Had Dante Alighieri written the Divine Comedy today rather than in the 1300s, the circles of hell for the worst offenders probably would closely resemble the Department of Motor Vehicles.
I sold a car and purchased a new one last week, which led to my own tour of the dark circles of the underworld – the Kansas Department of Revenue and the Johnson County Department of Motor Vehicles registration office.
My transactions should’ve been simple: a classified ad, a phone call, a vehicle and a check. But the Lord works in mysterious ways, and Satan works for the government. He expects to get paid, which I assume is the reason for the state of Kansas’ perilous titling and registration system.
The vehicle I sold, a truck, had a lien at one time. When I paid it off, the lender sent me something that said I had an e-title and a lien release.
Someone fluent in Government-ese would’ve realized that the lien release had to be faxed or mailed to the state, but I speak Private-Sector-aise. Foolishly, I thought the e-title meant I only needed to provide a bill of sale to my buyer. To be on the safe side, I called the Kansas Department of Revenue on the morning my buyer was scheduled to drive across the state to purchase the truck.
The not-so-helpful employee said I needed to send the lien release to the state and in seven to 10 business days, they would send me a title. Under no circumstances would I be able to legally sell my car without a physical title. Yes, she explained, I had an e-title, but I still needed the paper title. Huh?
I asked her what I would need to do to sell the car I legally owned that day, and she said that wouldn’t be possible. I felt the flames of hell licking my skin. I was angry.
Stupidly, I asked to speak to someone else at which point she informed me that was a no-go option. It’s a state statute, she gloated. When I asked which one, she said chapter eight. Good luck finding Kansas Statute chapter eight.
After a conversation that could’ve used a translator, she said I could sell the truck that day if I drove to Topeka and brought a litany of forms to secure an actual title.
After taking the afternoon off of work, driving to and from Topeka and spending a small portion of eternity at the Kansas Department of Revenue office, my truck was sold.
When I purchased a new vehicle, I toured a second circle of Hades when I went to register it.
When I arrived at the DMV, the parking lot was packed to overflowing. There must be a special at the neighboring Waffle House, I thought, because there was no way the DMV could be that packed in the middle of the month, in the middle of the week in the middle of the afternoon with a fledgling economy. According to the news, no one is buying cars right now, so slipping in and out of the DMV should’ve been a piece of cake.
It wasn’t to be, sadly. The large square room was standing room only. I had to take a number just to talk to the guy at the information desk.
My number noted the time I arrived and according to the slip of paper, I could expect a 15 minute wait. That 15 minutes eventually turned into almost three hours. Easy listening filtered through the mechanical calling of numbers, but it was hard to hear it over the screams of dirty children running through the throngs of people.
(Day care tip: I’m pretty certain there are parents who just drop their kids off at the DMV on their way to work rather than paying for day care. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out to whom most of those screaming children belonged.)
They just screamed and ran, ran and screamed, and no parent or guardian ever said anything to them. I considered calling the police for a child welfare check, but after three hours, I couldn’t stand to look at another bureaucratic employee – even an officer of the law — right at that moment.
There are 16 possible windows for employees at the DMV, but apparently 2 p.m. is break time for approximately half of the DMV staff. Only seven people were actually seeing customers.
As my number was called, the DMV employee at my window grabbed my papers and said I had everything in order. Huzzah!
And then, she walked away from the window as I stood there fidgeting with my title work. I assumed – wrongly – that she was going to get my license plate.
Instead, she returned with a stack of motorcycle plates that she proceeded – at snail’s pace – to count and label with sticky notes. She also brought a role of September stickers for plate renewals back to her cube. She carefully pulled those apart – one by one – and re-arranged them in a handy box on her desk.
And these are the people we want running our health care system. If you’re expecting the wheels of government-run health care to run any smoother than a trip to the DMV, ask yourself this: If tomorrow morning you had to run to the grocery store for a jar of mayonnaise or stop at the DMV to pick up a license plate, which would you rather do?
The answer is simple for me, and I don’t even like mayonnaise.