us.  I found the car at a smaller dealer up in Boulder.  And just to be financially safe and responsible, we took out a loan to pay for the car.  Now, I'll admit that I haven't bought many cars before, so I was unfamiliar with the paperwork that goes along with buying a car, and trusted the dealer and the credit union to guide me through.
Now, I was trying to be responsible.  So, a couple weeks after I bought the car, I went in to the DMV to get it registered.  After waiting for an hour, I got to the counter where I discovered that it takes weeks for the paperwork to arrive and be processed.  That hour was my fault.
So I returned a couple days before the temporary tag expired.  After waiting for over an hour, I discovered from the polite woman at the counter that DMV had received the paperwork, but hadn't had time to process it yet (but that the would over the weekend).  They issued me another permit, my hour having been wasted. 
So I returned the next week, and again waited for an hour.  When I got to the counter, the worker there informed me that the paperwork had been returned to the loan agency because it was incomplete.  It should be noted here that I had a copy of the missing form with the papers in my possession.  At this point, either the loan company had lost this piece of paper, or the DMV worker had missed it in the packet.  At this point, I needed a new temporary permit ~ but this time I had to pay for it. 
Two weeks later, the paperwork had not been received by the loan company.  However, I needed another temporary permit, so had to return to the DMV again.  This time, the wait was three hours.  When I got to the counter and explained the situation, I was informed that I'd need to pay for another temporary permit.  
Finally, after over two weeks, the paperwork made it to the credit union, where they discovered that the DMV had simply missed the form in the packet.  But since I had paid off the loan during the three months I'd been dealing with this, I was able to hand carry the paperwork to the DMV.  So I took it to the office, waited my required hour, and got up to the counter where the worker had trouble sorting through the different forms, since the loan paperwork was no longer pertinent.  But I came away, after five trips to DMV, four of them necessary, I came away with plates for the car.

I know this is a first world problem, and that many people in the world deal with much bigger issues than mine.  But most of my waiting could have been alleviated.  During my three-hour stint on the one day, someone standing near me asked, perhaps rhetorically, why it was taking so long.  Perhaps to his surprise, I offered an actual answer.  I believe the waits were so long, and the process was so slow, because the DMV is understaffed.  And I believe the DMV is understaffed because people don't want to pay taxes.  When I said this, my new friend asked if I didn't think we were paying a lot of taxes already (between income and sales and gasoline and all the rest).  

After pointing out that taxes are lower than they've been in decades, I told him that I'm paying anyway.  I'm paying for my lower tax rate by waiting for hours at the DMV.  I'm paying for my lower tax rate in repairs to my car when it's damaged on roads that aren't maintained.  I'm paying for my lower tax rate when my insurance and medical expenses rise.  And we're all paying for a lower tax rate (especially a lower tax rate on the wealthiest among us) as we struggle through a recession brought on by a housing crisis a banking crisis greed and politics.  

We're also making our children pay for our lower taxes today, because the education we're providing them is substandard ... because we're unwilling to pay more in taxes.  But that's for the next blog post. 



  1. That's a great point on the costs of lower taxes.

  2. In restaurants and in society and life in general, we get what we pay for.