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Friday, December 14, 2007

undone by bureacracy

As long-time readers may recall, once upon a time I used to spend too much time in traffic court. I have been law-abiding, however, for several years now so imagine my surprise, yesterday, when I received a notice that my license had been suspended for failing to appear in court.
I felt a sense of cold weariness as I looked at the notice. It was like, it's hopeless, I'm hopeless. How could I have let this happen? Again?
And then it dawned on me: This is bullshit.
I never thought this blog would also be a good way for me to keep track of my criminal activity, but I remembered that the last time I appeared in court was so traumatic that not only did I swear I'd never break another traffic law again, I also swore, to myself, that I would keep every citation and every clearance with me at all times (because I was positive, last time, that I'd already paid the damn thing once, but I had no receipt and no credibility and, thus, paid it again).
Not this time.
Sure enough, the state Motor Vehicle Division sent me yet another notice telling me my license had been suspended for failing to appear in court for the same 2005 offense I had taken care of and paid. And this time, my friends, I still had my receipt.
I called muni court where the person who answered told me, with a bored and superior tone in her voice, I'd need to come down there.
"I'm not coming down there," I said. "You're finding someone to help me. I didn't do anything wrong!"
Clearly something in my voice actually got through (the murderous rage?). Because the next person I talked to, Jessica, was actually helpful and sympathetic (I know, right?).
She told me I was about the 50th person having this issue this week because MVD had waited two years to enter data and had now entered it all in one month and had, apparently, made a lot of mistakes. She said she'd fax the clearance to them, along with a waiver from Judge Yalman of the $25 reinstatement fee.
I waited a few hours and called MVD. I know, I know. I called MVD. I'm crazy. When they finally answered, I was told: "We don't got no fax." And was told there was no record of suspension or anything else on my record.
"I'm holding the suspension in my hand," I said, through gritted teeth.
I called Jessica back and got her to fax me the clearance.
I called MVD again to get their fax number (which isn't on their web site, of course). I faxed them all my info along with a letter explaining that they were going to fax me my cleared license information.
This morning when I came in, there was a fax from MVD. A completely incomprehensible fax from MVD. So I now have a stack of papers I am keeping with me in my glove box. If I get pulled over for any reason, I am going to hand it to the cop and scream, "you tell me what the hell it all means!"
Now, I personally think there's a story in here somewhere. One month to enter two years worth of data by the MVD? Endless errors? And what about the DWI offenses? Have they also been sitting there for two years? And, yes, I realize I am the editor of a newspaper and can assign that story to one of my reporters, but we only have one issue left this year, so I throw it out there to some daily reporter stuck on the desk for the holiday season. Muni court has already heard from at least 50 people who got suspended license notices for things they cleared up years ago! Go!
Oh, if you'd like a quote from me: "No F*** comment."