Monday, April 2, 2012

Yesterday, I braved the Holy Mess of the Boulder County Clerk's office in the name of registering my new car - a taxicab yellow Chevy Cobalt that I impulse bought after my mustard gold ZX2 finally bit the dust. (Note the screwdriver in the above picture. I knitted it a hat to make it look more hip. That was the last fix: $2.49 at Ace Hardware. It held out for three years.)

Armed with every scrap of paper pertaining to my vehicle purchase and auto insurance, alongside my driver's license, marriage license and my first kindergarten finger painting, I made my way to the House of Pain.

Well, actually, I went for a run. I logged a nice eight miles, too. I told Dennis to meet me at the Clerk's office around eight o'clock with the pertinent information so that we could be first in line without interrupting my morning workout.

Sweaty and reeking of old shoes, I expected to walk in and find a scene from Ellis Island: crying infants and people speaking in foreign tongues. Men who had been waiting so long they needed to shave. Women, slumped over and dehydrated, but unwilling to forfeit their place in line. People either sleeping or dead - no one knows for sure. But no. We walked in and found six elderly women, seated in tiny cubicles, looking straight-up bored under the flickering florescent lights.

Dennis, the kids and I toddled happily to an especially grim looking woman with bluish hair and a firmly set jaw. I plunked down and started to hand her my paperwork when she cut me off:

See that stand over there? Go take a number.

I exchanged a bewildered look at Dennis. He and I both looked around the room, noting the five other bored-looking women and vacant waiting area. There was a small black stand with paper tickets in front of rows of empty chairs. Again, old Blue Hair:

Go get a number.

So, this is the part where I start laughing uncontrollably. I know, I know... serious business. But how can one not laugh? Blue Hair looks pissed. Dennis is just trying to get me to shut up. Henry is now entranced by the idea of taking tickets with numbers. Ever the obedient man, my husband walks to the stand and snaps up ticket 127. And what do you know? An automated voice says, "Number one-hundred-twenty-seven." I am laughing so hard I am crying.

Dennis says, "Gain your composure, honey." Okay.

I jump up like I’m on The Price is Right and race back to Blue Hair's window. My heart is beating fast. I am so grateful that they finally called my number after my thirty second wait that I feel a little Stockholm Syndrome sweep over me. Thank goodness, too, for the orderly system they have established down there at the Boulder County Clerk's office. Otherwise, it would be total mayhem with ALL THESE PEOPLE.

Meanwhile, Henry is back at the black stand, pulling tickets one after another.

Fast forward another ten minutes. I am still at the window with Blue Hair. Dennis, in his haste to get here before the rush, has forgotten my proof of insurance. He took the liberty of rifling through my stack of paperwork, and removed anything he didn't think substantive. Blue Hair looks downright giddy at my misfortune.

You will have to come back with your insurance card. And you better bring a check because, if I have to run your credit card, it will cost you an extra fee. You probably won't find that funny.

Oh, you have a sense of humor, do you, Blue Hair?

Fine. I go home. Get the insurance card and a check, and make my way back to the Clerk's office. The room is now full. People are clutching sweaty scraps of paper with numbers on them, waiting to be called.

"Number one-hundred-forty-four." No one moves. "Number one-hundred-forty-five." Again, nothing happens. Not even a twitch. "Number one-hundred-forty-six." The guy next to me sighs loudly.

"What the hell?" I ask him.

"They said some kid was sitting here just taking numbers for, like, ten minutes. I think I'm next. I have number 158."

Dennis rolls his eyes. Henry and I are, again, laughing uncontrollably. Blue Hair looks up with a disapproving glare.

After a good 45 minutes, I finally get back up to the window. This time, it's a different woman who has pretty much the same demeanor. By now, I’ll do anything for this woman. I am so hopeful that she’ll give me those green plates for my car. I will hold a machine gun at a bank robbery for you, I telepathically tell her.

She doesn't seem to like me, either. Maybe it's because Henry plunked himself in the chair and told her that her office "smells like poop." Or maybe it's because I am still laughing. Or maybe it's because Dennis is staring angrily at us, and that is making me laugh even harder. I can't say...but I did get my plates, finally, and it only cost me $178.60, and an eternity.
We got in the car and Dennis was quite firm. "You are such an idiot. Seriously, are you at all embarrassed?"

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