Thursday, February 16, 2012

This is the worst day of my life.

Taylor said that to me when she was about 6 years old. I don't even remember what caused her so much distress but being the loving, comforting mother that I am I assured her that she would have many MANY days much worse than that one.

I had a bad day yesterday. Most of the day was actually okay but toward the end of the day it got really, really bad. Jayson had one such day not too long ago. In fact he had several of them clustered around a single event.

In the past year we moved from Louisiana back to Texas. When you move from state to state you normally have 30 days to transfer your car registrations and your drivers license from your old state to your new one. There are no consequences for failing to do this within 30 days so we tend to drag our feet on it. Plus we are genetically flaky so remembering to take care of little details like these is sometimes more than we can handle.

This past October Jayson turned 48 years old. Shortly after his birthday he was horrified to discover that his drivers license had expired. He frantically began the process of getting it renewed because it's illegal to drive around with an expired license. Okay, that's not the real reason. He was frantic about it because he had a business trip scheduled for November and was pretty sure he would need a valid license to board the plane and rent a car.

Louisiana has what I would consider to be a more traditional DMV. It's one stop shopping for all your  drivers license, registration and title needs. If you live in the Lafayette area I would highly recommend you make the short trip to the Abbeville DMV for these services since the office is small and I never had to wait more than 10 minutes. Just make sure you slow down for the Maurice speed trap and since you're already going so slow you might as well stop at the Villager's Cafe for a shrimp poboy and chili cheese fries then pick up a stuffed chicken at Hebert's for supper.

Now that we're back in Texas we are required to handle our drivers license business at the drivers license office or DPS, and the car registrations are done at the car registration office or at the tax office. You can handle basic registration renewals at offices in some grocery stores (no joke), but more complex registration business is done at a county tax office which you can find in a courthouse annex or sometimes in the basement of the county jail. That's no joke either. 

Jayson found a drivers license office not too far from our house, so a couple of days after his birthday he headed over there to get his license renewed and also transferred from Louisiana to Texas. After waiting in line for over an hour he was plummeted into a month-long hell.

They asked to see Jayson's car registration. All he had was the Louisiana registration which he explained to the always lovely DMV employee. That employee told Jayson that their records show a car with a Texas title in his name, therefore he would have to provide a valid registration for that car before they can issue his new license.

This made no sense to me at all since whether or not you own a car has no bearing on getting a license but that's what the gal told him so he didn't argue. See, the problem is that we bought our cars in Texas then moved to Louisiana shortly after that. We registered the cars in Louisiana but never transferred the title. I suppose we should have done that but we really just didn't think about it and it doesn't make a difference unless you sell the car.

So there he was with a Texas title, a Louisiana registration, and an expired Louisiana drivers license. Jayson found the nearest tax office which shares space with the sheriff's department for precinct 4, or something like that. All I know is there were a lot of uniformed officers wandering around so he had to make sure he parked legally.

After another hour in line the tax office gal asked to see all of the documents that are required in order to transfer your car's registration. Jayson handed them over and was pretty confident that he had all his ducks in a row. Almost. As it turned out, there was one stray duck. His car had a valid Louisiana inspection sticker on it but tax lady said he would need to get a Texas inspection then come back once he had proof of that.

Up until this point Jayson had done everything himself but now he brought me in on the fun. It made sense to just go ahead to take care of both our cars at the same time. Both cars passed inspection with only one minor repair so we felt like things might actually go smoother now.

We went back to the tax office, waited in line then once again presented all of the documents for both vehicles: Louisiana registrations, Texas titles, Texas proof of inspection, Louisiana insurance cards (yeah, it was on the to-do list), passports (Jayson's only valid identification at the time) and a partridge in a pear tree.

Tax Gal was tapping away at her computer when she stopped and turned our insurance cards over to the back, then the front again, then the back. Before she even said anything I just burted out how I knew we needed to get Texas car insurance but we just hadn't gotten around to it but the Louisiana insurance is good, right? Tax Gal asked what the liability limits were on our policy. She may as well have asked the meaning of life. I don't know the answer for either one. She very kindly asked if there was a way we could call our insurance agent and have them fax over our policy's liability info.

Of course my first question was if we'd have to leave then get back in line again. She said we could stand off to the side and as soon as the fax came in she would call us over. I called our Louisiana insurance agent who faxed over our info sheet shortly after that. Tax Gal called us over and informed us that the liability limits on our Louisiana policy were too low. Jayson and I both reacted as if she'd just said we have the worst cancer on the face of the earth and we would both be dead within the next 5 minutes.

Tax Gal was actually very helpful and said that we had a choice. We could either raise the liability limits on our Louisiana policy and just have the agent fax over the binder, or we could get a Texas policy with the correct limits. I started to ask her the "will we need to come back and stand in line" question again but I guess she saw it on my face and said we could stand off to the side to make our calls.

Our Louisiana insurance agent said that raising our liability to the Texas minimum would increase our premiums by like a million dollars. Okay not really but it was surprisingly expensive...prohibitively so. We told Tax Gal we would have to get new insurance and would come back when that was done. Jayson and I went out to lunch then back home to stick our heads in the oven.

Red tape is always a little frustrating but I was starting to feel like we'd never find our way out. The only bright spot in this huge ordeal that should have been nothing more than an errand, was that by switching our car insurance to Texas and even raising the liability limits, we cut our premiums in half. In HALF! I did the whole thing online with Progressive and it took less than an hour to research it, fill out all the required information then print out our temporary insurance cards.

I was so overjoyed at the savings that I emailed Progressive and told them how much we saved. I also told them that I was sure that Flo would want me to have a tricked out name tag because of my huge savings. A few weeks later look what I got in the mail:
Progressive is just dripping with awesome sauce.
With new Texas insurance in hand, along with our other documents that we started referring to as our "papers" with a Russian accent, we went back to the tax office and spent another long hour in line. When we were summoned to Tax Gal's window I noticed that the woman standing at the window next to us was crying. Not just talking with tears, but actually sobbing. I didn't even have to ask her what was wrong. I so felt her pain.

We handed Tax Gal our paperwork and she said the insurance information was just fine. But there was another problem. She needed the proof of inspection for Jayson's car. When she said that, Jayson and I looked at each other and mutually yet silently gouged each others eyes out in our minds.

You see, we both drive Dodge Durangos which we bought at the same time. The cars are identical except for the color. It's easy to get their paperwork confused because it all looks the same except for the VIN. We were both certain the inspection proof was there before but then again maybe we just saw the one and thought we saw both.

We were doing the panicked scrambling search of our persons just in case that sheet of paper had somehow managed to end up in our shoes. You just never know. Jayson asked the gal if he could go look in the car since we were both sure we had the paper earlier that day. Tax Gal said that would be fine and I didn't even ask her about waiting in line again. I just moved to our designated spot "off to the side".

While Jayson was searching the car I was praying with everything I had that he would find the paper. It was nearing 4:00 which meant that if we had to go back home we couldn't get back to the tax office before it closed so the torture would have to be continued another day. If I accidentally left that paper at home when I was shuffling through everything to fill out the car insurance application, I was pretty sure I would either be divorced or would end up on Unsolved Mysteries.

Jayson walked back in, paper in hand and within minutes we walked out with registration documentation and new Texas license plates.

What an unnecessarily hairy ordeal. Unfortunately it wasn't over for Jayson. The next day he went back to the drivers license office where he waited in line for an eternity and a half. He handed over his brand new proof of Texas registration, Texas insurance, Texas inspection, and his Louisiana drivers license.

The DPS or DOT or whatever they call that office person told Jayson that normally all he would have to do is present his valid out of state license in order to get a new one. Since his Louisiana license had expired it was not valid. He was given 2 choices: drive back to Louisiana to get his license renewed there then come back to Texas to have it transferred, OR he would have to take his driving test all over again.

Poor Jayson. I really felt sorry for him and was SO glad that I had another year before my license expired. I wouldn't wish all that frustration on my worst enemy. Jayson didn't have time to drive back to the bayou to renew his license so he scheduled his driving test.

He was able to take the written test fairly quickly and he passed with flying colors. Well, if he'd missed just one more question he would have failed but we're calling that flying colors. He said there were very few actual driving questions on the test and it was mainly about some weird policies and laws and junk he'd never heard of.

The earliest they could get him in for his road test was a couple of weeks after his scheduled business trip to Pennsylvania. A week before he was due to leave he asked me to call the drivers license place to see if they could get him in sooner for his test. Okay, that was no easy task. Just finding their phone number was a pain and of course it didn't help that I didn't know what the office is actually called. I still don't know. Then when I called I got to listen to a recording but there was no option to speak to a live person. The recording said that all business relating to your drivers license and/or driving tests must be handled in person at the office. You can't call and schedule a driving test. You have to go down there and wait in line to just to schedule another 2 week wait.

I gave Jayson the bad news so he took an afternoon off work to go to the drivers license office and wait in line only to be told that there were no other openings available. He was able to board the plane to Pennsylvania with just his passport but he couldn't sweet talk the rental car lady into giving him a vehicle, even after explaining why his license was expired and what he was going through to fix that.

To make a long story even longer, Jayson did finally get to take his driving test and he passed it. He said he felt a little awkward in the waiting area full of parents and their excited teenagers waiting to take their driving test. He pretended to be anxiously waiting for little Susie to finish her test.

Jayson's driver's license ordeal began in October and ended with the arrival of his license in early December. When he got it we celebrated the joy as a family and tried to forget all the pain and frustration it took to get there. Like childbirth.

I hadn't thought about the drivers license ordeal since then but it popped back into my head yesterday. Since we've moved back to Texas I've been feeling like I'm drowning in my own post nasal drip so I went to CVS to buy the biggest box of the highest dosage of pseudoephedrine I could find. I pulled the card off the shelf then took it to the pharmacy counter. Pharmacy Guy asked to see my drivers license then scanned it into their computer to make sure I'm not cooking meth in my underwear in an RV out in the desert. Or whatever.  

Pharmacy Guy said, "I'm sorry but I can't sell this to you. Your license has expired." That didn't phase me because it's happened before. I still have my Louisiana license and the last time I renewed it they gave me a sticker to put on the back that has the new expiration date so if you just look at the front it looks like my license has been expired for years.

I told him the correct expiration date was on the back. He turned over my license and said, "It expired on February 2, 2012."

To which I replied, "2013."

And then he retorted, "2012."

I snatched the license from his hand and examined the sticker. Sure enough it said 2012. My Louisiana drivers license had expired. My vision blurred, the room started spinning and everything faded to black.

Pharmacy Guy said, "Ma'am? Did you want to try a different product?"

But what I heard was, "Ma'am? Are you just eat up with stupid? Do you not learn anything from what your husband went through? Could you not have taken 3 seconds to double check your license BEFORE your birthday 2 weeks ago? Do you seriously think you have any chance of passing a driving test at this point in your life especially since you barely passed the first one?"

So today I am weighing my options. Drive back to Louisiana to get my old license renewed and just hope they don't ask me if the address on my license is still current. Or I can face the music here, stand in line for days and days, fail a written test, retake it, fail it again, retake it, pass it, take the driving test, fail it, take it again, then be given a pity pass from a nice officer who felt like he was being kind to the elderly.

This is the worst day of my life.


SkylersDad said...

Holy crap! That is more than any two people should have to endure!!

Shannon Green said...

I kinda thought the same thing. Then again, we brought some of it on ourselves. Oh well, it gives us something to talk about.

Lisa Ledet said...

Just move back to the bayou. Problem solved.