I have moved heaven and earth. I have tirelessly stalked the wild goose of Mound City. I have beared (sic) the line (sic) in its den, and gotten its number (on a small slip of paper torn off a roll of tickets). I have crossed all the teas in China, dotted Irish eyes when they weren't smiling, and wrestled with the angel of red tape until it said "Uncle." And when I was done doing all that, I sprayed my automobile plates with WD-40, scraped the '06 and '08 stickers off with the flat blade of a screwdriver, and triumphantly applied the '10 tags that I brought home as a trophy.
I may have mentioned before that the process of getting vehicle tags in the great State of Missouri is an ingenious plan to expose the criminal tendencies that lie within the meekest bosom. For if one is never tempted to get one's tags illegally, one must be virtuous indeed. My fourth time around was no exception to this rule.
First, my car failed both inspections (safety and emissions), requiring me to buy a new part to pass each (a light bulb and a mass air flow sensor). I had to wait for the M.A.F.S. to come into the shop on back-order, sweating over my apartment complex's threat to tow cars with expired tags; I then failed to complete all the tests needed to pass the inspection even after driving two and a half hours, city and highway, and had to spend half a day in the shop's waiting room while the techs drove my car around trying to get the sensor to complete the remaining tests. Not a bad day's work - and I mean "day's work," since in three visits I believe I spent over 8 hours in that waiting room, reading Patrick O'Brian novels and sucking on Dum-Dums (a perk of having Dobbs as your primary-care mechanic).
Second - speaking rhetorically, not sequentially - I had to make two visits to City Hall, a charming building modeled on some German Rathaus or other. The first visit, two weeks ago, was to get a copy of my 2006 and 2007 personal property tax receipts, which I couldn't find anywhere. Getting the 2007 receipt was a simple matter of visiting the collector's office and paying $1 for a duplicate copy of my tax bill, showing that I had paid in full. 2006 was another matter; no record of my having paid 2006 personal property could be found in the city's records. After being directed from the Collector's office to the License office to the Assessor's office & back around in varying order by people who gave meaning to the saying about the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing (e.g., they could see each other's doors along the same hallway, but they didn't know each other's fax or phone numbers), I finally met a truly friendly, cheerful, helpful person in the Assessor's office, who prevented me from going postal and told me what I had to do.
What did I have to do? I had (second-and-a-halfth) to obtain a 2006 personal property tax bill from a county I haven't lived in since late January 2006, after a protracted argument with a county collector who seemed to believe I should drive down to Union, Missouri, to pay it. (Thanks, lady, I needed the laugh.) I am still mystified as to how I was ever allowed to renew my tags in St. Louis City in 2006, or even get a 2007 tax bill from the city assessor (the one I had paid) without showing evidence of paying 2006 personal property. I took great pleasure in infuriating the Franklin County Collector by telling her I believed I must have paid my 2006 personal property to Yuma County, Arizona, by mistake - and if I could prove it, Franklin County, Missouri, could go soak its head - but by that time she had already cut a bill (with "Delinquent" stamped all over it in red ink) and mailed it to my new address.
Then (second-and-three-quarterth) I made my second trip to City Hall and, in spite of another truly helpful human being in the Collector's office, had to run up and down between the first floor and the fourth floor several times. All right, I took the elevator; and the elevator gods must have been smiling upon me, because the door always seemed to be opening just as I walked up to it. There was some controversy, at first, about whether I could pay my Franklin Co. bill in St. Louis city, a controversy which finally came out in my favor (eat your heart out, Franklin Co. Collector lady!). Then it was a simple matter of running up to Room 410 to buy a money order - then running back down to Room 109 to use the ATM because Room 410 only accepted cash or checks - then running back up to Room 410 to complete my purchase - then running back down to Room 109 to turn over the money order so they could send it to Union - then taking a number (aargh) in the License Office so I could finally present all my paper work - renewal application, insurance card, both inspections, both tax receipts, and a partridge in a pear tree - then running back to the ATM to get more cash to pay for the tags - then waiting in line again (briefly) to finish the renewal process - and then I was ready for WD-40 and the blade of a screwdriver!
P.S. A funny thing happened this morning, which I didn't mention to anybody at City Hall. I got a ticket for parking along the curb in my apartment complex. Not that I had any choice; the parking lot was overflowing by the time I got home last night. This place has a chronic parking problem; there are more apartments than spaces to park in. What really stung was that my ticket accuses me of parking where the curb was painted yellow, though in fact, there wasn't so much as a flake of yellow paint anywhere near my car. A few feet further on the curb turned yellow. The injustice rankled until I realized that I had gotten away with parking hard by a "No Parking" sign during last night's Symphony concert, and an hour past the expiration of my parking meter on my first visit to City Hall. Well might one talk of bearding the lion in his den! So what if the lion comes around by one's den to do a little shaving of his own?