September 29th, 2004


And so I continue to wage bureaucracy with the forces of Austin over the right to drive the car I inherited from my mother.

The plates still haven't been switched over. Yes, my mother died in December 2002. In my defense, I didn't actually get back to Austin until the end of August 2003, and spent most of the time after that not driving my car. (I telecommute to work; internet and phone. I got a condo on west campus, right next to UT. The first semester I was taking classes all the darn time (15 credits is a lot more at the graduate level then the undergraduate level), and since then I'm still within walking distance of multiple 24 hour coffee shops (with wireless internet), video arcades, restaurants, libraries, parks... And within biking distance of everything downtown (straight shot to the Drafthouse, for example). I don't drive the car because it's a heck of a lot easier to bike anywhere than it is to try to find parking downtown. And also becaue I haven't been in town consistently since I got back, I've been back up in the northeast... What, three times since then?

That said, I do drive it a little, when I'm in town. I don't cook much because I hate to do dishes, and when I need a gallon of milk for tea I can get it at 7-11 or some such. But every couple of months I stock up on groceries, or need to get something from wal-mart or Home Despot or some such. And of course I'll drive for other people, such as Fade.

Which is how I got a ticket. I apparently am driving seldom enough now that I forgot to turn the darn lights on last time I drove Fade home. (Ok, in my defense, she can be very distracting just by sitting there). And once stopped, everything in the world was wrong with the car. So I get a ticket, and 12 days to fix it.

The biggie is that the license plate still says florida. I have a paper trail dating back months of me sending various bureaucracies something, them sending it back saying I need something else (the texas people said I need a florida title, the florida people said the check is for the wrong amount, then the odometer reading isn't filled in on the transfer form, and most recently they wanted a copy of my mother's death certificate...) Florida getting hit by three or four hurricanes during this probably hasn't helped the process, either. Not that Texas was much of an improvement; they were moving their offices across town during this, apparently.

I got insurance for the car when I first got back to Austin, and of course it expired on monday of the week I got pulled over. (Well I forgot. See "not actually driving said car".) I renewed it again right afterwards, but I don't know if they're going to care. (My cell phone gets cancelled from time to time because I forget to pay that too, although then all I have to do is go down and feed cash into the machine and it's back online in an hour. No worse than the battery dying, really, except I don't get voicemail during it. I'm just not good with postal things. Never was. If I can do it online, great, and if I can go down and fill out the forms in person, I'm ok, but paperwork to be mailed gets put in piles and lost...)

Luckily, the inspection I got way back (before the mail to florida came back the first time) is still valid through the end of November. Yes, Texas inspection on a florida plate. Apparently the order you have to do stuff in is insurance, inspection, registration. I researched this, once upon a time. I got the first two, and have been trying to get the third for a long time...

And while it's been sitting there parked, it's rusted a bit. (Keep meaning to have something done about that...) And this (or something) seems to have screwed up one of the tail lights. I took it in to Jiffy Lube and had them replace the bulb: that wasn't it. Took it to Lamb's automotive, the best auto mechanic in town, and they said it's either a short or the "multi-function switch" in the steering column (a part that's no longer manufactured and which nobody in town has in stock).

It's currently at the local Ford dealer, where I politely explained that this car was manufactured more recently than my high school graduation and the functionality I want out of it is the same functionality you see in $1.99 wal-mart christmas tree lights. So far they've charged me $170 to come to a first guess at what the problem is, and are replacing the taillight socket.

These three things are what I got cited for in Austin: registration, insurance, and taillight. So I thought that having the ticket meant I had until the 28th to rectify the things I'd been cited for, and that I couldn't be cited for them again. So I risked driving the car to Fencon (see last livejournal entry). I was originally going to get a ride with Stu or Mark, but neither of them could make it and Troy was sick that morning, so it was me driving up there or no Linucon representation at all.

Naturally, I got another ticket, this time in Leander (just south of Wacko). This time they find even more things to cite me for. (I'd like to point out that I _have_ insurance this time, I just didn't have the darn card with me. I had the reciept for having renewed it, but this does not seem to prove I have insurance. I forgot to ask for a copy of the card when I was there, so they were still mailing me my new packet. I kept the full page receipt thinking it had the right info. Silly me...) At which point I turned around and went home. The only place the car's gone since then is to the insurance place (to pick up a copy of the insurance card) and from there to the ford dealership to get the taillight fixed (where it still sits, earning them money).

I have this nasty urge to get a reciept for the fines from both Austin and Leander, work out how many copies that would be at Kinkos, and then file open records requests in both jurisdictions to satisfy my curiosity about anything and everything either municipality has on file until I've reached the appropriate number of pages. (Darn it, I'm going to get my money's worth...)

Yeah, I suck at paperwork. But maybe all I need is practice and the proper motivation...

But first, let's try to resolve this nicely. I am attempting to mitigate the various things wrong with said vehicle and me driving it. (I wasn't speeding, I didn't run any stop signs, and I didn't even turn right on red where I wasn't supposed to. Heck, even I signal my lane chanes, although I can stop doing that if it doesn't help. I just have mobile bureaucrats driving around a desk with flashing lights on top, objecting to the car's paperwork and one of three rear brake lights. Sigh...)

So the ticket said the 28th was my court date. I phoned the system the evening of the 27th to see when I had to show up, and it said I wasn't in the system, and that I could speak to a human at 8 am. Phoned at 8:06, got a human, they said that was just the deadline to plead, and I said "How do I plead that the guy said I had two weeks to fix the stuff and I've been trying to fix the stuff?" They said my options were guilty and not guilty. Biked down to the courthouse, went in (though a metal detector plus x-ray conveyer belt style security screening procedure designed to make up in visibility what it lacks in effectiveness), filled out the appropriate paperwork (requesting trial by jury if arbitration doesn't work, yet letting them save the cost of a court reporter during the arbitration itself; I'll be nice as long as they are), and got an actual scheduled date to speak to a human with at least theoretical decision-making capability on the 19th.

After Linucon. Yes! (I have officially reached the point where delaying stuff until I can deal with it is almost as good as getting it actually dealt with. This is a bad sign.)

The main downside of all this is I didn't get to drag Fade out monday. I was wandering around all day trying to get car stuff dealt with before my supposed trial date, and at the end of it all my car was in the shop (where it remains). After dealing with this whole mess (expecially the tail light issue), I'm not sure owning a paid off '93 Ford Escort is an improvement over just renting a car when I need to use one for the day. My next car will not be a Ford. You can still get parts for a Volkswagen Bug 40 years later, but a 93 Ford Escort station wagon presents them with a serious challenge...

I'll make up for it though. Tickets to the Mr Sinus mystery movie (which I saw last weekend, and which was really good) on Friday at 7 pm. I plan to abduct her. We have bicycles. :)
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