No matter how much I say I will never be in this situation again, every year I find myself doing the "tag shuffle." Around this time of year, because for one reason or another, whenever it's time to have my license tags renewed there is inevitably some kind of vehicular hiccup that interrupts the process.
I remember one year I was driving around in such a cloud of disconnect that I did not realize my tags had been expired so far beyond the date that an officer took my tags right there on the spot. My tag was arrested and I was left naked and vulnerable on Billy Graham Parkway wondering if my tag would be made a prison bitch by a more dominant SUV Tahoe tag before I could post its bail.
That incident made me more aware when it came to getting my tags renewed, but every year it seems like clockwork — there's a succession of issues that keeps me in full tag panic for a few months. To start this year's series of obstacles, my engine light came on a month before the tag was due. So if that wasn't bad enough, I then found out that my brake light was not working and one night driving home from work the inside lights to the dashboard would not come on. I had to get creative and place my cellphone in the speedometer caddy to see at night — all the while hoping that I would not get stopped. I know, I'm high tech.
I work several nights a week, so for the past few months I have been driving home via cellphone illumination, sweating like Donald Trump at a CIAA party. You know how it is when you're driving dirty; you have to restrict your driving to work commutes and food runs. You skulk on back streets, hit the freeway to keep off of busy roads and constantly pray to the traffic gods that someone without the blue lights pulls up behind you at a stop light.
After praying to the DMV deities for an intervention things started to click. My girl Doc had me visit her guy about the engine light. Then my bestie Doug had me check out his guy for the brake light and interior dash light issues and 60 bucks later I was batting two for two.
The next stop: the inspection. I went to my old haunt up the street on Statesville Avenue because they have shown me mercy in past years. I had barely sat down to take advantage of the complimentary AC when the inspector said I needed four new tires. [Insert fantasy scene of me at a funeral for my poor car and throwing myself on the casket screaming, "Oh Lord, why me?"]
I knew my tires were old and bald. I mean, if you go into a full skid just from someone spitting on the road, it is time for some new treads. So I took my failed inspection paperwork and made a food run before continuing my self-induced isolation. The other secret shame of riding dirty is that you feel trapped and homebound like one of those kids from the book and ill-fated film Flowers in the Attic.
The DMV deities were not through with me just yet. I had one of my favorite cousins in town visiting from Houston, Texas, so I fixed dinner for her, my sister and nephew. My family came over that Sunday to eat and my sister and cousin said they would take me to Walmart to each sponsor a tire. Now, with my leftover birthday money, I would have just enough to get four new tires. I excused myself to get ready and to do a quick ugly cry in the bathroom.
We got the tires at Walmart and, after wandering the store like nomads for hours and getting my feelings hurt when I realized women smiling in my direction were actually checking out my nephew, we were done. I returned to my inspection spot only to be told I needed more miles on the car to have sensors checked. So close. I spent the next several days making day trips up to Mooresville before finally, on Friday, I was able to pass.
I did a celebratory nerdy moonwalk to my car and then made a beeline for the DMV on Brookshire Boulevard, where 20 minutes later I was walking out with new tags. I applied them right there in the parking lot. Just so you know, you get strange looks when you are seen squatting behind a car and lovingly caressing your new tags. I rolled out like a boss, mentally twerking the bumper that showcased my new tags and waving to folks who gave me crazy looks. I did not care, I was street legal again, snitches!