Saturday, January 31, 2009

Adventures in LA

So on Saturday I had an interview at UCLA, for their teaching credential/Masters in Education program.


On Friday I picked up my suit from the dry-cleaners and drove down from San Francisco, listening to music and NPR and then just silence as I battled rain and the realization that my windshield wipers don’t work the whole way down the five.


I pulled up to my sisters’ house in LA around nine at night, and tried to gather as many things as I could before I left my car, as I didn’t want to have to come back to pick anything up. 


I promptly dropped my suit in a mud puddle.


A big one.


I swore and scooped it up and dropped my cell phone in the process.


There was a lot more swearing and I picked that up too (it had missed the puddle, thank god) and locked my car and headed in to my sister’s place.


I told her about the suit dropping in the puddle. “This is the worst interview, ever,” I told her in a high voice.


The night was uneventful and mellow and we went to bed early. Kate and Spencer got up to go to the local farmers’ market. I waved goodbye from the comfort of my air mattress and then took my time getting ready.


My interview started at 1pm, and Google figured that it was going to be a half hour drive to Westwood.  I decided that I’d leave the house by 11:45, which would give me a lot of time to get lost on the UCLA campus.


I took a shower.


I shaved.


I put on a nice blue shirt and my suit.


I brushed all the dried mud off the suit.


Didn’t look so bad, really.


I had to make sure that I had everything I needed for my interview before I left the house, as the plan was for me to lock the house behind me. I checked my pockets. I had my cell phone (not broken). I had my wallet. I didn’t need my keys.


Oh crap – my dress shoes.


I dug them out of my backpack, and realized that I had left my socks in my car. I put on some flip flips, grabbed the dress shoes, and left the house.


11:45 on the dot.


This was very un-Robbie like, so I congratulated myself the whole way down the bloc to my car.


Which wasn’t there.


I sort of stood there, looking at the spot that it should have sat in. My mind sort of blanked for a second. Huh.


I wandered around the street for a while, looking, but in the back of my head I knew.


My car had been there the last time I saw it, and now it wasn’t there.


I went back over to the spot. Yep, there was the puddle I dropped my suit in.


My car is gone.




I thought about going back in the house, but remembered that it was locked.




I looked at my cell phone.






I was going to miss my interview, which was the last possible one of the year for UCLA.




I called my sister.


“Hey,” I said.


“Hey,” she said.


“I think my car was stolen,” I said.

“What?” she said.


“I think my car was stolen,” I said.


“Are…are you sure?” She said. “Was it towed? Was it like blocking a driveway or something?”


“No.”  I was looking at the spot. “Not blocking a driveway, not in two hour parking, nothing.”


“Oh. Well, call 911. I’m coming.”


I hung up and called 911.


They were annoyed with me, and gave me the normal LA police station number.


I was transferred to someone, who put me on hold, and I was disconnected.




Kate pulled up in her boyfriend’s car.


I hopped in and looked at my watch.




Kate started driving. “I’m going to take you to your interview,” she said. “On the way, you need to report your stolen vehicle.”


The problem was, I had no idea what my license plate number was.


Lesson Number One: Memorize your license plate number.


So I thought of ways that I could retrieve it, speeding down Sunset with my sister.


I bet it’s on the pink slip to my car!


I called my roommate. He diligently searched for a while, but couldn’t find it.


“Sorry man,” Dave said.


I called my mom, and spent a whole lot of time explaining what had happened, as you always have to do when explaining anything to your mom.


She set to searching for something that had my license plate number on it.


She decided to check the insurance information, figuring that it would be there.


(It’s not)


Finally she came across my pink slip, with my license plate number. I searched for a pen for a while, then my sister thrust her cell phone at me, in text mode. I wrote the numbers/letters combo down, then thanked my mom and hung up.


I called the police station back. It turned out that I needed to call another department. Could I write a number down? I searched for a pen for a while, then my sister gave me the cell phone again, still in letter mode. I clicked in the number without looking at the screen, then thanked the policewoman and hung up.


I then looked at the screen, which, of course, had 10 letters in a row. 


I had to decode the phone number.


 I finally decoded it and called the correct police number as my sister careened wildly into a northern entrance to UCLA. I spent a while trying to guide her (as best I could) toward Moore Hall while simultaneously pressing one for English not two for espanol then finally gave up and decided I’d deal with my car later then we pulled up right in front of Moore hall and I had four minutes until my interview.


I threw on my dress shoes while my sister wiped more mud off me and then we both noticed how obvious it was that I wasn’t wearing any socks and then I shrugged and thanked her and ran inside and found a girl who told me to get in an elevator with her so I did and then ran down a hallway and walked into the interview EXACTLY ON TIME.




It was a group interview with five other girls and two interviewers and I walked quickly to the end of the circle of square tables and sat down, sweating a bit in my suit and very aware of my stark naked ankles underneath the table.


I looked around. This table was set up for ankle viewing.


Those bastards.


They asked us to say our name, what our desired major was going to be at UCLA, and something about ourselves.


The girls before me all talked about how much they love working with children, and how well traveled they are.


I talked about my ankles, and the mysterious disappearance of my car, hoping it would be funny.


Nobody laughed.


One of the interviewers coughed.


The other one wrote something down.


The next girl took her turn.


I swallowed a little bit.


The rest of the interview actually went really well. They had us read an article about having report cards that report on schools themselves, then had us discuss it. After a few minutes to wrap my head around it, I started coming up with lots of good theories, and then by the end of it felt totally in control of the group discussion (there was one other girl who really knew what she was doing, but that was it).


So that was good, but then the interview was over and another girl wished me luck on finding my car and then I walked out into the sun and thought about what I was going to do.


Well, I had to get a bus back to Kate’s house, for starters.


And I had to find my car.


I started walking to a bus station, calling various police numbers and finally reached a woman who asked me “Stolen? Or was it impounded?” 


Truthfully, I wasn’t sure.


So I gave her all my various numbers and whatnot, and she told me that my car had been towed.


Whew. Kinda.




Your registration was expired.


Jesus. That seemed a little harsh for an expired registration.


She gave me the number of the impound. The bus arrived and I got on.


I called the impound, and a cheery guy confirmed that he had indeed towed my car, and that I needed to go to the DMV and re-register my car, then I had to go to the LA Department of Transportation with my new registration. They would give me a letter, which I could then take to the impound and get my car back.


How much is that going to cost me, I asked.


Two Hundred and fifty dollars, he told me. Plus thirty three dollars a day.


Is the DMV even open on Saturdays, I asked him.


I highly doubt it, Sir. He told me.


Which meant that I had to wait three days until I could get my car back. I.e., 99 more dollars.




I got off the bus and walked back to my sisters’ house. I had plans to go to san diego for a few days now, but that wasn’t looking so promising anymore. Well, I couldn’t go until Monday.


My sister’s boyfriend was going out to Chinese food, but I just felt…drained, and stayed home watching Americana with Kate. I felt a little better at the end of the night and went to sleep.


Kate, Spencer and I went on a big old hike on Sunday (yes, there are amazing hikes in LA! Whowouldathunkit?) where I had to wear sweat pants and my dress shoes (all my other clothes were in my car) and look fantastic but the hike was great and we had pizza and beer afterward.


On Monday I woke up at eight. I got on google and made directions first to the DMV, then to the Department of Transportation, then back to my sisters’ house. Spencer was going to lend me his car for this part.


When I got back to their house, I would take a bus out to the impound lot and get my car back, then drive it back to Kate’s house.


The first part of the plans went according…well, to plan. I drove to the DMV without hitting very much traffic. Then I saw the place.


It was the biggest, most crowded DMV I had ever been to.


I circled the parking lot for fifteen minutes looking for a spot, then gave up and parked three blocks away on a street.


I walked in and took a number.


Then I waited for an hour.


I had been prepared for this, and (warning: nerd alert) brought my Nintendo Ds with super Mario brothers.


Nothing makes me smugger than being prepared for a long waiting room experience.


As I took it out, the guy next to me shot me a glance that I decided must be full of envy for the fun I was going to be having, while he just sat there in the green plastic chairs from hell and watched the clock tick and the numbers slowly go by.


But my Nintendo battery was dead.


I sat and watched the clock tick.


My number was finally called and I went up to the front. I had to pay the DMV 200 dollars to reinstate my registration.


Ok, fine. I paid it. That wasn’t so hard.


Then she told me that I had to call an 800 number, which she was highlighting with a bright yellow marker.


Ummm…I began to sweat, knowing that the only thing that you should fear more than the DMV is calling the DMV. We’re talking being on hold for hours.


…all I had to do was call the DMV “registration re-instation station” (it wasn’t really called that, but it should have been) and they would re-instate me.


But…couldn’t we just do that here?


No, she said.


Oh, I said.


And when I had called the number, and they had told me that they could re-instate it, I could come back in, and she could print me a registration sticker.


Oh. Did I have to wait in line again?


No, she said. You can just come up to my desk again. She handed me a pile of paperwork that said “NOT AN OPERATORS’ PERMIT. INCOMPLETE.” But had a lot of info on it.


Whew, I thought. That was allright.


So I went outside and called the number on my cell phone. I was patched through to a very helpful sounding lady who took some information from me, took my credit card number (there was a fourteen dollar “re-instation fee”), and told me that I was done, and in just 72 hours they would clear me to get my registration sticker.


Hold on.


72 hours? From now?


Yes, she said. 72 hours.


That’s three more days, I said.


Yes, she said, not impressed by my math.


But my car was impounded on Saturday, I said. They’re charging me 33 dollars a day to keep it there.


I’m sorry, she said. It just takes 72 hours.


And there’s nothing we can do to make it somehow faster?


No, she said.


Oh, I said. Thank you, I said.


Have a nice day, she said.


I sat in the sun in the parking lot of the DMV for a while. I looked absently around me: At all the glum people around me, at the trashcan, at the sign over the trashcan that says “Identity Theft is On The Rise! Do not throw your DMV paperwork away here!”  Then I called the same number again. I got a different lady, who was nicer to me at first, then got sort of angry that I didn’t understand that 72 hours is 72 hours, and then that conversation ended the same way as the first.


I sat in the sun for a while longer, then called again.


This time I was very nice to the lady, and asked her to explain why I can’t get my registration now. I was sitting in front of a DMV, and I had paid everything they asked me to.


She explained that the “re-registration service” is actually a different entity than the DMV, and when people pay the fourteen dollars, the service electronically sends a note to the DMV to update their records.


Thing is, the service sends 30,000 messages to the DMV every day.


So it takes 72 hours to catch up.


We hung up. I went back inside and walked up to the desk of the lady who I had talked to before.


I lied to her and told her that they had told me that everything was good to go, and that she could give me the stickers now.


She turned to her computer, and suddenly there was a series of gasps from all over that monstrous cavern of ill will.


Their computer network had gone down.


I wondered if it was good or bad for me that this had happened.


After fifteen minutes of waiting, then her looking at a screen and saying well that’s funny it still says you’re suspended, I decided a bad thing.


She gave me another number to call. Not the Service, but the central DMV office.


They put me on hold for a half an hour.


During this time, I went for a walk in neighboring Lincoln Park, beat boxing to the elevator music to keep myself sane. Finally, I gave up, and decided to move this operation back to Kate and Spencer’s’ house, where I could make myself some lunch.


Someone picked up right as I reached the car. I set my paperwork on top of the car and picked up the phone. We talked for a while and I explained my plight. She started to harp on the 72-hour thing, but when I mentioned that my vehicle was impounded and I was paying out the ear every day, her tone softened.


“Oh, well, tell you what, I’m going to give you a number of the main offices. You should be able to talk to someone higher up. Explain what you just did to me, and we’ll see if we can get you back up today.”


Oh my god. I opened the drivers’ side door and climbed in, scrounging around for a pen, until I remembered that this is the PENLESS CAR. Finally I said ok, I’ve got something, and then started putting the numbers in my phone, taking my ear off the receiver for three numbers at a time, until I had it written down.


I thanked this angel for a while, then we hung up.


And to those of you who ever try this little trick, putting numbers into a phone while you’re talking on that phone, make sure to hit that save button before you hit that hang up button.


It will delete whatever you wrote down.


I tried to remember it and call it a few times, but it was no avail.




I sighed. Allright, I’ll drive back to Kate and Spencer’s, make a sandwich, and have a pen and paper ready when I call that number back to get the mystery number again.


I closed the door, started the car, and drove back to Kate and Spencer’s’ house.


Spencer called me on the way – he was leaving the house, but would leave the back door open for me.


I got there a few minutes later, and went into the house. In the living room I decided that I had way too much crap in my pockets, and unloaded everything on the table. Huh, I thought. Where was all that paperwork?


I’ll bet you already know where I left the paperwork.


Yep, on the top of my car.




I spent a while trying to decide how important that paperwork was. What sort of information was on it, anyway? Well, I guess that I may as well go get it, and I’ll call the DMV back on the way.


I grabbed my wireless headset on the way out the door, and called the number. The connection wasn’t so good through my headset, and so the elevator musak came and went as I drove back down the freeway. Just as I arrived back at the DMV, someone clicked through.


“Hello? Hello?” she said.


“Hello?” I said, trying to put it back on the normal phone mode.


“Hello? Hello?” She said.








Well, I still need to look for that paperwork.


I looked all over the road, I checked the freeway onramp (stuff you leave on the roof is ALWAYS on the freeway onramp, or just past stop signs. Don’t ask me why I know that), nothing.


Well, I’m not so sure that I needed that paperwork, anyways.


I called the DMV number again, put on my Bluetooth again (the connection was better this time) and drove back to Kate and Spencer’s.


Twenty minutes later, I was back in their living room, and somebody clicked through.


“Hello?” I said.


“Hello.” She said.


I sighed with relief and told her all my info again. She started telling me about the 72 hours, and I cut into it, telling her about my situation, and that I had talked to a nice lady earlier who had given me a 916 number, and could I just….


No, she said. It’s 72 hours. For everybody.


But I talked to someone earlier who…


No. 72 hours.


But, there was this 916 number




Jesus, I said. Thank you, then.


Have a nice day, she said.


I hung up.


I then called the Department of Transportation, who had no idea what I wanted or what my problem was. I was transferred (and I have each of these numbers written down. This is not an exaggeration) seven times before I was talking to someone who knew what I wanted.


Oh, she said. No, I don’t think you have to wait for the sticker from the DMV to get the letter of clearance from us. All you need is a moveable permit. Did they give you one of those?


Um, I said. I…don’t know?


Was it like a white piece of paper with a blue border?


Yes, yes I think it was.


Well, just bring that in, and we’ll give you a letter of clearance, and you can get your car out.


Okay, I said. Thanks. Oh….how late are you open today? Five?


No, she said. Four Thirty.


I looked at the clock. It was three thirty.


Ok, I’ll be there, I said, and hung up.


I needed to get another one of those things, and fast.


I felt bad for leaving the house unlocked, so I cleaned up my stuff and threw it in Spencer’s car, then locked the house behind me.


Then I drove back to the DMV. Again.


I got there at four. The huge LCD screen now said that the wait time for non-interviews was one hour and forty minutes.


I only had half an hour to get someone to help me, and then drive to the department of transportation to get the letter.




I walked up to the lady who had helped me before and asked her if she remembered me.


She gave me a weary look and said sure.


I told her that the department of transportation said that I just needed the paperwork that she had already given me.


She said ok, so what’s the problem?


I told her that I had lost it.


She said you lost it?


I said yeah.


We looked at each other for a second or two. I wondered if she was going to tell me that identity theft was on the rise. Instead she sighed again and started clicking around on her computer.


Four ten.


She suddenly frowned, and tried to click on something for a while, then leaned over to the person right next to her.


“Hey Reba? Is your computer down?”


Reba’s computer was definitely down.


They chatted amicably about this for a while.


Four fifteen.


The network came back up and she printed me the receipt that I had lost.


I drove madly toward the Department of Transportation, calling the girl there on the way. I was going to be a few minutes late, was that ok?  She sighed, and said she could wait five minutes.


I got to the Department of Transportation at 4:34.


It was closed. On the door, it said that they closed at four.




I called the girl again. I got a recording that they closed at four thirty, and were located at…a different address?


I looked at the door in front of me.


“Department of Transportation Cashier’s Office.” 


It was later that I found out that the correct Department of Transportation office, the one that settles parking issues, was one street away from the DMV, where I had just been.

Walking back to my car, the Charlie Brown song (that plays when Charlie is really down) playing in my head, I looked at my paperwork again.




….hmmm. I guess that means that I can’t use this to get my car released anyways.


…which means that I have to wait 72 hours to get my car out of the impound, at a rate of 33 dollars a day.


Fuck this, I’m going to take a vacation in San Diego. I’ll come back in three days.


I dropped Spencer’s car off and walked to a metro, then caught a train to San Diego.


As soon as I got on the train, my phone beeped. I had a message from my sister – it said “The cats miss you already!” and had a picture of my new dress shirt in the litter box, wrapped around a lot of cat poo.


This was the worst interview ever.


But I had to laugh.