Oct 242012

Jean-Paul Villere

Recently en route to a morning meeting, I got pulled over by the NOPD, with good reason: my license plate had long expired.  And I knew it, and I knew what was next.  My inspection sticker?  Expired.  Insurance?  Legit, but no proof therein.  The only saving grace was that my license to drive happens to be aces with nothing attached, plus I operated the vehicle in a stellar manner.  Okay, the officer didn’t use the word ‘stellar’, that’s my own embellishment.  But trust me, I’m a good driver, just maybe not always a 100-percent legal one.

The officer who snagged me on Napoleon Ave was all business, not gruff but nothing sweet about him neither.  He explained all could be remedied given my diligent and timely follow through, because you see, unbeknownst to me the procedure goes like so.  The officer switches out a vehicle’s plate with a hyper-green 12″ x 12″ sticker that fits snugly on one’s rear windshield.  An unmistakable identifier that yells to the world: warning, danger and ne’er-do-well wrong-doing.  (And fyi, getting your insurance provider on the phone does not proof of said insurance make.)

So, light one rear plate, I lit off into my morning not even trying to make it late to my meeting.  My next stop?  My insurer for that ever elusive proof.  Like a junkie looking for a fix I repeatedly rang their bell just moments later, showing up a few minutes before they were to open at 9. “Give me the good stuff!” my unexpected if hurried appearance screamed, sans any twitching or vein scratching.  Our rep Kathy calmly looked at me like any dealer might and quietly printed out my proof on paper.  When she handed me the letterhead a small calm came over me and my waiting game began; I wouldn’t be able to retrieve my plate for some time as processing it rivals most governmental activity.

Fast forward a few days and, voila, I find myself bright and early parked under the bridge on the Westbank where my license plate awaited my arrival, at the Dept of Motor Vehicles.  Insert any troll or Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Under the Bridge joke here, though few laughs are had in these parts.  I think I heard a guffaw, but I could be wrong.  I gathered my license, my citation, some cash (always bring cash!), and my proof of insurance and took a number (I got double zero) and sat patiently for 70 minutes before being called.  I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy so I figured 70 minutes?  Meh, could’ve been 80 or 90, but good gracious, we’re talking about the DMV here, a solid hour is standard fare, is it not?

As I made my way to the counter to get right with the law, I felt like I was entering an episode of Portlandia, the only thing missing being Kyle MacLachlan as the zany mayor.  Honestly Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein could have easily filled the comfortable shoes of the two lady processors, lifting every bit of verbiage from these moments and transforming them into so much more.  Of course the computer froze, of course my plate couldn’t be found with immediacy, and of course if my wife would also want to renew her license a second number would have had to have been taken.  Damn you double zero!!  Fortunately the latter was allowed to slide (this time!), and all required exchanges of plate, cash, reinstatement, and renewal fit under the umbrella of ’00.’  I don’t know if another 70-minute wait could have been stomached.

But wait!  There’s more!  I still needed to get the car inspected.  So off I drove to the trusty Delta Fuel Plus at South Claiborne and Louisiana Avenue for the last piece of this legal puzzle.  Failing by one out taillight and affixed with a hyper-orange temp inspection sticker until remedied, between this and the still present hyper-green sticker the car took on an air of Wham! and the word ‘jitterbug’ repeated itself in my mind accompanied by George Michael snaps.  Thankfully with help of the nearby AutoZone and the cheery Johnny behind the counter (his friends call him Chub apparently), the burnt bulb became a memory and a quick revisit to Delta removed the orange temp with the real deal inspection sticker proper.  Whew! 

Legal, schmegal, I say. And that’s what got me twisted into this mire of expirations from the beginning.  In a world of priorities and importance I place keeping current with government imposed nickel and diming of vehicular licenses, inspections, and the like right there with pulling the weeds from my garden.  It will always need doing, and invariably I will fall behind.  Nobody’s perfect.  Okay, maybe you are, but I’m not.  But if you’re reading this and you might be teetering the tightrope of driving legal or not, maybe take heed my experiences.  Turns out the morning meeting I missed when cited wasn’t that earth shattering anyway, but wherever you might be going might be?  Either way, the DMV awaits, whether with a pre-emptive or corrective visit.  Frozen computers and all.

Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

  19 Responses to “Jean-Paul Villere: My date with the DMV”

  1. I went to the same DMV after being told it was one of the faster offices…. over THREE HOURS later, I had my shiny new license. The first 2 hours were spent sitting … and holding tight to my ticket as I watched the numbers climb higher and higher. Then, my moment arrived and I stepped to the counter only to find a mysterious “block” on my old LA license for an uninsured car that I never owned. I was given a blurry, heavily photocopied form with instructions for calling (guess who? the DMV!) to remedy said block. They must hand these out a lot as there’s a big ole’ stack of them on the desk.
    Now, I moved out of state after Katrina (and switched my license) – I only returned to NOLA this year. But, somehow I had a rogue Oldsmobile galavanting around the city in 2007. I called from my cell and waited in the queue for half an hour, as I sat on the floor in the DMV. Finally, I got through and the guy on the phone was perplexed – he asked me a number of questions before he admitted that “the computer” must have assigned it to me in error and he’d have to get permission from his supervisor to remove it. Which he did,… but first he put me back on hold… . What’s the point of this? Plan to be there a while – even if you go to the “faster” office for a simple license switch!

  2. You got what you deserved, actually less. I thought they towed away cars without proof of insurance. Are you so incompetent in all of your affairs? Do you aspire to be a leader in this community? have you no sense of embarassment? Jeeez.

    • If you seek a leader that would hide a warts and all approach to life, well Terrence, I guess I’m not the columnist for you. I clearly have no embarrassment over the matter, and frankly I don’t believe anyone should.

  3. I found the DMV on Vets efficient enough. Threadbare, sure, but I’m not visiting it for decor tips. Perhaps if you go in there with some dog-ate-my-homework story about all that horribly burdensome paperwork that goes along with operating an automobile (such a drag) you’ll end up having to wait for the person they detail to sort out that kind of thing. Yet several trips for various reasons – new license, retitling a car, etc. took an hour or less, even with a giant line. But there’s no arguing that Villere’s right about the weeds. They’re engulfing his rental property on Nelson Street.

    • Um, snark much? My yard guy was there yesterday, and he’s there every 2 weeks. So, pick another bone “rollingmyeyes.” Or live your life in anonymity making false statements about others. Whatever works for you.

  4. I have been dreading transferring my registration here from California. I can’t find anything online giving me a *definitive* answer on how much it will cost (and, by the way, it chaps my hide that I am going to have to pay tax on a car on which I’ve already paid tax), and I really do need this information *before* I go to the DMV, because if it turns out to be exorbitant and I don’t have enough money, I’ve wasted my (unpaid) time off from work. Two things Louisiana could learn from the California DMV: (1) Phone service is available for questions and (2) You can make appointments. Let me repeat that. You. Can. Make. Appointments. C’mon, Louisiana. Let’s do this!

    • Angie you are in very good company. If you look carefully around the city you’ll note many that label themselves “local” and might even claim a homestead exemption on their Louisiana property actually have out of state plates quite purposefully. It is puke-worthy at best. “The rich keep getting richer.”

    • I don’t think you have to pay a sales tax if you paid one in California, One difference here is that our DMV offices are crowded with people who foolishly failed to take care of business. You might try the office on Airline. I found it efficient when I had to replace a lost license a few years back. It is first come, first seved, and I didn;t have time to finish the crossword puzzle.

    • You’ll have to pay a one-time tax on the value of the vehicle. It’s not bad, compared to other states. The office further down the Westbank Expressway is decent. They have enough staff to handle the longer lines there. The DMV under the bridge is way too small to be efficient.

      I’m pretty sure there is an information number available on their website that will tell you what you need to know.

      Enjoy your new Louisiana registration and the higher cost of car insurance.

    • You will likely save time by driving to Hahnville in St. Charles Parish and use their DMV. I spent an hour and a half at the Algiers DMV and had to leave when they were just 3 numbers away from the number on my slip, or I would have missed a doctor’s appointment. The next day, I made the round trip to Hahnville in just a little over an hour and took care of business without any problem.

      • Just wanted to let you know that I am now officially an official Louisiana resident (even though I still have a permanent address in California). I ended up following a friend’s advice and going to the Reserve DMV. $400 later, I had a Saints plate, a registration card, and a driver’s license containing a misspelling of my last name. I’m going back tomorrow to take care of the driver’s license part. Then, it’ll really be officially official that I’m an official New Orleans resident.

  5. We are forced to read about so much local stupidity, it is disconcerting to read gratuitous confessions. You don’t say the nature of the meeting you missed. Was it an act of sale where you left some prospective purchasers heartbroken? Have you recently checked your real estate license and insurance papers? If I had a listing with you, I’d demand to see them. I don’t want a feud with you, but I must say I do want more people in New Orleans to take pride in doing things right, and I resent people who take pride in their carelessness.

    • Well said!

    • Firstly, no one forces anyone to read anything. Secondly, I have never said my actions are flawless, therefore stupid decisions happen – all the time, every day and to every one. Thirdly, the meeting I missed was the first of 3 in-your-face-parents! ISL hoo-ha go nowhere discussions, basically telling the parents “change is hard” sniffle, tear wipe. Fourthly, if you really really really care about licensing and real estate and the state of Louisiana, visit http://www.lrec.state.la.us and you’ll quickly realize ALL LICENSES expire at each year’s end, making it super easy for less than time sensitive folks, occasionally folks such as myself, to remember to renew. If the state adopted a similar year end practice for motor vehicles, I’d likely be golden. So no, I didn’t disappoint a client. I’d like to believe I rarely do, with the exception of a certain Yelper from Brooklyn that I cannot even really claim as a client (but boy oh boy she knows how to wrote a one star review). Fifthly, feuding really isn’t in my nature, but if you think I am proud of my behavior you’re wrong. I’m simply honest. Admitting an error and sharing it with those interested. Not interested? Fine by me.

  6. Thanks, all. I have actually been here for two and a half years seeing how it goes (same cost of living but at 60% of my former salary doesn’t make it easy to come up with fees such as these), but I have a permanent address in California, so I’ve tried to keep it registered there to avoid the hassle and expense.

    I have, however, been paying for Louisiana car insurance for most of my stay (it’s more than triple what I paid in California, for higher coverage with a lower deductible), but California’s DMV will not accept car insurance that says “Louisiana” on it, so I am being forced to transfer the registration here (and my tags expired Jan. 1st of this year, but I’m tired of fighting, so it’s time to make the change).

    Terrence, I believe the state portion of the tax will not be charged, but I’ll have to pay a parish tax of 4% or so. The question is, who figures out the value of my vehicle? How do I get this definitive number *before* going to the DMV?

    • Don’t know the details, but there are references for car values on line. If your car is old and junk, you probably will owe little,

  7. LOL

  8. Will there be a follow up titled My Date with the Court? If there is not one there should be an internal NOPD investigation. You never mention the mandatory fines and court appearances that you should have received. You should be using your position as a community voice to share with others the lesson you should have learned but I fear you did not learn anything from this experience based off of your comments. There is a fundamental lack of responsibility of residents of New Orleans when it comes to motor vehicles. That lack of responsibility is why our insurance rates are some of the highest in the nation.

    • You are correct iAmAmused I have a citation and I have to appear on or before a certain date down on Broad, though I didn’t see that as germaine to the story per se. It’s true I find licensing to be quite a hassle, and just because it’s the law doesn’t mean any one of us has to see it as sunshine and puppy dogs. The law is way inconsistent when it comes to enforcement and motor vehicles and as such sucks any enthusiasm or energy I may have ever had toward it. The lesson I learned was the experience was unpleasant and inconvenient and generally an exercise in job justification per state guidelines; you have to have licenses and inspections because the state says you do. It doesn’t make you any better a driver, nor does it protect you from bad drivers. All of this said, do I hope to find myself in this situation again? Hell no. Would I sooner sell my car? Hell yes. There’re too many cars on the road anyway; the only reason I have a car is for my children. If I didn’t have a famliy, I wouldn’t have a car. Lastly, I disagree in part with your last thought. It isn’t the residents and their lack of responsiblity; it’s the selective enforcement. I’m 100% sure I was profiled before the officer elected to pull me over. Ask yourself, how often an officer looks the other way; I promise you won’t like the answer.

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