It all starts with the sad reality of how utterly pathetic my mail service is. I'm sure that many people complain about their mail service. Sorry, but yours isn't isn't bad, whatever your service is. If I described in full how utterly pathetic mine is (far beyond mere "bad" -- ha, I dream of just bad), you'd consider yourself lucky. Without even describing any a single detail about how dismal my mail service is, I can still give you a good idea, that's how dismal it is -- it got SO horrible, crossed the line SO far, passed the last straw SO much...that I finally had enough and went to the lenghs to track down the names and email addresses for the supervisor of my local Post Office branch, the manager of my local branch, the Postmaster for the City of Los Angeles, the Postmaster General of the United States, my Congresswoman, and my state Assemblyman -- and sent them a long, incredibly polite and blistering letter explaining only some of the great-many problems that had occurred over the recent years and included photos as visual aids. That's how horrific it is.
Happily, I actually heard back from the Postmaster of Los Angeles and the supervisor of my local branch. (I suspect that I heard from the supervisor not necessarily out of the goodness of her heart, but because she'd been cc:'d in the Postmaster's response....) Both wrote thoughtful letters that seemed to understand the issues at hand, and said I should continue to write them to keep them updated if the problems continued. And the supervisor followed up with a phone call. And the problems have, of course, continued. And I've written them, repeatedly -- and continue to get replies replies.
Relentlessly misdelivered mail -- meant for others, as well as intended for me. Not stopping my mail when I put a Vacation Hold, at least a third of the time. (Once, so much mail got crammed into my mailbox that there was no more room -- and so the postal carrier just started piling it up outside, on top of the box!!) Not picking up misdelivered mail clearly marked "Misdelivered. Please Forward" in order to redeliver it correctly. (I'll end up delivering it myself if it's nearby.) Leaving the row of mailboxes at the apartment building unlocked, full of mai, open to the world to reach in and takel. Not putting third-class bulk mail in the mailboxes (which the supervisor said is required by law) but instead just dumping it all on the ground as it piles up. And more. All of which has been going on for the past 3-4 years. Actually, sorry, to be fair, that's not true. The "delivering mail with a Vacation Hold" thing, that has been going on for TWENTY YEARS. I swear to you. Ever since my great postal carrier Oscar retired. As a result, for years now I stop my mail three days before leaving town so that I can see if it's still getting delivered -- and call the post office to remind them to stop it. And tell the postal carrier directly if I see him or her. And still, for all that, sometimes the mail will keep coming when I'm out of town.
(Undelivered mail is the most insidious -- it's one thing to incorrectly receive what was meant for others, but you usually have no idea what was intended for you but never showed up. But sometimes you do find out. Something that you knew was sent or were expecting arrive never gets there. Or someone calls to say they got a correctly-addressed letter returned to them. Or a neighbor hand-delivers someththing. Or you get a bill marked "overdue" or letter saying "urgent action required." But usually...undelivered mail is invisible and anybody's guess
Only two weeks ago, I had a neighbor come by to drop off my own misdelivered mail. It turned out to be a check for $1,300. Again, this happens regularly, a few times a month, for years. (Not receiving $1,300 checks, of course -- I can only wish for that...)
And trust me, this is only the very short version of how monumentally horrifying my mail service is. Really. Honest.
And yet, all of it has next to nothing to do with the specifics of my hellish week. But it's important to the tale because it's the background and cause of what started it all.
So, we now dive into the tale. Again, just the short version, too.
Last week, I got a letter from the DMV saying my car was unregistered and long past the required date, and so if I didn't register it soon, it could be impounded. I couldn't figure how on earth that could be, I always pay my... -- and then I realized: clearly I never received the car registration form that usually gets sent in August. So, I've been driving around for the past three months with an unregistered car! Swell, thanks, Post Office. And there was a large late-fee penalty tacked on. Thanks, too, for that, Post Office folks. Anyway, so I now had to quickly get the car registered, but first needed a smog test. And wanted to get it done before Thanksgiving, since I knew I'd be driving around town a lot...
I immediately went to a smog-check place, but the car didn't pass. Nothing major, but the car is quite old and a couple of tubes were fraying, and the oil cap was cracked. (It's 18 years old -- the thing runs just fine, only 70,000 miles in all that time, and for me a car is just transportation. Get me from Point A to Point B, and I'm happy.)
So I rushed over to a special repair shop that specifically handles smog repairs, hoping he could fix it that day as Thanksgiving neared. But he didn't have the parts and had to call the distributor. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, thoug, he was having trouble hearing back from them. All the while, I was reticent to drive the car, and after a couple days It was starting to get a bit stressful. Yes, I know I'd been driving for months without registration, but now there was that "impound" threat over my head. I just didn't want to risk being stopped. Or with the extra holiday traffic, get in an accident
Five days of waiting and calling passed, and nothing. Finally, I got an answer. But not happily so, because things got worse. Since the car was so old, the distributor no longer had parts for it. The manufacturer no longer was making them. My head started spinning, trying to figure out what in the world I could do. I know there are parts stores, but this wasn't like getting something significant and basic for an old car, perhaps a mirror or a headlight, or bumper that a store might have reason to keep in stock, this was...tubes. When I asked what my options were, his answer was -- "You can try junkyards."
Seriously, guy?? Junkyards?! And looking for what? A couple of very-specific tubes? How would I know they were the right ones? And then there's simply tracking down the junkyards that specialize in old cars. I did look, but none are close by, and after making the long drive, how do you know they'd even have what you need? And...and...and...??!!
The stress was was now growing at petrie-dish level. I needed to find parts so that I could pass a smog test so that I could register my car. So that I could actually drive.
If I'd have gotten the DMV registration three months earlier when it was sent, perhaps those now-frayed car parts might have then been in good shape. But even if not, even if I had still needed to get the parts that were out of stock...I wouldn't have an "impound threat" hanging over my head and would have had leisurely time to deal with all this and figure out some resolution. Write around the country to out-of-states distributors, for instance. But that wasn't an option at this "impound" point.
And yes, believe it or not, this is actually the short version of the story. And it comes without properly getting across the true sense of stress that was getting palpable, crammed into this one week.
That's when I realized the resolution.
I'd been planning to get a new car in the somewhat-near future. It's been 18 years, for goodness sake. I wasn't ready to do so just yet, but I was definitely expecting to. Well...okay, so what if this was earlier than I intended? It would resolve everything, and so the stress did begin to at least lessen. The thing is, one doesn't really want to buy a new car when rushed. Fortunately, though, because I'd had buying a new car in mind, I'd already narrowed down the car I wanted, so it was just a case of using the TrueCar.com website to track down local dealers who make have something in stock that was close. And the very short version of this search is that I did find out that one car dearler had something very reasonable to what I wanted at a pretty good price. (The good news is that it was the end of the month, and near the end of the year, and I wanted to get a 2016 model, even though the 2017s are out now.)
So...good. Phew. But -- (of course there's a "but") there was still one issue.
My old car.
I had to get rid of it. Clearly, a trade-in was what I'd want -- I didn't care how much I'd get for it, I knew it wouldn't be much, even with the low mileage -- but there was still the problem that it was unregistered, and didn't have a smog check, and parts to fix it weren't available. Would the dealer still accept it??
The one fortunate thing in this part of the tale is that, after 18 years, I actually remembered where my Certificate of Ownership was. However (and yes, of course, there's a "however"...), I couldn't find my Proof of Insurance card. And I knew I'd paid for it -- in full -- six weeks ago. It was there, marked in my check b...and then I realized -- I'm sure it was sent to me, but...say it all together now...the Post Office just didn't deliver it!! (See, that long opening story comes around full circle, and I was able to get my dear Post Office buddies back into the story.) Happily, though, as my eyes were rolling in my head, on a whim I checked and found that I could go on the company's website, log in and actually print out my Proof of Insurance card. O joy!
Anyway, yesterday, I went in to buy the new car. (It was a bit of a distance away, so I drove very carefully, not wanting to get pulled over by the police at the very last minute.) And held my breath about selling the old car, without too many questions.
And they did ask, at least about why it wasn't registered. I explained that because I was going to be buying a new car, I didn't think it was worth registering. (All absolutely true, that was indeed my thinking. At least part of it...) It turns out that one still does have to register a car you're selling, but they said they'd pick up the cost. And they weren't even concerned about the smog test, since the car was so old that it wasn't something they'd re-sell. They'd perhaps keep the parts and then just get rid of it.
And then, after four hours (!) at the dealership, I got all the papers signed, got my keys, and drove the new sucker home. Not worrying one whit about having an unregistered car. O such a massive relief. I could feel the stress of the week all washed away.
The only thing I had to worry about was, after 18 years driving a car, figuring out all the electronics on the control panel and multi-informational panel and options and features and gadgets, none of which existed almost two decades ago... All of which looks like the deck on the Starship Enterprise. Beam me up, Scottie.
But now I can relax.
Except for...well, being told by the dealer that the DMV will be sending me my license plates and registration in the mail.
By the way, after finally getting home and decompressing, in last night's mail -- yes, I did say "night" (oh, didn't I mention that my mail always comes at 8 PM? Well, most of my mail always comes then. So be it, I'm used to it at this point) -- I had a letter in the box that was...misdelivered, intended for my neighbor.
I dropped it off for him.