My wife and I were shocked one day last week when we opened our mail.
Well, maybe shocked is too strong. It was more like we were a little surprised, but the surprise was a bit magnified because we were somewhat mystified by what one rather small bit of paper in the mail told us. It seems that one of our vehicles had been spotted in a local parking lot bearing a license plate decorated with an incorrectly colored sticker. Somehow, we had failed to renew the license of one of our cars in August, when it was due. That meant we or, more properly or in the case of that particular car, yours truly, had been driving with an invalid license plate for a month without being detected.
The ticket that arrived in the mail was only a warning, so it really wasn’t that big a deal, but we were puzzled about why our failure to buy the new tags occurred. We are not totally obsessive about our finances, but we keep pretty close track of them. We make every effort to pay bills when they are due, but sometimes we slip up, and maybe this was what happened this time.
It’s also rare when we receive a traffic ticket. I don’t think Karen has ever been cited, and during my six decades of driving, I have earned only three tickets for speeding and a few more for parking violations. I’ve also received more warnings than I can count, so I am sometimes guilty of speeding, but nothing outrageous.
Both of those considerations prompted us to discover what had happened and why it had happened. Our search turned up two facts.
First, we had not written a check to Park County during August, and second, the postcard the county treasurer sends out to remind us that it’s time to renew the license was not among the current bills we need to pay. That led us to believe that we had never received such a card.
Fortunately, it was Monday, one of the days when the treasurer sends somebody over to Powell to serve us, so we jumped in the car — not the one with the expired tag — and headed for the Park County Annex to get right with the law. When we presented our problem to the nice lady there and she looked us up, she discovered two mistakes had been made a few months earlier when we bought a new car.
I began assessing our automotive status last spring. At the time, we owned two Toyota Camrys, a green one and a blue one. The former was nearly 19 years old and had traveled more than 200,000 miles. The blue one was approaching 11 years old and had passed 100,000 miles a couple of years ago. Now, I have been buying Camrys since 1991 because they are tremendously dependable cars. Even so, the thought that we would be increasingly dependent on two such aging pieces of machinery was a little scary, especially given our advanced age.
I decided that we should buy another Camry, one that would be useful for at least a decade. In addition, a new car might have all the new safety features, like the buzzer that sounds if you drift out of your lane or the light that tells you if there is a car in your blind spot. Such features might enable older folks such as Karen and me to drive safely. A more hedonistic reason is that I figured that the next car I would buy would be my last. Not only that, but I thought the time would come that someone — probably my wife — would tell me to quit driving. If that was to be the case, I decided, I wanted to drive one more new car.
So, one Sunday afternoon, we took a stroll through Garvin’s lot, and there it was. A bright red Camry with all those safety bells and whistles as well as front seats that will warm our fannies next winter. The next day, we went out and bought it, trading in the blue car and keeping the nearly green one.
A couple of weeks later, we dropped by the courthouse to take care of the sales tax and license, and that’s when the trouble started. I explained that we no longer had the blue car so the license should be transferred to the red one, but apparently, I didn’t make myself entirely clear. The blue car to red car transfer had been made correctly, but then the license for the green car was transferred to the blue one. Since the green car was now off the books, the office didn’t send out the reminder to have it renewed.
Well, the nice lady said she would have to go back to Cody to straighten out the mess, and we could come back the next day and complete the process.
We are once again driving two legally registered Camrys and, for the first time in over a decade, driving down the road with that new car smell in our nostrils as well as a whole bunch of lights and bells helping us stay in our own lane, maintaining our distance from the car ahead and seeing what’s behind us when in reverse.
Automotively speaking, all is right in our world again.