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The DMV Prank

This is currently the only story on the website that has nothing to do with the radio business.  It has everything to do with me and my unwillingness to give up in the face of adversity.  It also depicts the intractability and inflexibility of governmental institutions that exist to a large extent to serve themselves and not the citizens that the institution was created to serve.

It was 1971 when I started going to college and in 1972 my father had provided me with his used Ford station wagon after he got a new car.  I used the car to drive to college every school day for 3 years, but the vehicle was still registered to his company.  I felt that this was a potentially dangerous situation because if I got onto an accident, my father’s company could be sued for my personal failure.  So I went to my father and discussed changing the registration from his company to myself personally.  He agreed that it would be a good idea.

DMV Office II am an amateur radio operator and one of the privileges of being one is the ability to get a license plate that proudly displays my amateur radio callsign.  Amateur radio call plates are available in all states including the state of California, however, the only way that can be done is if the vehicle is registered in the name of the amateur radio licensee.  This provided a second (but less important) reason to get the vehicle registered into my name.

I called the DMV during the week to get someone with a level of authority so that I could reliably find out what was needed to transfer the registration of the vehicle from my father’s company to myself.  I questioned the DMV supervisor at length attempting to determine everything that I was going to need to accomplish my task.  Back in those days, there was no internet so I could not go to the DMV website to determine what was needed to transfer the registration.  I wanted to determine everything that I needed to bring with me on the first try so that I would not need to go back to the DMV to make multiple trips thus wasting my time and their time.  At this time in my life, I was going to college full time near LA airport and working part time in North Hollywood.  This made my days very full and busy.  I did not have an abundance of time to waste by making multiple trips when it could be done in one visit.  As most people know, the DMV is open from 8AM to 5PM, Monday – Friday.  During the early 1970s, they were also open 8AM to 5PM on many (but not all) Saturdays which provided me with the opportunity to get to the DMV without impacting my extremely busy schedule during the week.  After my lengthy conversation with the supervisor at the DMV, I felt empowered with the knowledge that would get me to the finish line with the minimal effort.

I spent the next two weeks making certain that I had all the items that the DMV supervisor has indicated that I needed to bring which included my existing driver’s license, my amateur radio license, a letter from my father indicating that he had given me the car, the pink slip for the car signed by my father relinquishing ownership to the vehicle and money to pay for the transaction.  I was now ready to go to the DMV the next Saturday to get the job done.  I was anxious about getting the car transferred as this was the first time I have ever dealt with the registration of a vehicle.  I wanted to have the amateur radio license plates on the vehicle and I wanted to take care of the potential liability to my father and his company.  But I felt that I was ready, well armed, well informed and confident that I was going to get this done.

The day arrived when it was time to head to the DMV office.  I grabbed all the material and got into the car.  I drove over to the DMV office first thing on a Saturday morning leaving the house at 7:40AM so that I could be there in plenty of time for their opening at 8AM.  I parked the car and patiently waited by the door for them to open for business.  I confidently walked into the DMV and went to the vehicle registration window with my paperwork.  I was second in line, so I had to wait for a short time to get up to the window.  I walked up to the DMV agent and explained what I wanted to do and presented my paperwork to the agent.  She reviewed my paperwork, looked into the DMV policy and procedures book to determine what was required to accomplish the task.  She was not familiar with the availability of amateur radio call plates or the requirements for them, so she had to read up on the subject.  After she was done, she looked at my papers again and noted that I had a copy of my amateur radio license.  She looked at the letter from my father giving me the vehicle and the signed pink slip relinquishing ownership of the vehicle.  She then asked me where was “bill of sale” for the vehicle.  I was not told to bring a “bill of sale” so I asked why I would need to have one.  She replied that there is a sales “transfer’ tax that was equal to 6% (the sales tax at the time) of the sale price of the vehicle.  She also insisted that my father did not have the right to “give” me the car and that a price had to be paid for the vehicle.  I then questioned her to find out if there was anything else that I would need to bring on my next trip and she said that all I needed was the “bill of sale”.  So now I had to leave the DMV with my tail between my legs and being a bit upset over the DMV coming up with something else that I needed besides what I was told to bring.  This was the exact situation that I had attempted to circumvent by talking to them on the phone before heading over to the DMV the 1st time.

I was sent home by the DMV and proceeded to deal with the other items in my busy schedule.  My father worked at his store on Saturday and typically did not get home until some time in the early evening, so I had to wait to speak to him about the bill of sale.  He eventually came home and we discussed the situation.  We decided to place a price of $100 for the sale of the vehicle.  I paid him the $100 and he took the money to the office on Monday so that he could prepare a “bill of sale” for the vehicle on company letterhead.  That night, he brought home the “bill of sale” and gave it to me.  I wanted to go directly to the DMV to get the job done, but they were closed and I did not have time to get there until the next Saturday which was 5 days away from this day.  This made me anxious for the next week until Saturday arrived and I was able to head back to the DMV to complete the transaction.

DMV Office IISaturday arrived with its normal cadence in the sequence of days.  I got up early to be one of the first to get to the DMV so that I could have this finished early.  I was one of the first into the DMV office after they opened and headed back to the Vehicle Registration window.  I went up to the window and as normal, I got a different agent than last time so I had to explain my situation all over again from scratch.  She reviewed the paperwork and she was also not familiar with the requirements for an amateur radio call plate so she had to get the policy and procedures manual to read the section on requirement for these plates.  She then carefully reviewed my paperwork and asked me for the smog certificate for the vehicle transfer.  I said, “Smog certificate?”  She replied that I needed a smog certificate to transfer a vehicle and that is a standard requirement for all vehicle transfers.  I was now fuming because I had not been told either time previously about the requirement for a smog certificate.  So now I had to leave the DMV the 2nd time without getting the registration completely handled again.

I went home and looked up smog testing stations in the phone book.  I spoke to my mother and father about smog certificates and smog stations to learn about them.  I then located a smog station to get the car tested, but they only worked Monday-Friday 8AM to 5PM.  Now I had to find time in my schedule to get a smog certificate issued which took about 10 days before I was able to get this done.  I arrived at the smog station and gave them the keys to the car so that they could run the tests.  The tests indicated that some engine adjustments were required before the car could pass the smog test.  So I had paid for the test but the vehicle did not pass.  Now I had to take the car to a repair station to have the engine repaired before I could get the smog certificate issued which required another appointment during the week when I have little to no time available for getting this done.  This required another delay until I have time to take the vehicle in for the repairs required by the smog control station.  After this was done, I had another delay before I had time to head back to the smog station to have the vehicle retested.  Eventually, the retest was done and the vehicle passed the smog test.

Now it was time to head back to the DMV which meant waiting until the next Saturday that they were open.  I went on Saturday morning, but this time I did not go first thing in the morning.  I had to wait in line once I arrived and eventually was seen by an agent who was again different than the first two times I had been there.  So now I went through the entire scenario all over again with the agent who again was not familiar with the process of obtaining amateur radio call plates.  After reviewing the policy and procedure manual and my paperwork, he told me that I had the wrong type of smog certificate.  The DMV had just changed the way that smog certificates were handled and due to the delay between when I had the original smog test performed and the retest after the vehicle repairs, the rules had changed requiring a new computerized smog test.  Now I was getting angry over the run around, the delays and the constant change of standards.  Any time I objected, I was met with total lack of concern for my time constraints, the costs or the repeated trips to the DMV office.  In short, they did not care how much they inconvenienced me or anyone else.  They did not care that they gave me incomplete information or advice.  They get paid regardless of how they inconvenience me or anyone else.  They get paid regardless how poor was their service and they do not get reprimanded for poor service.  This was a huge lesson to me about how inefficient, ineffective and callus the government can be to the average citizen on my 3rd trip to the DMV office.

I went back to the original smog station after additional delays due to my schedule to get my smog certificate updated to the current certificate.  They had decided not to invest in the new equipment so they could not issue me the newer type of certificate so they were no longer going to be an authorized smog station.  They also refused to refund my money because they claimed that I delayed getting the smog certificate to the DMV as it was good at the time that they had taken my money and it was not their fault that I delayed going back to the DMV.  I was infuriated by this attitude, but I was unable to do anything about it.  Now I had to locate another smog station that could issue the newer certificates and pay the fee again.

After another time delay waiting for a time on a Saturday when the DMV was open which was only every other Saturday at this time, I finally was able to get back to the DMV to get the vehicle registration finalized.  However things have not gone as planned even once and now it was another opportunity for things to go very wrong.  I was not disappointed as they found another form that they wanted me to get signed by myself and my father to complete the vehicle registration transfer.  This meant that I had to take the form home to have my father sign on behalf of the company.  I asked them if this was the last thing I needed and they replied yes.  So I left the DMV office for the 4th time without being able to get the paperwork handled.

After getting the new form signed by my father, I had to wait for 2 weeks for the DMV to be open on Saturday so that I could make another attempt to get the vehicle registration handled.  I stood in line and got to another agent who had never handled an amateur radio call plate transaction, so he had to review the policy and procedures manual like all the others.  Like all the other agents, he found something that I had not handled.  Since this occurred almost 50 years ago, I cannot remember the reason for this agent refusing to complete the vehicle transfer process.  So now I was sent back a 5th time to obtain another document or perform some task that needed to be handled before they were willing to accept the paperwork for the transfer of the vehicle from my father’s company to me.  They also informed me that they wanted to see a certificate of insurance.  So this was the 5th trip to the DMV and the 5th rejection of my paperwork when each time I asked to be told everything that I needed so I could get it handled on the next trip.  What was especially disconcerting was the fact that the DMV had announced that since there was an insufficient demand for services on Saturday, they were going to discontinue Saturday service.  Two weeks from now was going to be the last time the DMV was going to be open on Saturday, so I had to have everything done prior to 2 weeks from now to be certain that I could complete the transaction with minimal additional disruption of my life.

I took care of the last item within a few days and was prepared to go to the DMV first thing on Saturday morning as I had plans to visit with a friend and spend the day with him going to the pre-season ski sales that were occurring that weekend.  I was supposed to meet him at 10AM at his apartment in Downey which was a 35 minute drive from where I lived in the West Los Angeles area.  I got up early and got ready to be at the DMV when they opened at 8AM.  I finally saw an agent that I had seen before and had all the paperwork together and complete including the certificate of insurance that I brought with me.  He reviewed the paperwork and finally stamped it as complete.  I was then directed to another window where I had to wait in a 10 minute line to pay the cashier for the fees which included the vehicle registration fee.  I advanced one by one to the front of the line and eventually got to the cashier to complete the transaction.  She added up all the fees and gave me the dollar figure.  I then pulled out my checkbook and opened it up to write the check.  My eyes opened wide and rolled back in my head after I saw that the checkbook had no checks.  There was the check register and there were deposit slips, but all of the checks had been used up.  I did not have sufficient cash to pay the bill and the DMV did not accept credit cards at this time since credit cards were fairly new within the past few years back then.  I was ready to explode in anger because this was my 6th trip to the DMV and now I would be required to make a 7th trip to the DMV to finish the registration process!  The problem was that I had no one to blame except for myself for this last blunder and I did not have time to go home, pickup more checks and head back to the DMV before I had to be at my friend’s place at 10AM.  I left there in disgust, spitting nails, mumbling to myself while trying to figure out who or what I could punch out to relieve my anger over this blunder.

I left the DMV and headed home.  My mother was awake and when I walked in the front door, she immediately realized that I was in a foul mood.  She inquired what was wrong and I started to tell he what happened during this trip to the DMV.  She was already aware of the 5 other trips to the DMV, so she realized how frustrated I was over the situation.  She suggested that I head back to the DMV after grabbing a new package of checks, but I informed he that I had to meet Lance at 10AM and did not have time to go back to the DMV.  She indicated that I would have to wait until next Saturday not knowing that today was the last day for Saturday service which meant that I could not go next Saturday or any other Saturday in the future.  I left the house to head to Lance’s place with a new package of checks in my checkbook so that I could purchase whatever I needed at the ski sales.

I met Lance at his apartment in Downey by 10AM.  I told him of my angst from my misadventure at the DMV today as he was already familiar with the trouble (not all the gory details, but in general) that I was having with the DMV getting the registration handled.  I did a lot of ranting and raving about my battle with the DMV bureaucracy while I drove us to the ski sale.  We managed to put that behind us as we headed to the ski sale at the LA convention center.  We both had become avid skiers and were giddy with excitement over the sale we were about to attend.  We had both taken up skiing a year or two earlier and both had a strong desire to ski a whole lot more often.  We both needed some ski gear to round out our ski equipment to make the ski experience more enjoyable.  We got to the LA Convention center and made the rounds at the ski sale.  We both bought several items and were satisfied with our purchases.  However, there was another ski sale in Anaheim, so we headed there and spent more money at that sale.  We then headed over to Redondo Beach to shop for more ski equipment at Pats Ski & Sport in the Riviera Village area.  We did not see anything that we wanted there, so we headed back north towards my parents house in the West Los Angeles area to have dinner with them.

We were heading up the 405 Freeway from Redondo Beach and approaching the Culver City area where the DMV office was located.  I turned to Lance and asked him if he would mind if we stopped at the DMV to complete the registration process for the car.  He had no objection, so we exited the freeway at Washington Blvd to go to the DMV office.  We arrived at the DMV around 4:40PM giving me plenty of time to take care of paying the fees for the vehicle registration.  I got into the line with all the paperwork which I had kept with me in the car during the day.  Within a few minutes, I got to the cashier where I proceeded to pay for the registration and transfer fees.  It was finally done!  Only 7 trips to the DMV to handle what should have been only one trip.  The DMV personnel were responsible for all but the last one of the multiple trips to the DMV and exhibited their total lack of caring or sympathy for my trouble.  I was still angry at myself for this last trip which was a minuscule problem compared to all the crap that they had put me through over the past 3-4 months handling the registration issues, especially since I have called them prior to the first trip to find out everything that I needed to bring with me during my first visit.  Lance & I were walking towards the front door to leave the building and suddenly it felt that I had been struck by lightning with an idea for revenge.  I looked at Lance and told him that I also needed to renew my driver’s license and since I have been so consumed by the vehicle registration issue, I had totally forgotten about my license renewal.  It was now the first week of September and my license would expire in one month, so this was a good time to renew the license.  It was now 4:50PM and the DMV would close at 5PM, but we were already inside.  I asked him if he wanted to participate in keeping all these people late at the office while I took my renewal exam.  He was game for my devious plot.

I walked over to the line for taking the drivers license exam.  I stood there while people were packing up and putting things away for the night.  They kept ignoring me as I stood there in the line for taking the driver’s license exam while continuing to process the rest of the crowd and close things down for the weekend.  Eventually, the agent looked up and asked me why I was standing there.  I told him that I was there to take my driver’s license test for renewal of my license.  He replied that they were now closed and that I would have to come back another day.  I insisted that I was there waiting for 10 minutes prior to closing time and was being ignored.  I told them that I would not leave until I was given my driver’s license test.  He insisted that I must leave and I refused again.  I told him to call the supervisor.  So the agent went into the back room and brought out the supervisor who insisted that I needed to come back another time.  I told him that I was here 10 minutes before closing to take the test and I was not going to leave before I was given the test.  After another few minutes of arguing over the issue, he gave in and told the agent to give me the test.  This required about 5 separate people to stay because they needed the agent, the supervisor, the cashier, the photographer and another 1 or 2 people to conduct the testing.

They gave me the test and I headed over to the exam area where I sat down to take the test.  There were 25 questions on the test and even though I could have answered all the questions in 10 minutes, I did not want to make it that painless for them.  I read each question twice and went over all the multiple choice answers twice before deciding which answer was correct.  After finishing all 25 questions, I got up and looked at my watch to see that I had gotten done too quickly.  I yelled across the room to Lance to tell him that I already reviewed each question twice and ask him if I should review the questions another time.  He replied with an emphatic yes so I sat down to go over the questions again.  I could see the look on the faces of the DMV personnel and how disgusted they were over that conversation.

I went over the questions two more times to make certain that I delayed the DMV personnel as long as possible.  Finally, I got up and started walking to the window to turn in the test to the agent who was anxious to grade the form and get out of there to go home.  As I approached the window, I yelled at Lance who was across the room to ask him if I should review the questions one more time and again he responded with an emphatic yes.  So with no fanfare, I turned around about 1 foot from the window and returned to the examination area while the agents were having steam come out of their ears.  They were totally irritated by me and my actions which was our intent.  So I continued back to the exam area where I proceeded to review the test one more time as slowly as possible.  Finally, I stood up and went up to the window to turn in the test.  The agent grabbed the test and quickly scored the test.  I had a perfect score on the test even though it was allowable to miss up to 7 questions, so I passed the test with flying colors.  Now they wanted me to go to the next window to get my picture taken, but I told them that I had to use the rest room and could not wait.  After wasting time in the rest room and combing my hair for the picture, I proceeded to the window for the photograph.  I was then directed to the window for paying the renewal fee.  I wrote a check to pay for the renewal fee with one of the many checks that I had in my checkbook.

It was done.  I had renewed my license and I had gotten back at the bastards that had run me around in circles for months, but I still needed to rub it in and make certain that they knew what I had done and why I had done it.  So as Lance & I approached the exit door at close to 6PM which was almost one hour after closing hour, I turned around and yelled at a high volume so that everyone there could hear me that they had caused me to make 6 trips to the DMV due to their failure to inform me of what I needed each time I came into the office.  I told them that they showed no concern or mercy for my situation, so I purposely wasted their time so that they would understand how irritating their callus disregard for my time and the time of other citizens was to us and that they should rot in hell for how they treat the public.  We then turned around and exited the building.

Lance & I were laughing all the way to the car and all the way back to my parent’s house.  We had dinner with my mother and father while relating our frustrating story to them during dinner and how we managed to get back at the DMV.  After dinner, I now had to drive Lance back to his apartment since we had both been in my car during the day which required another round trip to Downey to get to his apartment.  However, the trip was enjoyable as we were both reveling in our success at teaching those jerks the lesson that they should treat people the way that they want to be treated or simply put:

PAYBACK CAN BE A BITCH! .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

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