Almost No Car For Road Trips

    By eric

    One of the reasons I’m taking this trip is for my cousin Barbara.  This road trip is occurring in her car where, oddly enough, she and I spent most of our time together. This 2005 Pontiac Vibe is the car that Charlie and I will be spending our road time in.

    My cousin Barbara passed away from cancer quite suddenly in October 2016.  It was about a month from diagnosis to death.  In one of our conversations, she asked if I wanted the car after she passed and I said yes. I did want it, I just wasn’t initially sure exactly what I wanted it for given living in NYC doesn’t really require a car (and it’s expensive to keep).  Barbara spent a lot of time on the road driving all over to meet friends and family. Most of the time she and I spent together was actually in that car going to visit people. So after giving it some thought, I decided I wanted to use the car for a road trip to see country. I think Barbara would have appreciated that.

    I know why people walk around the DMV shaking their heads

    I need to get the car registered so I can start this trip.  I talk to my mom on Thursday and she goes by the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to see if there is anything special needed. They gave her a post-it note that said, “surrogate letter or title.”  I had the title, so we’re all good. On Friday morning, I commute out to the New Jersey DMV with the title signed over in my name to register the car.  I’m told I need a certified surrogate letter from the executor of the will. In fact, the same person who told my mom yesterday that I need a “surrogate letter OR title on Friday insisted that we can’t do anything unless we have a “surrogate letter AND title”.

    After staring at this woman and waiting for an apology and not getting one, my mom and I jumped in the car and drove an hour back in to NYC.  We called Barbara’s sister who is the executor of will to see if she could get us the necessary paper. Instead of sitting in 30 min of traffic to go 2 miles, I jumped on a Citibike to ride across town to pick up the paper from. I left my mom parked in the car on the side of a NYC street due to crazy traffic and was across town and back in under 20 minutes.

    We drove back to the DMV with the paper and were then told there is a lien on the car and the lien paperwork must be handled before the new title and license plates can be issued. I called the lien company and they told me that because the car is over 10 years and they purge their data after 10 years, they no longer have that information to send.  And then bureaucracy (the DMV) said I needed to have the bank fax over a letter saying they no longer have records of a lien. I called the bank back and asked them to fax a note saying they have no information. I was told that, “it takes 2 business days to send a fax and that usually ends up actually being 4. But I can put a rush on it which means 1 day though it usually ends up being 2.”  So long story short, by the end of the day on Friday, I still didn’t have a car. Road trip temporarily postponed.

    On Monday, we went back in to give it another shot.  And once again, I found myself walking in circles at the DMV going from line to line and desk to desk in a very Nietzschean fashion shaking my head.  As I looked around and saw a few other people walking from desk to desk also shaking their heads with a look of expected frustration, I came to a realization about the DMV, the only way they can reasonably measure efficiency is in head shakes per minute. After a short 3 hour wait (for a grand total of roughly 9 hours in the DMV over the course of a few days), we were all set with registration and it was time to get the car inspected.

    Aaaand, we’re done

    Without spending a lot more time on another back and forth story of inane bureaucracy, let’s go with the fact that it only took 2 days to get the car to pass inspection.  And after what I would consider to be a bureaucratic nightmare of a few days of dealing with NJ government employees, I’m finally finished taking care of the initial stages of the trip.  This includes multiple trips to the mechanic and multiple trips to the NJ inspection station even after the DMV.  But finally everything is packed up and we’re ready to get on the road.

    Not a total waste

    The trip to New Jersey wasn’t a total waste. I went back to Market Basket and had some of their amazing sandwiches. I got to drive around the area I grew up in and see how it has changed in the last 10 years since I really looked around. Charlie got to dip his feet in to the woods without having to go all in of a full day hike to start. And I spent a few days with my mom before heading off to who knows where. Now, it’s finally time to head off to who knows where.

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