Friday, January 27, 2012

Registering Grace

Nothing gives more opportunities for being graceful than being an idiot.  I get more of those opportunities than I'd like.

This last Fall, I donated my aging Yamaha to the Salvation Army.   It was time to move on to a newer motorcycle, one with a riding position that didn't overly tax my aging frame.  So I did, and did all the requisite paperwork to transfer title.  That included notifying the State and the County that I no longer owned my vehicle.

A week or so later, I received a bill from Fairfax County.  It was for 2012 Registration for the bike, which, of course, I no longer owned.  I assumed things had crossed in the mail.  No point in registering a bike that isn't yours, now, is there?

Two months later, I got a past-due notice for the same registration fee, for the 2012 registration for same bike that I no longer owned.  I went online, and re-confirmed with the County system that the vehicle had been donated.  Yes, they knew I no longer owned it.

And then, with Christmas and doctoral papers and coursework consuming my brain, I completely forgot about it.

This last week, I got notification that because my registration for 2012 was past due, it had been referred to a collections agency, with a modest penalty attached, plus a service fee.   A bit of more fervent research revealed that in late 2010, Fairfax County quietly decided that "registration" no longer means "registration."  You're not paying a fee so that the county can know you own something, like, say, the registration fee you pay to own a dog.  There is no "decal."

You're paying retroactively for the privilege of having owned the vehicle in the previous year.  It's called "registration," but what it really is now is a county-level personal property tax on a vehicle.  So the law had changed, and I was now on the wrong side of it.

I really hate such things, and they tend to make me a tick irritable, something I'll remember come next election.  The payment would just have to be made.  But the call also needed to be made to the collections agency, because we all know how much fun those folks can be once their database has got its teeth in you.

I spent a few moments centering myself, getting calm.  To do this, I needed to talk with another human being, another soul.  

With form in hand, I made the call.  On the other end, a young man's voice came on after a brief hold time, by inflection clearly African American.  He went through a mandated schpiel about the call being monitored for quality assurance.  His voice was guarded and tight.  I asked him to confirm the amount, which he did.  I asked him to confirm where the check needed to be sent, which he did.

Then, I laughed at what an idiot I'd been, and explained how I'd botched it to him.  He "mmm-hhhhmmmed" his way through it, as he could tell payment was about to be made and could be heard typing away on the other end.

I thanked him for his help, and then remarked that he had a totally thankless, stressful job.  "I'm sure everyone you talk to is always sooo glad to be talking to you," I said, and he laughed.

"Oh, maaaaaan," he said, and you could hear him relax.  "Seriously.  Seriously.  You have no idea, man."

I told him to hang in, and to have a good one.  "You too, man," he replied, voice still smiling, and the call was done.

Venting grace is so much more satisfying than venting anger.