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Easier to just shoot 'em, like a horse

Several years ago, I was dating a woman who lives in Massachusetts. She had to have ortho athero arthroscopic surgery on her knee, and was gonna be laid up for a few weeks. I went with her down to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, armed with a letter from her surgeon, to get her a temporary handicapped placard.

I'd heard all the horror stories, the jokes. Even on TV, the RMV/DMV is one of the circles of Hell, filled with lazy, inconsiderate, rude, incompetent folks. It was the place that employed people like Marge Simpson's sisters Patty and Selma, Fes, Bud Bundy. I had been spoiled by New Hampshire's DMV, which wasn't so bad.

It was worse. Worse than I had expected. Worse than I could have expected. Worse than I could have imagined. Worse beyond my most horrific nightmares.

The first clerk we encountered said that the Commonwealth does not issue temporary handicapped parking placards. Period. No such creature. In fact, we were both probably insane to even think such things existed. I thought she was going to summon the security guard over when I insisted that all states do, even my own beloved New Hampshire.

My lady wanted to leave at that point, but I was in high dudgeon. (We both have tremendous respect for handicapped parking, and I had had to argue with her to come down at all. She would only be on crutches for a month or so, so she felt she didn't deserve the permit.) I went up to the clerk by the entryway and repeated what the clerk had told us.

One would think we had demanded powdered unicorn horn and dragon's blood. A TEMPORARY handicapped parking permit? In MASSACHUSETTS? Why, we must be mad, mad to envision such a thing!

Once again my lady wished to depart, but I knew they had to exist. I politely asked for a handicapped parking application. A regular one, not a temporary one. With the kind of expression one reserves for dealing with the mentally disabled or insane, she reluctantly handed it over.

I quickly skimmed it over, and in a second found what I was looking for. There it was, in black and white: checkboxes for the type of permit required, labelled "PERMANENT" and "TEMPORARY."

I pointed it out calmly to the clerk, who insisted that HAD to be a mistake. (At this point the security guard started eying me suspiciously, while my lady looked longingly at the door. Fortunately, she wasn't moving too fast.) I insisted that the supervisor be summoned, to explain to one and all that black was white, that up was down, that left was right, and that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts did, indeed, issue temporary handicapped parking permits to those who find themselves disabled for a short period of time.

In the end, she got it and I managed to NOT get myself arrested for the first time in my life -- but it was a near thing. I was Galileo, Martin Luther, and Salman Rushdie all rolled into one, the heretic who dared challenge the orthodoxy and deserved to be punished for my impudence. I had done the unspeakable -- I had challenged not one, but two agents of the mighty RMV, and prevailed.

That was about four years ago. I had pretty much put it behind me (much like the lady in question), but then I read this story in the Boston Herald. A 78-year-old man with crippling foot problems wants to visit his severely-injured wife in the hospital, but the state says he should have expected his feet to develop this problem 12 weeks in advance -- because that's how long it can take to get a temporary handicapped parking permit. Even after the newspaper got in touch with the RMV's official spokesperson, Mr. Driscoll still might have to wait 30 days.

And now Massachusetts wants to put the same kind of bureaucracy in charge of making sure everyone has health insurance.

It's no frigging wonder this state keeps re-electing Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. That it keeps both houses of its Legislature overwhelmingly Democratic. (138-22 House, 33-7 Senate.) It's nothing short of a miracle that they keep re-electing Republicans as governors, providing the slimmest margin of safety from complete and utter collapse.

(Note: this is partly a slam against Democrats, but more against giving too much power to one party. In New Hampshire, we've occasionally been utterly dominated by Republicans, but 1) not since the 70's or so; B) never to anywhere near that extreme; and III) even at their worst, the NH GOP was nowhere dangerous as the Bay State Democrats. Except, perhaps, when the Governor of NH wanted the National Guard equipped with tactical nuclear weapons.)

Over the last few years, Massachusetts' governors had put a lot of work into reforming the RMV. And I had heard a lot of good reports about how things were a lot better. But this story just shows the truth of one of my mother's little aphorisms:

You can't polish a turd.

Update: I wrote this Wednesday night. Thursday morning, I discovered that sometimes sunshine is indeed the best disinfectant -- the RMV did the right thing by Mr. Driscoll, with the above-mentioned Registry spokesperson, Ms. Amie O'Hearn, hand-delivering the placard to his home. One can only hope that this will be a learning experience for the RMV, leading to major changes in how they treat the subjects citizens of Massachusetts, showing a little more respect for those people who pay their salary, and...

Sorry, I just woke up. I'm usually far less delusional.


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Comments (9)

Beware the petty with power... (Below threshold)

Beware the petty with power.

If either the of women you mention had any kind of real service ethic, she would have at least checked with someone else and offered you the form to see for yourself.

Your DMV needs new management, whichever political party is in power. Actually, politics shouldn't even be an issue.

However, if your DMV is really under the control of the gov't and if you have the Motor-Voter rule, carry a big sign outside saying, "DANGER! DEMOCRATS IN CHARGE! YOU GET WHAT YOU VOTE FOR!"

Sorry, I just woke up. I... (Below threshold)

Sorry, I just woke up. I'm usually far less delusional.

Oh, I wouldn't say that.

As a comparison, the last t... (Below threshold)

As a comparison, the last time I went to get a new license plate for my car here in Orlando, Florida, it took me almost five minutes.

Once time, there was a crowd, and it took about fifteen. The clerk apologized for the wait...

Wow. I can't believe this ... (Below threshold)

Wow. I can't believe this kind of thing happens in this world. You know, you think certain things just don't happen, are so totally unlikely ...

Several years ago, I was dating a woman who lives in Massachusetts.

You were dating?


Sorry, Jay Tea, I'm in a good mood this morning, so I have to take it out on somebody.

I was [un]lucky enough to l... (Below threshold)

I was [un]lucky enough to live in the altered State of California for a short while. Right before and right after AHnold was elected.

The DMV beforehand was unbelievably bad - long lines, interminable waits only to be told you are in the wrong line, etc. Folks used to line up an hour before the place opened to get a jump on things - I once found myself at the end of a line all the way around the building because I had only come a half-hour early.

Post-election of the Terminator, with management changes hailed by DMV workers and the public alike, the lines dissolved - you could even make appointments on-line or by phone - and service became exceptionally customer oriented.

Hmmm.1. "You can't... (Below threshold)


1. "You can't polish a turd."

Don't make assumptions.

If you froze it, repeatedly immersed it in water and allowed the water to freeze and then you could probably polish it. Not that I have personally mind you. I got this technique from watching a show on Laplanders building a new sled. Evidently they used *fish* for the runners by freezing the fish, attaching them to the sled and then repeatedly spitting water on them while rubbing the fish vigorously with their hands to polish them to a glass-like finish.

And if you can polish a damn fish you can certainly polish a turd.


Ok. I'm anal retentive. We all gots problems.

2. I live in New Jersey. Perhaps the only state in the Union worse than Mass.

3. What the heck is wrong with NHNG having tactical nuclear weapons? What happens if Ted Kennedy pulls a Godzilla and tries to eat Manchester?

That certainly would call for tactical nuclear weapons wouldn't it? Frankly I'd hold out for thermonuclear though.

As a comparison, t... (Below threshold)
As a comparison, the last time I went to get a new license plate for my car here in Orlando, Florida, it took me almost five minutes.

Sounds a lot like my experiences here in Newnan, Georgia. Although, if there is anything the least bit out of the ordinary involved, the process may require the direct intervention of the Gubnor's office...

Ed,Remember when we ... (Below threshold)

Remember when we briefly had a privatized DMV? The office near my father had actually removed all but a handful of chairs in the waiting room, because they didn't need them (no lines long enough).
Then Gov McGreevey took office, and promptly restored state control and union staffing to all DMV offices... and renamed it to the MVC.

It took me 2 hours last week to get a stamp placed on a motorcylce permit. All they had to do was take my $5 check, and update the expiration date. No paperwork. No test.
And the whole time I was waiting, the lady that did permits was doing her nails. The bottleneck, you see, was the desk at the front that assigns you a number (wait 10-20 minutes to get one), then calls you in order to put you in the right queue. And if any queue is full, they stop calling numbers until it thins out.

Come on down to Arkansas. ... (Below threshold)

Come on down to Arkansas. There is no DMV or RMV or Motor Vehicle anything department. You go to the State Finance and Administration office and are courteously tended to in minutes. I renewed my handicapped placard in six minutes today. They all are essentially temporary in Arkansas since they have expiration dates. By the way, no fees are involved.






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