After finally getting through with what he had always incorrectly considered "the hard part," which is five years of sweat and busted knuckles, hundreds of dollars in phone bills and thousands in Honda parts, he was ready to get it titled. He didn't have the original title because the owner had lost it about thirty years prior, and as most of you know, titles never come back after three years!
"No problem," he thought, "I've got a bill of sale."
"Wrong! Think again you puny, ignorant, heathen, savage motorist you! Bwah-hah-hah-hahhhh! I am Xena, Warrior DMV clerk!"
Well, maybe his courteous DMV Maiden didn't use those exact words, but she just as well have. As you may have guessed; no title for Dream Boy. Been there, done that, bought a tag... or rather, I tried to. I had taken the long, wrong way around the barn. My daddy could have saved our Dreamer a whole lotta trouble. He once did it for me. I thought I could handle things by myself and made the mistake of entering a South Carolina DMV office without carrying a sidearm...
"Pooh! I'll just do it myself!" ... which was not a problem.
"And I'll do it my way, the right way!"
... which certainly was a problem.. and a big one.
During 1981 I was stationed at Travis AFB near San Francisco, California. While on summer leave I decided to have my trusty 1975 BMW 2002 registered in my home state instead of California to save on taxes and insurance. This is a courtesy that all states bestow upon the uniformed guardians of justice. I strolled trustingly into the local DMV here in Greenwood, South Carolina.
She asked the questions and I was throwing answers at a fevered pace. Unlike many other visits to this forsaken hall of torture, this trip was gonna be a piece of cake. After all, I had the solemn strength of the United States Air Force and the Federal Government allied with me in this endeavor. With Uncle Sam on my side, who could stand against me? My bubble of warm and fuzzy contentment began to de-inflate when she got to the one that read:
"SC Vehicle Inspection Sticker Number?"
No problem, I was ready for that one...
"Not required. I'm in the military in California and I'm registering my car here in my home state. There's no vehicle inspection law in the state of California."
At that time I'm pretty sure I heard the following:
"OK James Bond, take your hideously wretched body and go sleep with the bones of your ancestors! I am Xena of DMV! Bwah-hah-hahhhhh!"
Perhaps I had impugned the righteousness of the omniscient, omnipotent South Carolina State Worker? I could almost hear her thinking this next part:
"Anything goes from now on, bubba, 'cause now you in my neck of the swamp, you knuckle draggin', gravy suckin' hillbilly!"
Who was she talkin' to and how did she know so much about what I'd had for breakfast? I'd had her figured for a lightweight, which she was, except it was she who had the Official Form, and she who weilded the Almighty Pen. It was then that I noticed that it was an official State of South Carolina pen; I'm pretty sure it had holy ink coursing its veins. In a flash, I had underestimated my opponent and gotten in way over my head! I told her that service men and women all over this great nation were, even as we argued, doing the very thing I was there for. Everyone in the service registers their vehicles in their home state. The law was on my side. You don't actually think she could hear any of this do you? Her head was busy going side to side in the International Symbol of Rejection. I was sinking fast. Failure at the DMV!
Back at home, daddy asked my if I'd gotten my tags yet. I told him about my unfortunate episode and he began to change colors. The more he thought of it the more it got under his skin. He declared that he was going back for an encore...
As fate would have it, we stood in line in before five clerks for 45 minutes and ended up getting the SAME STINKIN' CLERK! Now I ask you, what are the odds of that? I was wondering how many years daddy was gonna get for what he was gonna do to Xena when she started into that side-to-side head shaking routine. My brother Roger was the last to try it back in the winter of '61. We got him some new pants and the skin finally grew back almost good as new. The counter was cleared, we were up next. I was feeling like an accessory to an impending crime. I looked for comfort...
"Now I lay me down to sleep..."
Xena went straight into her routine without as much as batting an eye. And in case you're wonderin'... No! She would NOT have forgotten me! She knew my car was almost 3,000 miles away and that I could not possibly have gotten an inspection sticker for it. She never let on. I think it was because she was so much looking forward to the part where she would get to turn me down... again! They like that, you know. We continued down the list of her interrogation routine. This time she wouldn't even look at me as she asked the questions and filled in the blanks. I answered all her questions just like before, all the while dreading the inevitable one. Then I heard her giggle slyly and say it again:
"South Carolina Vehicle Inspection Sticker Number?"
I wasn't sure what the strategy was but I knew I didn't have one. Suddenly I became a witness to the very epitome of poker-faced one-upsmanship. Apparently the DMV folks can smell fear and they like it. But daddy was about to teach me how you get things done down here in the lower right-hand corner. He'd crawled around under live machine gun fire for five years of his life during that mid-century unpleasantness and there wasn't anything Xena was packin' down at the DMV that was gonna come near to shakin' him up. Being on your belly in the mud will do that to you. All these guys, the ones who have been shot at in the name of patriotic sport, don't sweat the small stuff. And for them, anything below 50-caliber automatic weapon fire is all small stuff.
I needn't have worried because daddy was the man and he had the plan, and a marvelous one it was. Before I could stutter out an answer to Xena, daddy leaned over the counter, looked that perky little chickadee right in the eye, locked in a fiery, white hot gaze and said loudly and with a noticeably impatient sneer:
Xena-baby froze momentarily in fright, almost choked on her Skoal then promptly coughed up my dog-gone tags. Now get down to your local DMV and make 'em get busy!