a little something extra

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

license plate saga

This was another of the major projects I finished off last week, but it became so surrealistically complicated that it deserves its own post. It's even more surrealistic than the lemon. Really.

Once upon a time, in October 2005, I set up an appointment to get my California driver's license and register my car. Or so I thought. When I arrived for my appointment, they had no record of my having requested two services. They were only prepared to provide one, the driver's license exchange -- which, despite my Georgia license being valid, still required a written test as well as a vision check. I passed both, and a week or so later I received my new license in the mail, complete with the ugliest driver's license photo I've ever taken.

Thereafter I was beset by Machiavellian complexities of schedule, which prevented my dealing further with the issue of auto registration for quite some time.

It rolled around to early February. I had a break in my schedule, and my auto registration in Georgia would be up in another month. I made a second appointment at the DMV, this one just to register my car. On the appointed day, I showed up with my sheaf of documents... and they still had no record of my having made an appointment. Nevertheless, we completed the process and my car was finally registered here. They handed me my license plates and off I went.

This is where it starts getting silly. I dropped by Big Hardware Chain Store #1, a few blocks from my apartment. In their aisle of automotive doodads, there were two kinds of license plate fasteners available: metal and nylon. I chose metal, despite my allegiance to Dupont. But when I got home and tried to use the fasteners to mount my front license plate (CA requires front & back), the little bolts wouldn't go all the way through the tapered threaded holes in the bracket that is part of my car. Experimenting with different bolts from the package yielded nothing -- it would have been too easy for me simply to have gotten one slightly misshapen bolt in a package.

So, I went back to Big Hardware Chain Store #1 and asked whether I could exchange the second, still-unopened package of metal fasteners for a package of nylon ones. The nice young woman behind the counter made the exchange, and off I went. Only to discover that the nylon fasteners would also not fit the bracket on my car.

At this point I turned to the Internet. Googling "license plate fastener" and "Honda" didn't net me much, but at last I found a site that confirmed that the license plate fasteners for American cars are a different size than the ones for foreign cars.

So, I went off to visit Big Hardware Chain Store #2, to see whether they had fasteners for foreign cars. No dice. Funny how I see more imports than American-made cars on the roads here, but the hardware stores only stock this hardware for American-made cars. Hmmmm.

I finally ordered the foreign-car-friendly, metrically measured fasteners from a Big Hardware Chain Website. They were delivered to my doorstep a week or so later. The front license plate went on without a hitch. Triumph!!


The back license plate bracket, where my Georgia plate was mounted, was completely unwilling to give up that plate. The mounting hardware was a bit rusty (understandable after numerous Minnesota winters, Georgia rainstorms, etc.) and I had nothing like the right tool for dealing with that hardware in a recalcitrant state.

So finally, finally, I turned this problem over to the professionals. I took my dually-license-plated car down the street to a nearby garage where I'd had an oil change done a couple of weeks before. The guy who runs the garage goes to my gym (I discovered when he commented on my not having been at the gym that morning... because I was wrestling with the license plates).

I handed his minion my remaining license plate and the hardware I'd bought, and said "I need some license plate help." In ten minutes, the California plate was mounted on the back, the Georgia plate propped up artistically in my passenger seat, the remaining hardware stowed next to it... and they didn't charge me a cent. Just said "Don't forget about us, now!"


At 10:11 AM , Blogger Sam Brady said...

I like the fact that the guy at the garage had a "minion." I have this mental picture: "Igor, change the lady's license plates!" "Yes Master, yes Master, heehee heeee heeeee," and he humps around with a torque wrench.

At 11:26 AM , Blogger Erin said...

Hmmm, so you've been noticed at the gym, but didn't know the person doing the noticing? What have you been doing there, reading scripts while on the treadmill and shutting out the sight of fellow sweating beings? Or is this just one of those times when you can't place someone who you see in the "wrong place" for the first time?


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