Monday, February 28, 2005

Rant Against The Bureaucracy Machine

NOTE: Please do not take any threats in this post seriously. I am majorly upset while I write it and when I get some chocolate in me I will feel much, much better.

Some time Saturday evening it occurred to me that it is the end of the month of February, and my van's registration needs to be renewed in February. Usually this occurs to me before the end of the month, but this year I did not receive the usual packet of paperwork associated with renewals. I didn't know if I needed a state inspection, or how much the renewal fees and property taxes are. I have rearranged my schedule today so that I would have time to take care of this in between getting kids home from school, taking the seats out of the van to accommodate 70 cases of Girl Scout cookies, and taking Sonshine to the chiropractor because for the last few days he's been complaining of pain in his elbows (where his "funny bone" nerve is).

I went on the DMV's website to see if I could get duplicate forms or find out how much the fees are. The website was distinctly unhelpful. It only had a place where you could log on using the PIN number that came with your registration renewal packet. They had a link that said "Find your plate and PIN". I clicked it, thinking it would lead to some sort of search or maybe a place where I could enter some alternate information in lieu of a PIN. Nope, it only opened a little window with a picture of where in the paperwork you can find your PIN.

So I called the phone number that they gave on the website. I got an automated recording. For some reason, it seemed to be infuriatingly slow. (Gee, I don't know why...) I was able to find out, after pressing many, many buttons, that I could renew without my paperwork, if I send a copy of my old vehicle registration, my new inspection certificate if required, and a check for the amount of the registration fees. I was also able to find out that I don't need an inspection certificate because it's an odd-numbered year (good, one less thing to do today). But I could not find out how much my fees were. The recording said that to find out what my fees were, I should contact them. What the hell did they think calling them was? I was trying to contact them, and they were being distinctly unhelpful with their slow, cheery automated system that told you everything you didn't need to know. I pushed "0", hoping I could bypass their cheery little recording and get to talk to a real person, but that was "not a valid option." The recording also happily suggested that if I wanted more information, I should use their website.

I was nearly overcome by an urge to shove the telephone handset into the nearest available bureaucrat's nearest available orifice.

After I screamed for a while, and put the baby down in the crib to cry instead of crying in my lap, I called the county assessor's office, which handles the vehicle registrations locally. A real person answered the phone. They gave me the amount of my registration fees and the information I needed, and the phone call was done inside of thirty seconds. That, my friends, was all I ever wanted.