Terry’s Tag and Title – slayer of the MVA dragon

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For years I dreaded going to my state’s Motor Vehicle Administration; in my mind it was worse than having major dental work done by the TSA.  The MVA didn’t hurry for anybody so there were always long lines.  Getting there early could save you several hours so I’d arrive at 7:30 to try to be one of the first to experience their disdain, err, uh, I meant be helped.  Regardless of when I arrived there were others there already.  To be first I think you had to arrive the night before.  At least in inclement weather they had a sheltered area to wait – NOT.  You either waited in the rain and thunder, shivered in the blowing snow or fanned yourself to cool from the heat and humidity.  Some dared to wait in their cars but had to eventually get behind the growing line and stand outside anyway.   Cameras covered every inch of the parking lot from multiple angles.  I suspect the MVA workers compiled videos of people slipping on ice or having their umbrellas pulled inside out and watched it later as some have done with “predator porn”.

 

This government agency of the people, by the people, and for the people oozed contempt and control.  After waiting to get in you had to wait in line inside; not to be helped but to be given a waiting number.  A tall state trooper or two always stood nearby, hands moving towards their holsters if anyone began to frown or, worse, disagreed with an MVA worker.  About half of those waiting to get a number were turned back for any one of thousands of reasons.  I was once sent home since I dated a document as 09/01/1983 instead of writing it as September 1, 1983.  When I asked if I could simply change it and initial it I was told no, I needed to mail in a request for a new form and fill it out correctly.  I think I heard the holster clasps snap open when I said “this is ridiculous”. 

 

There was no small talk between the sheeple and their masters; no good mornings, no how are you today sirs.  The number issuer’s faces seemed locked in a trance of bored contempt; the citizens faces varied but all contained this uncertain fear.  Many fingers were crossed, as if this were a lottery and you never knew if your needs would be granted until you were safely out and headed home.  I looked at the numerous and demanding signs posted about but never saw one that said no smiling.  Still, to be safe, I usually refrained.

 

If you were lucky enough to get a number you could take a seat and wait again.  You needed to watch the neon sign because if your number appeared and you didn’t respond quickly enough you’d be bypassed.  One time my number appeared and I went to the assigned area to be processed.  The MVA worker had a spread of Cheetos before her at her workstation.  She didn’t acknowledge me when I approached but simply added a few more bites to her cud.  Hesitantly I asked if I had the right station and she simply replied “I’m on break, wait here”.  I did, as I suspected that this was a just a test to see if I’d get angry so the troopers could get in a little target practice on my skull.

 

If everything was just right with your documents and you were either crying, sweating or had blood running from an orifice and the MVA employee was in a good mood you would either be sent home for any number of obscure reasons, or given what you needed along with a bill.  You were then instructed to get into the bill line.  This line did actually move a little faster although there always seemed to be somebody on the phone desperately trying to get a friend, family, or neighbor to bring them some more money.  I remember hearing things like “yes, I know, but I had no idea that I’d need to apply for a loan”, or “OK, OK, I’m just not going to get back in the line again”. 

 

The MVA cashiers appeared to make up arbitrary rules like “we don’t take Discovery cards, coins, or money orders.  Personal checks must have your full address and by notarized by your senator.  We don’t take bills larger than $5 and we don’t take $1 bills.   All cash must be face up and oriented in the same direction”.  Once you managed to find a method of payment you would join a group in a mad dash for the exit.  This was usually snarled with people, trying to get in, who were tired of standing outside.  Little children were always crying by this point, refusing to move as some parent(s) promised Xboxes, trips to Disneyland, ice cream or whatever it took.  Other parent(s) simply pulled the child across the floor on their little butts in a frantic effort to escape.  I suspect that the MVA has added a Child Protective Services agent near the troopers since my last visit.  Just getting outside created a rush of Euphoria; I’m free, I’m free, thank GOD almighty I’m free at last!”

 

Then, one day, about a week before I needed to go to the MVA again, I was discussing my dread with a co-worker.  They asked me if I had heard of Terry’s Tag and Title.  They proceeded to tell me about a small business that would do everything the MVA could do except for Photo Id’s.  They said it was quick and cheap so I decided to give it a try.  So the next Saturday I walked into Terry’s.  There were two employees with wonderful smiles who greeted me.  I looked for a line but I was the only person there.  I was in, and out – I kid you not – in less than five minutes.  It cost me $8 and they even had lollipops free on the counter.  I made a bit of a fool of myself as I lavished them with praise.   I still remember their response as I left “our pleasure, have a great day”. 

 

Who was this wise and wonderful Terry and how was this possible?  I found out on a subsequent visit that she was just a regular lady who wanted to start a business and hated how she was treated at the MVA.  So this was privatization of government I thought.  Wow.  But to me Terry will never be “just a woman who wanted to start a business”.  To me she was and will remain Terry, the slayer of the MVA dragon!!!    

Comments

Leroy Added Jul 9, 2018 - 5:08pm
The DMV used to be terrible here.  One guy stomped away cursing, "I'm moving to another damn state."  It's not so bad anymore.  They still do things stupidly, but it is vastly improved.  The workers are generally cordial.  Now, everyone has to past through a single person who makes sure you have everything you need before giving you a number to be called.  It saves time.  It only takes a couple of minutes a person.  The stupid thing is that everyone has to line up in front of the entry/exit door.  And, you can go on a Saturday a couple times a month.  Kudos to the DMV for its improvements.
James E. Unekis Added Jul 9, 2018 - 5:17pm
Leroy, 
Thanks for commenting.  It is nice to hear whenever government make a service improvement.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 9, 2018 - 8:51pm
James -
 
Here is another one for you, further demonstration of your theme. Neighboring states have somehow mastered the technology to inform on their citizens to one another whenever there is a moving violation committed in their state by a citizen of any of the other participating states in network. This can result in license suspension, reinstatement fees....you know. The usual government fuck barrel.
 
Yet somehow they can not master the digital transfer of auto titles from one state to another. Instead they must have the paper, which of course the applicant may easily obtain - by mail and for an additional fee.
 
I don't know about you, but if they keep improving their service I can't imagine what we should do. A man can only endure so much kindness!
James E. Unekis Added Jul 9, 2018 - 9:45pm
Burghal, thanks for commenting.
 
Sure, moving violations can generate a lot of money so the states gladly cooperate.  Auto titles don't if you don't count taxes as part of the digital transfer - which it is not.
 
Ha ha, the joke is on us.  They honestly don't care if they efficiently serve the public.  I suspect that most of government operates as callously and inefficiently as the MVA, we simply don't have to get involved with them face to face.
 
I did quickly mention privatization of certain government functions.  This function is low hanging fruit; ripe for the picking and a perfect example to use in making the case as it so obviously superior.  Honestly, it makes you wonder f MVA looked for ways to inconvenience and torment citizens.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 9, 2018 - 9:52pm
Golly, Mr. Cleaver! Do you really think they'd do such a thing? :)
 
I'm with you on privatization. In most instances two chimps with a flamethrower could perform more efficiently
James E. Unekis Added Jul 9, 2018 - 11:04pm
Tru that Burghal, true that.  lol
Jeffry Gilbert Added Jul 10, 2018 - 12:20am
In civilized countries there are many people who will interface with any level or stripe of bureaucrat for a very reasonable fee. One would think that would be the case in the greatest bestest powerfulest wonderfulest country in the whole big wide world ever ever ever. 
Kurt Bresler Added Jul 10, 2018 - 1:14am
Wow what wonderful hyperbole!  And it kept a nice pace all the way thru.   Usually one gets to a point where something is overused or stressed to heavily or awkwardly that the story loses it's beat.  Congratulations I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article... but wait maybe it is because I have suffered such trauma myself at the hands of the letter, word, date, and signature police.   Thanks for the laugh!!
James E. Unekis Added Jul 10, 2018 - 1:22am
Jeff,
You made me laugh with your description of America - thanks!
James E. Unekis Added Jul 10, 2018 - 1:28am
Kurt,
Thanks for the compliment.  Real writers have editors and proofreaders for the mundane.  Don't pay any attention to nit-pickers, right? LOL
Even A Broken Clock Added Jul 10, 2018 - 10:33am
James - good piece. This is one where all of us have similar experiences, since the DMV (or whatever it's called in your state of residence) is one government body that everyone interacts with.
 
In West Virginia, a few years ago I found that they had managed to streamline their services and actually seemed efficient. But several years later, after repeated budget freezes and cuts, the service had decayed into something resembling your piece. Oh, well.
James E. Unekis Added Jul 10, 2018 - 12:42pm
EABC,
Thanks for the feedback.  Having actually worked for the State recently I now understand, first had, why they are so broken.
 
There is no incentive for performance.  That includes working harder in one's assigned duties - the hard workers are self motivated and get yet even more work piled upon them.  No promotions ae allowed and nobody can get a dime more in raises unless everyone gets the same dime.  OK, sometimes they are generous and make it 20 cents (per week).
 
Process improvement, like the streamlining you mentioned, only happens if it originates from the Governor.  Any suggestions, regardless of merit, that does not originate from the top, is not only ignored but usually punished in some manner.
James E. Unekis Added Jul 10, 2018 - 12:45pm
Kurt, it was late when I responded to you and I'm not sure what I was saying.  Yes, the MVA or DMV is a shared experience so I'm sure you have suffered under the hands of the letter, word, date, and signature police.
TexasLynn Added Jul 10, 2018 - 1:48pm
Great article, and to think some think more government is the answer.
 
I lost my wallet (and my drivers license) a month ago and had to go to the Texas version to get it replaced.  While not quite as bad as what you described, it was a process of waiting.  I have no patience... and... try to make myself practice it.  I think of it as the Lord putting me to the test; so I smile and am pleasant to any and everybody.  I don't always succeed. :)
 
Still, it is my firm belief that ANY time you can privatize ANY function of ANY government (whatever the level)... do it.
 
As my great grandfather used to say.  "The government should protect the borders and deliver the mail... and I'm not so sure about the mail."
James E. Unekis Added Jul 10, 2018 - 2:07pm
Tex,
Thanks for the comments.  Your grandfather's saying actually made me laugh out loud.
 
Yes, clearly privatization is the way to go with some exceptions.
 
I am concerned about private roads and the associated tolls.  Since many roads would become effective monopolies I fear that it might be cheaper to have them remain tax funded.  Yes there are usually more than one way to any destination but in many cases they are too slow to consider.
 
We are however, for the most part, in agreement.
 
I recently ended a five year stint with the State of Maryland.  Wow, what a cluster%$#@.  I'd worked for 5 fortune 500 companies prior to that and was shocked at the amount of waste, fraud, and abuse of employees in the State.  The low hanging fruit in terms of potential process improvements were virtually limitless.  But anyone suggesting change was either ignored, or even punished.  It was almost like they were just spending other people's money.  LOL. 
James Travil Added Jul 10, 2018 - 7:47pm
It's (usually) not quite that bad here in Washington (the state not DC). At least they are eager to get your money regardless. Nonetheless I've often wondered if this is where the bureaucracy of the former Soviet Union ended up. 
James E. Unekis Added Jul 10, 2018 - 8:17pm
James - lol - I suspect you are exactly right.  Some of the KGB made it in too.
I'm glad to hear that there are states where it is not so bad.  Really all they are doing is the same forms and procedures day in and day out.  So, it certainly isn't hard work.
They honestly remind me of the TSA.  A little authority, backed by armed thugs, and it goes to their heads.
Still, I think they'd go home happier if they put on a smile and worked hard to help people instead of lording it over them.  Oh, well, they will have to deal with their own ulcers, not me.
 
Off topic but how is the legal weed situation working out in Washington State?  I'd like to see it replace alcohol as our nation's legal intoxicant.
 
 
Katharine Otto Added Jul 10, 2018 - 10:22pm
James,
Hahahaha.  They must have a national MVA school to teach employees how to be rude, insulting, incompetent, and slow.  Do they get bonuses for sending you home for more documentation?  I had a similar experience in Georgia, when I had to get my driver's license renewed.  
James Travil Added Jul 10, 2018 - 10:50pm
The legal weed situation is pretty good here James. We now have a legal affordable alternative to alcohol which is a lot healthier. Crime rates have fallen both nonviolent and violent crimes. And the Opioid crisis has become more manageable because addicts have a safe alternative. And the doomsayers were proven wrong in all ways, no increase in crime as already mentioned, no increase in underage usage, and no increase in intoxicated driving. Plus the taxes have been a real boost to the economy. If I get the time I was thinking of writing an article about it this weekend. 
James E. Unekis Added Jul 11, 2018 - 12:48pm
Katharine,
There must be a school.  Perhaps it is shared with Cable companies like Comcast :-)  I don't think it is bonuses, just personal satisfaction of getting to be mean with no consequences.  It takes a certain personality to gain satisfaction that way.  Why the phenomenon seems to cross state borders is unclear to me.  What is clear is that State workers that act this way will eventually be replaced by private companies like Terry's.
Thanks for the comment.
James E. Unekis Added Jul 11, 2018 - 1:07pm
James T,
Thanks for the reply.  I'm glad to hear that the crime rates have fallen.  I predicted that they would based on how alcohol prohibition only increased mob violence.  I also do a little jig when I think of all those narcotics officers unable to seize people's property or imprison people for possessing a plant.
Good deal on the opiate crisis.  Kratom, currently legal, is also used in other countries to help heroin addicts get off of heroin.
Didn't Portugal legalize all drugs?  Whatever country did also saw no increase in underage use.
Do they have roadside tests for THC.  That is a concern for me.  The roads are dangerous enough without more impaired drivers.
I believe that the tax advantages are what ultimately drives States to legalize since they are giving up power  - something the State hates to do.
 
Yes, please with the article.
Utpal Patel Added Jul 11, 2018 - 4:23pm
I don’t think it’s contempt and control we witness at the MVA.  I think it’s what should be expected when the people serving us are not incentivized by profit.  Because it doesn’t matter to them how fast they work or the level of customer service they provide, we get crappy service in every respect.  Terry is incentivized to make its customers happy or they will simply avoid her and go straight to the MVA.  Most likely Terry can accomplish the very same task as the MVA at a fraction of the cost.  It makes one ponder why there are any government employees.  From teachers to firemen to MVA workers, private businesses could clearly perform every role our government does better and at a fraction of the cost. 
James E. Unekis Added Jul 11, 2018 - 5:28pm
Uptal,
I couldn't agree with you more, in fact, that was the point of the article.  I didn't hammer on the point, instead, I tried mixing a little humor with an experience we have all probably shared.
 
Thanks for your comment.
James Travil Added Jul 11, 2018 - 11:18pm
James I'm not sure about Portugal, and I'm personally not sure if legalizing all drugs is the way to go. But certainly cannabis is a good thing to legalize for various reasons. I'm prescribed it for my PTSD and it surely does help me
 
As for the roadside tests, they are working on it, currently they are using standard sobriety tests to good effect. 
Jeffry Gilbert Added Jul 12, 2018 - 1:36am
Portugal did in fact legalize drugs and as a result have much fewer problems. 
Tubularsock Added Jul 12, 2018 - 6:49pm
James, excellent article and well written. Most entertaining indeed!
 
Tubularsock has always viewed going to the DMV as testing advanced Zen Training.
 
Being in a complete Zen mediative state and being in total present moment helps Tubularsock fill in the “formless” forms as well as hover inches above the floor to avoid contact with anything the government has touched.
 
As a result Tubularsock has avoided a shoot out at the ok corral. Which is a good thing!
Leroy Added Jul 12, 2018 - 7:44pm
Wow.  You guys make me appreciate my DMV even more.  To get a new license or change the address, all I have to do is go online and request it.  It costs ten bucks the last time I did it.  I was even able to renew my license online while living in China. More and more services are been pushed online.  I think it's great. 
 
They do seem to punish foreign drivers seeking a driver's license.  We had to make a couple of trips to the DMV before my wife could get her permit to drive.  I went online to ensure I had the proper documentation for her.  She had to have a letter addressed to her to prove she lived at our address or an official government letter with the address or a letter from the bank.  I get there to find out that the envelope had to be unopened.  They wouldn't accept an official government letter.  I had to get a utility bill changed to both of our names and have them send a letter.  It was a hassle, but otherwise, the process was smooth.  She had to renew recently.  That went smoothly.  The driving test is another story.  My wife passed her test without a problem.  How I will never understand. The officer said she was perfect.  It was the luck of the draw.  She got one who liked to show off his Mandarin.  Her friend took something like thirteen tries.  
James E. Unekis Added Jul 12, 2018 - 8:56pm
James,
Good to hear about the road-side tests.
 
James E. Unekis Added Jul 12, 2018 - 8:57pm
Jeffry,
Thanks for the confirmation.  Why can't the U.S. learn from a different country?
James E. Unekis Added Jul 12, 2018 - 8:59pm
Tubular sock,
Thanks for the feedback.
 
I'm glad you have found a way to overcome the MVA.  I'll have to read up on Zen.
James E. Unekis Added Jul 12, 2018 - 9:03pm
Leroy,
True, the things that can be done online certainly take some of the sting out of it.
The proof of residence is a pain when you've recently moved.
Thirteen tries?  It all depends on the testing agent.  Some of them are reasonable, others are nit-pickers in the extreme !
Johnny Fever Added Jul 13, 2018 - 4:26pm
It’s amazing that we have to wait in a long line to be served at the DMV.  I mean, what possible benefit is it to them to serve the same amount of people but have those people all have to wait for hours before being served. The only thing that makes sense is that by having such long waits, fewer people are inclined to get a license.  So like a restaurant that loses business when the waits are long, there are less registered drivers on the road than there otherwise would be.  Too bad, because the government could use the fees, the economy could use additional cars to be purchased and employers could use a more mobile workforce to draw from. 
James E. Unekis Added Jul 13, 2018 - 5:38pm
Johnny,
True, less people driving would slow commerce and tax revenues, however, I don't see this as an MVA goal.  T think they are simply State workers with no incentive to streamline processes or simply pick up the pace.  They don't pay for excellent performance and they don't discipline for sloth.  You can't even get a promotion no matter how much or well you contribute.  This is the sloth of apathy and would make a good argument against socialism.
 
Imagine if your doctor and hospital functioned like the MVA and you'd understand what socialized medicine would look like. 
Ward Tipton Added Jul 14, 2018 - 10:05am
"Imagine if your doctor and hospital functioned like the MVA and you'd understand what socialized medicine would look like. "
 
Or just look at the VA and how it is run. 
James E. Unekis Added Jul 14, 2018 - 4:58pm
Ward,
My sister is an anesthetist and spent her whole career in health-care.  The MVA was always her favorite analogy for socialized medicine.  I'll mention the VA to her so she can use that in discussions. 
 
Her daughter, who lives in Berlin, just had a baby.  They treated her pain with warm cabbage.
 
A little known secret about socialized medicine is that many folks carry private insurance just to ensure that they can see a doctor and have needed procedures done in a timely manner.
 
Thanks for your comment.  It is nice to know that others are aware of the quagmire facing us were we to go down that road.

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