Thursday, December 20, 2012

You Are Here

I was driving yesterday with my kids in the backseat when I realized I had just pulled in front of a police car. When his lights started flashing, my spine jammed straight up as I told the kids nonchalantly, We're going to get pulled over. Everything's OK. Don't worry.

At a stop, I watched in my rearview as the officer behind me turned on his siren before doing a sharp u-turn away from us in the opposite direction. OH GOOD. I relaxed back into my seat. Having an idea of why I was concerned, Daisy explained helpfully, "They probably took a picture of your license plate, and they'll find you later. That's why I want to be a police when I grow up - you get to use clues to solve mysteries." Thanks, kid.

I guess the simplest way to explain how I got here is I stepped into a DMV, insurance, registration, lost-ATM-card, misplaced-mail-key, official-mail-overflow quicksand about a year ago while my attention was on my job, raising my daughters, and working toward better options for us. There were signs in the spring, but I didn't notice how bad it really was until this fall, when I was pulled over in front of my apartment - without the kids this time - for expired registration. It was one of my more rude run-ins with the law.

The officer threw down a reality check, "Do you realize I can impound your car a month from now if you don't renew your registration?" before sending me into an existential crisis, "And look! Is this even your car? Your insurance covers a different model! That means this car isn't even insured!" What the? I glanced around to make sure I was in the right car. He decided to let me off with a mere fix-it ticket, and I shakily got on the road to forget about almost everything except work, kids, and moving.

On the way home after a late work night in November, I was pulled over again. The officer was polite but concerned, "Do you realize there is a warrant out for your arrest in two counties?" Oh no. "In some counties, they won't ask questions - they'll cuff you and impound your car. You look like a hardworking lady that doesn't need to go to jail. Make this a priority." [Gulp.] OK.

After fighting a sudden urge to see Smokey and the Bandit,  I did; I faced the box of guilt I'd been stuffing mail into since late spring. The box had been a fixture in the corner of my daily life for months. It was in the hotel room during Fourth of July with Bindy and the girls. It was in my car as I zigzagged to and from the apartment, condo, and work. Finally, I opened that puppy. There were plenty of bills I had been paying all along but there were a few surprises. For example, I owed the DMV a few hundred dollars, payable immediately, because my registration had been suspended. There was a band of red across the top of the official notice so I knew I was really in trouble.

Out of checks, I tried to pay online, but I was now in the bad category that didn't have this privilege.  I went to my bank to get a cashier's check for $342 made out to the DMV, then I stopped at a UPS store, the closest mail outlet. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and I hesitated before handing over the envelope - the man was fully engaged in telling a story to his buddy, and I just had a feeling.

Three weeks later, the DMV had not received the check. The good news is, I learned I actually owe exactly half of what I sent them. I was so excited when I learned the bill was lower from the DMV rep on the phone that I had to ask, So, what do you guys do when people overpay? The rep reassured me, "Don't worry, we will cash the check and send you a check for the difference . . . " Awesome! "But wait, I haven't received anything from you yet!" I know, I know.

Oh yeah. And that's the bad news - nothing is resolved. Still. I pray every time I get in my car: please let me get to my destination as planned. And keep everyone on the road safe. And give me the power to break the space-time continuum so I can be punctual for once in my life. Amen.

It took me two days of phone calls to BofA with conflicting instructions to determine that the cashier's check had not been cashed and what I needed to do was what my mother had advised all along - go into the bank where you got the cashier's check. Fine, I thought there was this thing called the internet that took over the inside of banks, but whatever; fighting your mother is fighting yourself. I went in and waited in line. I explained that I needed to put a stop payment on a cashier's check. The teller directed me to a manager sitting at a desk.

I approached the desk and explained that I needed to put a stop payment on a cashier's check. The manager, who looked to be a couple years out of high school, motioned for me to sit down while he made a phone call. Then he explained the good news. There's usually a 90-day waiting period for making a stop payment on a cashier's check. In this case, because the amount was relatively low, we just need to wait 30 days, which will be Friday 12/21. I had a knee-jerk, stressed out moment, But you don't understand! I need this money to pay my car registration yesterday and I don't have more cash for this right now. He was unmoved, "I'm sorry to hear that, ma'am. There are laws about how cashier checks are handled, blah, blah, blah . . . "

The bank manager went on, "I will need you to fill out paperwork and have it signed by a notary." He had asked to see my ID, which had just expired last week, when I had first sat down at his desk. "Of course, the notary won't sign anything with an expired drivers license, so you'll need to take care of that first. Hopefully, you will have that by Friday."

Yeah sure, you betcha, kid. My driver's license renewal was another surprise from the box, which was further complicated by my change of address, which was even further complicated by losing my new mail key for the first couple weeks at the condo. During that time, I also managed to not forward my mail from the apartment, though I thought I had.

So basically, sinking a little but I'll find a way out. I always do.



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