AN ODE… to the DMV

You read that right. The DMV as in the Division of Motor Vehicles. Your PTSD acting up yet? Well take your meds and strap in. I know what y’all are thinking and this isn’t that. This is an actual ode to the oldest of government professions, an agency dedicated to the systematic pissing off of the greatest number of the populace in a given eight-hour workday.

Without sarcasm, snark, condescension or tongue in cheek; with malice toward none, I will attempt to relay to you dear reader, in a non-ironical way, why on this particular day the DMV should be lauded, heaped with praise even. Yeah, I said heaped.

The story begins on a rare cool day in Knoxville, September-ish, year of our Lord 2021. My license plate was expiring Oct 31. Now in Tennessee we have, as I’m sure other states do, an on-line system that allows you to renew your plates with the click of a mouse and a surrender of $30 American for the plate and $35 American for the Queen’s share.

Basically for a few clicks and $65 clams you’re done, and you never had to do your hair or see/deal with people. Your sticker and new registration arrive promptly 14 business days later. Honestly, it’s pretty awesome.

However, on this particular day the system spit back, Plates cannot be renewed 90 days from expiration. Of course, that’s weird because I hadn’t paid it yet and was well within the 90 days. So, I wait till October, same deal. Tried again in November, same same and if we’re being honest, I completely forgot about it after that.

Flash to May of 2022 and Tracy’s van comes up for renewal but Tennesse is changing plates. That means no on-line magic. Have to go into the DMV to get the new plates, which FYI are much nicer looking in my opinion. Anyway, I thought since hers were up I’d try my plates again. Same message from the web site.

Not too shabby

Now I know I have not paid for my registration for the new year, so I’ve gone nine months on what I guess are illegal plates? My laziness to this point has kept me from going to the DMV to get this fixed and I’ve been skirting the law for a while. My 4:30am work schedule and working from home two days out of four has helped greatly in this regard.

I have no choice now. Got to make the pilgrimage to get the new plates for Tracy. When I say pilgrimage think going to Mecca but not as fun. The problem: May was quickly coming to a close and half the family is preparing to go to Europe for ten days. Plus there are a bunch of other poor excuses as to why I did not get to the DMV until the day Tracy and Frank were leaving for London. Oh and I had a window of two hours before I’d have to bail out to get home in time to take them to the airport shuttle leaving from the school.

Yeah man I was putting a lot of faith in the agency where red tape is actually manufactured. Especially in light of my last trip there over a decade ago. You can read that here if you like: What’s in a name?

Really, I was counting on the joint being covered up to make it a non-issue. Then I hit the Brewster’s Ice Cream place and be home in plenty of time to take them to the shuttle and I’d deal with the plates another day. Easy. Hell, any more days and I’d come around for renewal on my plates again, having gone a whole year without paying. Felt a little like Jesse James. A little.

Sadly, there was a parking space. Just one. So I decided to at least give it a try. Half way to the building I come face to face with one of Knoxville’s finest. Big smile and a hello and a question as to where I was going. Since I didn’t know where the place was located in the sprawling facility it was a pleasant surprise to be told where the door was and how to get into the DMV office from there. She was incredibly helpful and we’re off to a good start.

Then I step in and it’s wall to wall. I mean literally wall to wall. After a minute I realize I have to take a number. The “Now Serving” sign was not obvious for obvious reasons. When I found the sign, I had 24 they were serving 92, I was immediately crest fallen until I remembered the ice cream I was now going to get. But yeah it was so busy the sign had not even rolled over yet. I was half expecting it to jump several numbers ahead because surely these government drones just keep forgetting to advance the sign.

93! PLEASE COME TO WINDOW 4! Damn it!

It was at this point my body language, if not my actual language, betrayed me. The nice officer I met on the sidewalk was now standing next to me. She came over to tell me it moves fast and if I don’t have to be anywhere for the next 30 minutes, I should be fine. Again, she was very helpful and reassuring as the 30 minutes would work great, but no way I’m buying that timeline.

I mean there is no way they are moving fast enough to clear out all thes…. 94! 94 TO WINDOW 1 PLEASE!

Well holy hell they are moving pretty qui… 95! 95 TO WINDOW 2!

No freaking way. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a Moses at the burning bush type revelation but man it’s getting close. Now I’m looking at my watch doing the math. So, let’s see, if they call my number by 1pm I should be good, 1:15 at the latest and I can still make it home, grab them up and get them to the shuttle. But I still don’t see how it’s… 96! 96 TO WINDOW 4 PLEASE. 97! 97 TO WINDOW 1.

A few things to note. Window 4 is a rock star and who is the lazy bastard at Widow 3? That cat needs to find a new gear. Turns out, obviously to everyone but me, the room is full of people getting new plates since Tennesse canceled the current version. Apparently, that’s not a very intricate procedure.

And as astounding as it seems, not 21 minutes later I’m tripping the light fantastic to Window… you guessed it, Window 3. My man is getting some positive reinforcement from me and maybe a bit of a pep talk to get him back in the game. Gladys at Window 4 is flat out smoking his hind parts.

First, I have to take care of Tracy’s plate in case my nine months as an outlaw comes to light and things go sideways. I’m not the healthiest person walking the earth but in this joint I’m pretty sure if I have to flee, I’m making it out. Turned out to be a non-issue.

My man James of Window 3 was all over it. When I explained my story, he said, Yeah, it shouldn’t do that. Not a font of knowledge I grant you, but straight to the point. James is winning me over. So I asked how do I fix it. Again James dropped a pearl amongst swine. I’ll just renew your plate right now.

Yeah, sounds about right. No fine, no surcharge. Just the standard fee as if I was paying on time. You know why? Cause it shouldn’t do that, as James said earlier. And just like that, in less than seven minutes I walked out with two new plates and registration cards.

When I stepped in the joint, I had number 24 and they were on number 92. In less than 30 minutes I was walking out of there. I had to take a moment and pause just to try to comprehend what happened. Was I in some parallel universe? Had I died and this was my heaven? Nope. I simply walked into a place where the people were professional, polite, helpful, and very good at their jobs.

The DMV: come for the snazzy new plates, leave faster than you could have ever imagined.

Francis, Frederico eh what’s in name?

I believe it was Juliet, that girl in that yonder window with all the light breaking that uttered the now immortal Shakespeare line, What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.

Well if that rose was being called Frederico and the sweet smell was Barbisol from the local hair shop, then Jules would be on to something. As it turns out the good people of Great Clips, the place where I’ve been getting my hair cut since I retired from the military in September of 2009, thought my name was Frederico.

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Just me and my dad. Francis and Frank. No Frederico’s present.

They have me in their data base as Frederico M. Linardo. Look, even in Italian my name, Francis, does not translate to Frederico. It would be Francesco. Phonetically: Fran-ches-co. As it turns out Frederico is Portuguese for Fredrick.

So universal a name is Francis, even in other languages it translates to… well Francis. Maori, Icelandic, Catalan, German, Latvian, you name it. Only in Latin, where it translates to Titus, does it really take a different form. Of course I’m ruling out the other languages that use symbols non-similar to ours. And by ours I mean the 26 letter alphabet.

Gotta be honest, I was less than amused.  I won’t go so far as to say I was hurt, but it was disconcerting to say the least. And the topper, she wouldn’t change it. That’s how it’s in the system, she says. And guess what, that’s how she put it up on the monitor that showed who was next in line for a great clip. Great Clip, see what I did there. Jokes are free at this level folks.

So there I was, getting my hair cut under a false name like a criminal on the lamb, praying the real Frederico did not decide to get his hair cut today. In defense of Great Clips, this was not my normal stomp. The monitor at the Great Clips I usually go to had seven names on it. No Frederico’s if you were wondering. So I went a block and a half east to this one. Only one Frederico there, me. But I went from being 8th in line to being 2nd. Fair trade I guess.

Sadly this is not the first time the locals have had issue with my name.

When I moved to Tennessee in 2000 I sought to change my home of record to Maryville so I could escape the “gubment” oppression of New Jersey. They don’t really have “The Man” in Tennessee. No more car inspections, no more state taxes, 1/3 the real estate taxes, a veritable financial heaven on earth. One step was changing my driver’s license over from the Garden State to the Volunteer State. That meant the a trip to the DMV.

Well let me tell ya. If Tennessee is heaven, the DMV is the waiting room.  Not a soul in the joint. I could not believe it. While I was filling out the forms a lady walked in with her daughter, grabbed their forms and sat down. That was it, me and this lady and her kid. I handed up my forms to the DMV lady and took a seat for what I thought could only be a few minutes.

Five minutes later I hear the DMV lady yell out for Michael. I don’t look up from the Home and Garden June issue I’m reading. A riveting debate on men who were opting to stay at home instead of work was holding my attention. Damn dead beats.  Anyway a few seconds more and a few more yells for Michael. My first thought was what a strange name for a girl, until I realized my name was Francis. The wheel of judgement comes round quickly in God’s country.

A few minutes after that the DMV lady was screeching the name Michael.  From the smell of Pall Malls, Jean Nate’ and Listerine filling the air space around me I knew she was close. I risked a glance up and she was looking and yelling at me.

Sir! Do you want your DL or not!?!!

I sheepishly responded. You… you didn’t call my name yet.

I was quickly ashamed of my blatant display of weakness. If the DMV lady was a dog she would have immediately peed on me to display her dominance as the alpha dog in the pack. I wreaked of yellow freakin fear.

Instead she yelled back.

I’VE BEEN CALLING YOU FOR THE LAST TEN MINUTES!!!!!!

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Francis? Bet your ass lady. She’s lucky I wasn’t packin that day I’ll tell ya.

I regained my footing. I’m from Jersey, South Jersey. We come from the blood line of Rocky Balboa. We don’t stay down even though we should.

Ah hun, you’ve been calling Michael for the last ten minutes.

Well isn’t that your name?

The condescension was dripping from her mouth like so much drool. But I realized her confusion, until I perceived it was not confusion, but a jab at my lineage.

No ma’am. My name is Francis.

You mean you actually go by that name.

In the North we go by first names. It’s why we won the war you know.

To say that little phraseology went over like a fart in church would be a gross understatement. But her bark was apparently worse than her bite and she backed down, handed me my stuff and, as they say down here, I got my picture made.

She got in a parting shot.

I never met no boy named Francis before.

Cross it off your list DMV lady cause you just did.