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.