I flew out of a lunch meeting at Sascha’s in Mount Vernon last week, ran down Centre Street in heels in the rain and rushed past co-workers in the lobby of the Sun. I hurried through the skywalk into the paper’s garage, jumped in my car and turned the key to leave for an assignment in Randallstown.
Then it hit like it has so many other times in the four months since I moved from South Carolina to Baltimore: I have no idea where I am going. I can drive hardly anywhere without pulling out my GPS from under the driver’s seat and punching in the address.
I was running very late for an assignment at the unemployment office in Randallstown about the wage gap between men and women.
I knew it would take me 30 minutes to drive to Randallstown from our Calvert Street newsroom, but I had to stop and figure out how to get there.
And I don’t have my Palmetto State plates anymore to serve as a warning to other drivers to excuse any sudden turns, slowdowns to check out unfamiliar road signs or turning lane mix-ups.
I am a full-fledged Marylander, at least according to the state Motor Vehicle Administration. Becoming one was one of the more frustrating experiences associated with my move.
Part of the frustration was my fault for leaving my car title packed in a box somewhere in my house in South Carolina. It was a hassle getting a copy of it from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
For my first trip to the Maryland MVA, I brought a letter from the U.S. Postal Service, an electric bill and a signed printout I had from my bank on letterhead with my new Baltimore address and information on my account. (I could not get a statement printed and I had a few days before I started work and I wanted to get as much done as possible.)
The woman at the counter in the Westminster office said she wouldn’t accept my bank letter, because it wasn’t a statement, or the post office mailing, because I threw out the envelope that it came in (something about a bar code on the envelope?).
Here is a list of acceptable documents; my advice is, don’t stray even if an alternative seems logical.
The bureaucracy is maddening.
Eventually, I got my driver’s license, which cost $45. I had my 2005 Honda Civic inspected, which set me back another $70. And when I had a copy of my title in hand, I went to the Glen Burnie office to register my car.
The office had a good flow. I didn’t wait too long and the people were friendly, which was a vast improvement over some previous visits to such places.
The only hiccup I had was in a trailer at the back of the parking lot for law enforcement to sign off on my inspection certificate, which the guy at the inspection shop dated for 2011, instead of 2012.
I paid about $40 in taxes, $100 for my title fee, $128 for two-year tags and $20 for a “Treasure the Chesapeake” license plate. The whole experience cost about $400.
All in all, the situation was OK. I wish it cost less and I wish it was less bureaucratic. But the employees were nice, and that’s what matters to me most.
One small gesture really ended up making my day. As I was driving out of the parking lot, I saw a car shop just past the MVA.
South Carolina doesn’t have front license plates and my car had no place to put one. So, I pulled into Matt’s Tire and Auto Service and asked if the mechanic there could affix it to my front bumper. He took me right away, drilled in a couple of bolts and fastened my license plate.
I asked how much I owed him. He said nothing, and just asked me to come back for tires. And I will, if I can find my way back.
Contact Yvonne Wenger at email@example.com or twitter.com/yvonnewenger. See the last piece about her move to Baltimore here.