There Auto Be a Law

I’m not very good at budgeting money anyway, but I’m particularly bad when it comes to planning for the outrageous fees required to renew my car registration. I pay it one year, then immediately forget about it, the way trauma victims block out their experiences, and am caught off-guard the next year when the renewal notice comes. I’ll be going over my finances, determining whether I can afford to blow $100 at Old Navy, deciding that I not only can but SHOULD blow $100 at Old Navy — and then the notice will arrive in the mail, like an unwelcome houseguest or a bout with syphilis, showing up and ruining everything.

As a consequence of my lack of planning this year, I couldn’t come up with the cash before the registration expired on Sept. 30. It doesn’t help that my car is fairly new, which means registering it costs $150 for the “age-based uniform fee,”? plus $25.50 for the actual registration. By the time you factor in the safety and emissions inspections and replacing the windshield (don’t ask), we’re looking at $400 just to be allowed to drive my car, a car which already costs plenty, thank you very much.

And let me just say, it makes no sense that the newer your car is, the more it costs to register it. The fees should be the same for everyone, since we’re all driving on the same roads and causing the same wear and tear on them. I see no reason to penalize new-car buyers. Many of them, like me, have purchased Korean cars. Haven’t we suffered enough?

Anyway, I didn’t have the money right away, and so there was a space of a few weeks where I was a fugitive from the law. I was careful not to drive more than I had to during my lamming period, as I knew driving with expired plates was a ticketable offense, and goodness knows if I couldn’t afford to register the car, I couldn’t afford to pay tickets, either. And so the car remained parked for days at a time.

So imagine my surprise when I strolled past my parked car one day during the Unregistered Era and discovered a parking ticket on the windshield. “This must be a mistake,” I thought, complete with quotation marks. “I am parked perfectly legally, and in an unrestricted zone. What is the meaning of this outrage?”?

Sure enough: It was a ticket for having expired registration.

Now, I do not pretend to comprehend the intricate workings of the local government. I am but a humble, well-dressed wordsmith. And so I cannot fathom how having expired tags constitutes a “parking violation.” The condition of my license plate, and the dates indicated by the stickers on it, in no way affect the manner or location of my parking. They are entirely separate issues. Even if my car were on fire, it would not be a parking violation, so long as the flames did not extend beyond the boundaries of the parking space.

The greater issue, though, is the Catch-22-ness of my situation. I understand that you’re not supposed to drive with expired tags. That happens to be WHY I WASN’T DRIVING. But apparently, you’re not supposed to park, either. So what are you supposed to do when you can’t afford to renew your registration the very minute it’s due? Make your car invisible? Levitate it? Dig a ditch, drop it in, and put a tarp over it? I’m open to suggestions, DMV. Submit them to me before Nov. 30, or else severe penalties will be assessed.

I wrote a column about parking tickets about one week before I received the ticket mentioned here -- a case of poor timing indeed, as it eliminated a chance to combine the events into one column. So here it is in City Weekly, where presumably most of the readers don't read my regular columns and thus aren't aware of the repetition in subject matter.

By the way, I do understand now that you are only subject to "parking" tickets if your unregistered car is parked somewhere in public. In your driveway, garage, or in a private parking lot, you have sanctuary. So tell everyone who keeps hogging the spaces at my apartment complex to quit hogging the spaces, so I don't have to park on the street anymore!