- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The city possibly would be able to encourage more residents to register their out-of-state vehicles if those suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome at the Department of Motor Vehicles conducted their business with a modicum of efficiency and clarity.

That novel concept apparently eludes the deep thinkers forever on the prowl for an automobile with an out-of-state license plate. The out-of-state license plate is, however, more an abject surrender to the bureaucracy than a defiance of the law. Nothing unnerves a city dweller like a trip to one of the city’s DMV offices. The aggrieved are obligated to pack a sleeping bag, pillow and plenty of foodstuffs to survive the ordeal.

It also helps to carry a briefcase stuffed with documents that confirm your age, identity, Social Security number and place of residence. If you are missing just one piece of the bureaucratic puzzle, you are required to move to the back of the line or come back another day.

This is the prelude to a date with the city’s lone vehicle inspection center, where all kinds of problems, real or imagined, can be found in due time.

The city’s lawmakers imagine the vehicle-registration failure to be a monetary one. Theirs is a charitable view of a system that exhausts the patience of those it is supposed to serve. A tale involving a trip to the DMV is usually fraught with the tedium of dealing with the inert. There rarely is mention of the registration and inspection fees. There is only the horror of trying to navigate the system in a somewhat expedient fashion, fanciful as that hope may be.

The response of the city, of course, is not to reform the public service but to ticket those who have better things to do than play stare-down with one of the DMV’s victims of chronic fatigue syndrome.

By the way, the latter characterization is perhaps unfair to the harried employees of DMV. Perhaps they are victims of Lyme disease.

Whatever the case, the motto of the city remains forevermore: In tickets we trust.

The grass in your public space is an inch too high? Ticket. You took too long to move your Super Can back onto your property on the day of trash pickup? Ticket. Your out-of-town relatives neglected to acquire a temporary parking pass? Ticket. You forgot to wear your seat belt? Ticket. Your vehicle was caught in the middle of an intersection during bumper-to-bumper traffic by a red-light camera? Ticket. One of your hands is attached to a cell phone growing out of your ear? Ticket.

The city’s lawmakers undoubtedly would ticket those who have garlic on their breath if enough concerned residents brought this worrisome public health problem to their attention, as eventually will be done.

Alas, the ticket-writing orgy fails to address the average person’s interminable quest for curbside parking in a city that respects the parking exemptions of federal lawmakers, diplomats, D.C. Council members and Advisory Neighborhood Commission representatives.

That quest is not likely to become tension-free if the vehicle with the Alaska license plates that has been parked on the same street the past six months is suddenly in compliance with the city’s laws.

The parking nightmare is not apt to go away anytime soon, as more row houses are converted into condominiums and group houses in response to the skyrocketing real estate market. Higher density and communal living bring more vehicles to a neighborhood.

Otherwise, the crack teams under the auspices of the Registration of Out-of-State Automobiles (ROSA) are scouring residential neighborhoods Monday through Friday, 11:30 p.m. to 7 a.m., to record out-of-state license plates.

Do not be alarmed if you see a funny-looking guy hanging out by the bushes near your vehicle in the middle of the night.

Have pity on him instead.

He is probably with ROSA.

Being a busybody for the city is not much of a life.


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