Normal people probably register their vehicles on time every year. You get a reminder in the mail from the DMV and you take care of it. Or maybe you don't get a reminder but you know the renewal date is coming up and you take care of it. At the most extreme maybe you miss the renewal date but then you realize you're late and you take care of it. Normalcy. Feh.
I like to do things a bit differently. I reregister my vehicles late. Really late. Really, really late. The DMV sends me notices and I set them aside, making a mental note to take care of that...someday. Late notices come and are also put aside for later. Then the pink or red or black bordered ones come, the ones that say you're really, really late and they're gonna come get your ass, and those are also put aside for later. Weeks go by, months go by. From time to time I'll be sorting through one of the myriad piles of crap we have scattered throughout the house and I'll come across one of the notices. Jeez, I'd better take care of that, I think to myself. And I set it aside. It's always in the back of my mind, that my registration is expired and that I really need to take care of it, but I just don't seem to get around to it.
But you know what? It makes life more interesting, driving around with expired tags. It adds the zest of danger, a zing of adrenaline. It gives you eyes in the back of your head, especially when the California Legislature passes a new law that really cracks down on unregistered vehicles. Now they can impound the vehicle and -- I'm not sure, but I think -- arrest the driver. So I drive in my rear-view mirror, scanning for cops behind me. If one shows up a few cars back, why I suddenly remember that I need to turn at the next block -- a right turn for quick escape, not a left turn that will trap me in the turn lane where the cop just might pull in behind me. If I see one up ahead I pull in behind someone slower and let them keep me from catching up, and if my blocker inexplicably speeds up, why I suddenly remember that I have to pull over and park...oh, right about here. I just don't let cops get behind me, that's all. Parking Enforcement geeks, now they're a different story. They can get behind me all day long, but they're gonna have to catch me to ticket me and that just ain't gonna happen. But you know, they might have radios, they might be calling for backup. It's a cloudy issue.
Ah, the adrenaline rush of it all. Maybe I'm addicted to it, I don't know. What I do know is that with any addiction, one day the bill comes due. They got me on the freeway last year, when the registration was seven months overdue. A Highway Patrol car slid in behind me and popped on the flashing lights. I pulled over, got a ticket, and that was that. No muss, no fuss. A few days later, the second time they pulled me over, that was even easier. I flashed the ticket I'd already gotten and the officer let me off with only a stern look. With a court date and possible impoundment and arrest looming I had the impetus I needed and finally took care of my registration.
This year, with the new "get tough" law, I already had those motivators: the day I went overdue I was up for impoundment and possible arrest. This year that wasn't enough. This year I also went longer: eight months overdue. I let it go for so long that Beth refused to drive my truck until I renewed the registration, and even I avoided driving it if I could. Lots of adrenaline goin' on. Heady stuff, that, but as it always does, the bill came due, once again on the freeway. Last Friday I spied a Highway Patrol car coming up from behind in the next lane. I was in the fast lane and had nowhere to hide, so I did what I could. As it overtook me I eased off on the gas so maybe it'd pass me too fast to notice the wrong color tags. It pulled even with me...and then dropped back...and pulled in behind...and lit me up. Chuck, this is the piper. Pay me.
I pulled over and started composing the hilariously funny line I'd loosen Beth up with when I called her from jail. I wondered how much it would cost to bail my truck out. I wondered how I'd get home if I didn't get arrested. And, yes, I told myself I was an idiot for letting things get to this point. And then the officer was at my door.
She checked my papers and gave me a stern look. "You know I could have you towed?" she said. I've had many dealings with law enforcement. Too many. There was a period of time there where I couldn't get pulled over without also being arrested. If I've learned only one thing from all that, it's that honesty is the best policy. "Yes, ma'am," I said, "but I sure wish you wouldn't."
Amazingly enough, she didn't, she just gave me a ticket and let me go. Somehow I knew the jig was up and I wouldn't get off so easy next time, so I spent all of Tuesday morning getting my car smog checked and registered. I'm legal now, and I have to say that the freedom of knowing I don't have a target tattooed on my ass is almost as nice as the thrill of having it. Will I change my ways and re-up my registration in a timely manner come June? Eh...maybe. But I'm getting kind of used to doing it in January.