This was the plan: Pick the day and time people would least likely want to be going anywhere; escape the lines and get Carol’s new car, which really isn’t new, registered in record time.
Harvey Davies, who found the 2005 Buick, knew exactly what I should do.
“Go to Wakefield; you can be in and out of there in no time.”
Knowing all too well the Cranston office with lines snaking down the corridor, his suggestion sounded like heaven even if it meant driving the extra distance. To make the transfer of plates all the easier, I went online and got all the forms needed. We’d be in and out of the registry in no time, I figured.
If you’re getting the feeling there’s a catch to this story, you’re right.
There’s nothing fast when it comes to the registry, even in South County where there are fewer folk.
My choice of days was Thursday. It was raining. It was windy. Who would want to be out in such miserable conditions?
Carol was delighted to have company for such a mission. We brought along Ollie, for after all he loves being in the car and if we were running short on conversation we could always count on him whining whenever he spotted someone walking their dog, not that many like walking in the rain. Carol had dutifully completed the forms and just to make doubly sure nothing had been forgotten, she arranged the paperwork in a folder with the information for each car separated. It was all there from title to registration, bill of sale, total mileage and insurance card.
We were out to set a registry record.
My hopes dimmed as soon as we turned into the government center and followed the DMV sign to a parking lot. It isn’t a big lot, but it was full with two other cars circling. My competitive juices were already bubbling – perhaps a hangover from my days snaring parking places in New York City? If these guys found places before I did they would be that much further ahead in the line.
I did what I’m good at doing – parking where you probably shouldn’t park. I look at it differently. Those places are open because others haven’t dared to do it. I paid for it dearly once in NYC when my car was towed from beside a fire hydrant, but otherwise I usually got away with it.
This time it was a dumpster. What were the chances they would be picking up trash on a Thursday afternoon, a rainy afternoon at that?
Ollie settled down in the back seat for a nap. We rushed in before our competing arrivals figured if I was blocking the dumpster, they could do it too.
There was no need for haste. A line of 30 people – just to get a number, mind you – greeted us. They all held handfuls of forms, gazing blankly in front of them. A man sat at a counter at the front of the line. His job: Look over your forms, mark missing fields with a yellow highlighter and hand you a ticket. He wasn’t in a rush, but it wouldn’t have mattered had he been, for another 40 people were waiting on pews for their number to be called.
The woman in front of us wasn’t interested in our small talk, nervously following the glacial pace at which people were being processed. She lasted about 10 minutes before stalking out.
“If we hurried up, we might be able to get to the Cranston office before it closes,” I said loud enough for those around us to hear. Nobody budged. That wasn’t going to move things along.
Another deserter broke ranks only he had already gotten a number.
“Anybody want it?” He held up the slip of paper bearing A082. Everybody looked like he was trying to pawn off a counterfeit $20. Not me.
“What if it doesn’t work,” asked Carol. They were serving A068, so no matter what we faced a wait. I thanked the man who seemed genuinely pleased that someone would benefit from the time he’d invested.
In another half hour we reached the man at the counter. He liked Carol’s neatly organized folder, flipped through the forms and highlighted a couple of boxes. He was about to hand me a number when I showed him my A082.
Those behind me looked stunned. I could almost hear them cursing themselves for not accepting the man’s offer.
We went to sit and wait, trying to make sense of the random selection from A, B and C numbers.
Another half hour and we were before a man with a computer. He shuffled through the papers and was interrupted by the clerk in the adjoining booth. He left us to help her. On return he looked over the papers again, shuffling through them. The clerk in the adjoining booth was back with another question.
I was beginning to wonder if this was a training session and the lot of us were guinea pigs and that graduates of the Wakefield office would be transferred to Cranston.
The line at the door was gone. The entrance was locked and a guard stood by to let people out. It was 3:45 p.m. There were still a good 40 people seated in the pews praying for their number to be called.
The clerk handling our transfer tallied up fees and taxes and waited for me to hand over a check before sliding the registration across the counter. We’d done it, thanks to an unknown kindhearted soul who had parted with his ticket, in under two hours.
We left the registry, rounding the corner of the building. I was prepared to find my car and Ollie gone, towed from its place next to the dumpster.
But no, rather others had likewise parked at the dumpster.
Whoever can straighten out this system deserves to be knighted.