One morning last week, long before sunrise, I parked on a very dark side street in what is considered a “rough” neighborhood. As I waited for my customer to arrive, I wondered if the police ever patrolled this high-crime area looking for the thieves, rapists and murderers that my nervous imagination was inventing.
When I returned to my car a few hours later, I realized there was a police presence in the area and they had indeed found a criminal: Me. There it was on my windshield. I had been cited for violation of California Vehicle Code #5200, which requires that license plates be displayed and properly mounted on both the front and rear of a car.
Now, I do have a license plate on the rear of my car. However, my 2007 model has NEVER had a plate on the front. In fact, the majority of folks with this model and its curved bumper never install the front plate, apparently because they think it looks better without it. I’m not that “into” my car. The dealer didn’t install the license frame, and then, neither did I. It was that simple. I know, rules are rules, but, during my encounters with law enforcement, including:
- (2) Certificates in recognition of exceptional speed bestowed upon me by the CHP in Ventura and Santa Cruz Counties
- A handful of parking tickets on street sweeping days (hey, in So. Cal. streets are swept bi-weekly, so it’s always street sweeping day somewhere)
- (2) officers in my town who responded the day a street sweeper chose my car as its head-on target (ironically NOT on street sweeping day)
No one had ever cited me, let alone mentioned this being an issue. Apparently, in low crime neighborhoods, the California Motor Vehicle Code is more flexible and makes allowances for the clean aesthetic of an unadorned front bumper. In an area with a higher crime rate, they follow the code, period. I take full responsibility for doing the crime, and yes, I’ll pay the $108 fine.
Got the ticket, now its time to fix it. My car was due for service, so off to the dealer I went, with my “extra” plate that had been hanging on a nail in the garage. Ray, the most honest, personable, attentive and as a result, my longtime Service Rep. had transferred out of the department. Oh no, here I was, assigned to a random new guy. I mentioned my ticket and asked him what it would take to get a frame installed.
He asked if I had the bracket that came with the car. “It would have been in the cargo-cover-storage-compartment,” he said. Huh?
After he explained where this compartment is located in my car, I explained that I never open that compartment. So if a bracket came with the car, it would still be there. “Will there be a charge for installation?” I asked.
“No, but if you don’t have the bracket, due to the length of time, you’ve had the car, I’ll have to charge you for a bracket.”
“Really? You know, I’ve never taken my car anywhere else for service. So how about this: if it’s not in the cargo-cover-storage-compartment, due to the fact that I purchased my car here; and the number of times I’ve brought it in for service during the length of time I’ve had the car; why don’t you check and see if maybe you can throw in a bracket at no charge?”
He gives me a strained smile over gritted teeth while sucking air in through his mouth and says, “I’ll see what I can do….but the bracket runs $70.00” Suddenly, I have a full understanding of what my Dad meant all those years ago, by the term ” smilin’ jackass.”
I smile and sincerely tell him, “No worries, if it’s not in the cargo-cover-storage-compartment, I’ll buy one at an auto parts store, and install it myself. No problem at all.”
He quickly tells me that I won’t be able to buy it anywhere else, because this curved bumper requires a special assembly. Seems plausible to me that some sort of convex (or is it concave? I’m no geometry scholar) piece must be required.
I declined the offer of a loaner car, and headed for the service lounge. I could use two hours of uninterrupted office time to catch up on emails and phone calls, and it was a relief to be off the freeway. I had started the day few hours north of home with an 8 a.m. meeting, and then immediately drove the 200 miles home and straight to the dealership. I was tired, and after my exchange with the service representative, I admit, I may have been getting irritable.
I settled into a comfy chair with a side table and power outlet. I was plugged in and ready to be productive. Then…. IT…. started. The unmistakable, annoying, incessant, tapping of acrylic nails on a keyboard. The receptionist’s desk was situated between the service lounge and the showroom. It was elevated to give her a greater vantage point. Her elevated position and the marble floors of the showroom, also greatly amplified the sound of her tap, tap, tapping.
I couldn’t focus. The crazy part of my brain fantasized about having a couple of Jarts to hurl. One for her monitor and one for her keyboard. I totally throw like a girl, but I’m sure I could have hit my targets. The rational side of my brain took a deep breath and tried to convert her tap, tap, tapping to white noise. It wasn’t working.
WHEN will it stop?
WHAT could she POSSIBLY be typing over there?
Cheese and rice, does she EVER take even a 15-minute break?
HOW can she function with those talons?
Does she only type? Doesn’t she answer the phone too?
Pleeeeeeeze let the phone ring!
WHY don’t I go suggest that she ditch the acrylics, go au naturale and let her nails just breeeeeathe?
WHERE can I find noise cancelling headphones?
WHAT could she POSSIBLY be typing over there?
For the love of God………..STOPPPPPPPPP ITTTTT!!!
She was unstoppable……for 2 solid hours.
If only I could have taken a cue from Mina. Here she is in this video, sharing her thoughts on the service lounge experience as she waited with her Mommie just a few days ago. I could have countered the tap, tap, tapping and done this for 2 hours:
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have looked as cute with drool on my chin.
With my concentration broken, the talking heads on the wall of flat screen TV’s caught my eye: Wolf Blitzer, a couple of ESPN channels, The Doctors, and Dr. Oz on the large center screen offering a possible diagnosis of my current condition: He was explaining how 1 out of 3 Americans is deficient in magnesium . Wow, who knew?
Fatigue is a symptom? Yes, yes, I’m tired.
Irritability is a symptom? oh, totally cranky.
I’m putting magnesium tablets on my shopping list ….right now.
Just then, the service rep. re-appeared to update me on the progress of my car. Rotors are warped. Of course they are. I give the OK to fix those. My estimated total for this service visit has now climbed to $550. He also mentioned that they’ve checked the cargo-cover-storage-compartment and can’t locate the license plate bracket that (supposedly) came with the car. Now, I ask if he can provide a replacement bracket at no charge. Again, he says he’ll see what he can do. Right.
A short time later while I was in the middle of business phone call, he returned to tell me that the car is finished, washed and waiting on the front drive, whenever I’m ready. Before quickly dashing away, he smiled and with a wink, told me he was able to get me the license plate bracket at dealer cost…. $58.00. I settled up with the cashier and walked to my car, and then…I saw it. This bracket assembly is indeed sooooo very special. I understand WHY I couldn’t purchase this bracket anywhere else.
I had just paid $58.00 for the honor of promoting the car dealership during my travels throughout the Southland.
Later, a quick Google search turned up results for frames and bracket assemblies designed specifically to fit my front bumper, ranging in price from a high of $45.00 to a low of $19.00…..for something I was told wasn’t available anywhere. Seems almost criminal, doesn’t it? And to think it happened in the nicest of neighborhoods.
I look forward to tap, tap, tapping out my response to the Customer Satisfaction Survey that will soon arrive in my inbox.
Maybe I should order a vanity plate to go in my fancy, new and very special bracket. If only I could spell GULLIBLE with just 7 letters.