The Road to World Conquest: Crime may not pay, but at least it’s not extorting me like being a good guy
I’m breaking the law.
My Alabama license plate expired at the end of July after we moved back to Durham, North Carolina. I’ve been trying to get new NC plates since we got here, but suffice to say that this has been…challenging.
Last week, I reported to the DMV with my old NC license plate, my Alabama car title (which I had just received after getting my Alabama plate in March), and a checkbook to cover the cost of the new tag. The amiable old man behind the counter looked up my license plate number and informed me that Wake County had a tax block on reissuing a tag. Apparently, I owed some money to the county from 2010. He didn’t know how much. Also, the system seemed to think that my GEICO car insurance had been cancelled, so I would need to bring in a Form FS-1, which I would have to request from the insurance company.
That day, I called the tax office and discovered that I owed about $6 somehow. Paid it immediately, removing the tax block. I called GEICO and requested the FS-1 so that it could be mailed to me.
Yesterday, the FS-1 form arrived. I had everything I needed!
This morning, I jumped in the Juicebox. When I got to the tag office, however, I realized that I had brought everything except the FS-1 form. Not to worry. Luckily, I live just a few blocks from the DMV. I drove back home, snatched the form from the box on the kitchen counter, and then made my way back to the mall.
The clerk this time was a kindly middle-aged woman with bleached blonde hair who took my old NC tag, my driver’s license, my GEICO FS-1 form, and my Alabama title. She started filling out a form on the DMV computer. Then she told me that because I hadn’t turned my tag in after moving to Alabama, and because the system showed my insurance as being cancelled, I would have to pay a $100 fine for driving without insurance before I could get a valid plate.
I’ve had car insurance the entire time. However, I shifted it to the state of Alabama after moving there.
“Can I make that fine go away if I can demonstrate that I’ve been insured the entire time?” I asked. “Because I have. My coverage never lapsed.”
“Oh, sure, you can do that,” she said. “You’ll need to get an FS-1 form from your insurance company.”
I pointed to the one on her desk. “Already did that, didn’t I?”
“That’s not for the right date,” she replied. “You have to get one that proves you had coverage on 1/22/11.”
“Really not making this easy for me,” I said.
“At least you’ll save the hundred dollars,” she said.
“Maybe,” I said. “Can I get a temporary tag?”
“Not without that form.”
“So maybe I’ll save $100, but maybe I’ll have to pay a fine for driving with an expired tag,” I said.
“I don’t know how much that would be,” she said. “I’m not a police officer.”
I checked the web. Non-moving violation fines like that can cost up to $500, but it’s probably more in the neighborhood of $150.
Now I’m back to square one. Gotta call GEICO again, swim through the bureaucracy, and snag a different FS-1.
It shouldn’t be such a hassle to try to be a good guy.
I had occasion to discover an amusing graffiti exchange in the men’s room of the Snug Harbor jazz club in New Orleans last week:
YOU ARE ALL SCUM-SUCKING CONSUMER WHORES.
Where did you get your Sharpie?
When I bought the tickets to the U2 concert in Nashville, I did so with full awareness of the show date (July 2) and its location, in an outdoor football stadium that would be packed with about 44,000 people.
It was hot all damned day. It was hot when I walked Huck around the Belle Meade plantation west of town that morning. It was even hotter when Catherine and I roamed the streets of downtown Nashville, stopping in honky tonks and barbecue joints along Broadway. Granted, it was somewhat cooler by the time we joined the throngs on the field around “The Claw” for the U2 show, which would kick off with Florence and the Machine around 7, but it was still damned hot.
They didn’t provide chairs in the general admission area. We were on our feet, mostly, although there was one hippy couple that brought a blanket to spread on the ground in an admirable (but largely vain) effort to establish their own little patch of turf. Catherine offered to get drinks while we waited. I asked for a Powerade. This probably wasn’t a great idea, in retrospect. After she got back, the stadium continued to fill. We were about 50 feet back from the outer ring of “The Claw.” Not a bad position from which to view the show, really!
But then the problems started.
First, we had the people weaving their way up to the front, stopping every once in a while to pretend to look for their imaginary friends way up at the front.
Second, we had a brief encounter with Vomit Woman. She was a short woman with stringy hair, a cup of beer in each hand and a loopy look in her eyes as she approached me and Catherine and promptly coughed-snorted-spewed chunky brown liquid on us. It got on my socks and the right leg of my shorts. It splattered Catherine’s shirt.
“Sorry,” the woman managed to blurt, still clinging desperately to both beers and not worrying so much about whatever grossness was dangling from her right nostril. She pushed her way past us toward the back of the crowd while Catherine and I just sort of stared at each other in disbelief.
I tried cleaning some of the gunk off Catherine with my shirt, but it wasn’t working, so she departed to get a rag and water from event staffers. While she did this, Catherine informed the staff to be on the lookout for the woman, who might be in dire medical straits.
A little while later, about two rows up from us, a woman fainted. Her boyfriend helped her up and started leading her back toward the first aid station. She made it about 40 feet before passing out again. People nearby assured us that she hadn’t been drinking, but may have been overcome by the heat.
Florence and the Machine came out and played their set. I wasn’t too familiar with their stuff, but I enjoyed what they played. When they were done, U2 crew members started prepping the stage and lights for the main event. We were about 10 minutes from showtime when I told Catherine: “I think I could use another water.”
She gawked at me and said, “We need to talk about your timing.”
I nodded. Then I tried to explain that in the past few minutes, I’d felt drained. Hot. Everything … everyone around us … seemed to be closing in. I felt astonishingly claustrophobic. A little dizzy. I didn’t think I could wait until after U2 began their set. I needed to get out of the crowd now.
I don’t remember a whole lot about the next minute or so, except that Catherine got a very determined look on her face and helped me stagger and weave my way through the crowd toward the outer perimeter of the field, where people could buy beer, water, and pretzels. I’m pretty sure I stomped all over whatever the hippies with the blanket had spread out for their pleasant evening at the show. I felt vaguely bad about that. I would’ve felt worse if I had fainted on them.
Thin crowd on the perimeter, thankfully. We found an empty keg where I could sit for a few minutes, breathe deep, regain my bearings, and wait for Catherine to pick up another bottle of water. When she returned, I poured some water over my head, then drank judiciously. I soon felt better, well enough to relinquish my keg chair so that I could stand on the outskirts of the crowd with Catherine and watch the show.
From our vantage on the perimeter, we got to see at least a dozen other people falling prey to similar issues. One guy was rolled out on a gurney. Another left in a wheelchair. A husband helped his pregnant wife to our area, and she looked as miserable as I must have.
I went through two more bottles of water before the show was over. I really enjoyed seeing U2, but I could have done with just the one encore this time.