cture of the Day
September 26, 2017
My last motor vehicle was an '86 Honda Civic. Bought it used with 106K miles, sold it with 132K for a profit. That was November 1997. After 19 years and 10 months, today I replunged, with some trepidation, into the dubious joys of auto ownership. It's a '98 Toyota Tacoma SR5 that a friend decided to grudgingly sell me because it'd been sitting idle in his yard for months, stringy weeds trailing from the undercarriage as I drive it around. As an itinerant handyman, it's remarkable I've been able to go more than two years without a rig of my own, but lately the contortions I've gone through to move tools and materials have been too taxing and I admitted the inevitability of it all. It will let me say yes to bigger projects, which is good because now I'll have to work more to support it. That's the consumer trap and I'm wittingly stepping into it. Help! The fun begins with title transfer, where to my shock and surprise I had to pay 10.4% sales tax on some imaginary $5,300 "retail value" on a truck that cost significantly less in actual dollars. "How can there be a sales tax on money that hasn't changed hands?" I'm handed a form and told to take it up with the Department of Revenue. Turns out this arbitrary value assessment (based on dealer pricing, of all things) was one of the clauses in the Sound Transit ST3 levy, which as a newly minted automobile owner has me frothing at the mouth and decrying mass transit (even if I did take light rail home at the end of the day and, actually, I would never decry mass transit). (To make matters worse, if you pay by credit card, there's an additional 3.5% fee, yet another tax on being poor; using my debit card, I paid a flat $2 fee instead of $20 if I'd used Visa.) Then things got truly weird very fast at an office in a whole other building where I went to get my RPZ permit--that's resident zone parking. It got Kafkaesque right off the bat when I went to the wrong bureau on the 23rd floor, then had to go all the way back down to the lobby just to continue going up to 37. (I'm sure that system has been proven efficient but it still feels weird.) Found the right place, which looked like a doctor's waiting room--carpet, a couple of chairs, magazine rack, aura of impending doom. There was no order to the queue, which kept everyone on edge, confused, and mistrustful, anxious not to miss their rightful turn. "Do I take a number or is it just chaos?" I asked and someone laughed. The clerk who answered seemed eager to establish her authority and stressed her seniority: "We've never had that and I've been here 10 years." When my turn came, after the light comedy of people trying to remember the order they'd entered, I got her. She saw my plates and mumbled something I didn't quite catch, so I said, "I'm here for a zone--" "I don't need your story, just the registration." "Sorry, I didn't hear you ask for it." "What'd you think I said?" "Congratulations." There's a hospital near us, so as consolation for added neighborhood traffic we get free street parking passes, but since this was my second request this year (long story), they charged me a $15 replacement fee. I was OK with that. The clerk said, "It's better than paying $65 again." I wasn't looking for a fight but I reminded her, just to be clear, that it was free on my block. "Well, I don't work for free," she said. (Her way of saying that the revenue to pay her salary has to come from somewhere, I guess.) "Right, no one does. Except maybe convicts. They only get like a dollar a day. It's shameful." (I recently watched Ava DuVernay's "13th" and so should you. Slavery is enforced daily in the USA, thanks to a clause in the 13th Amendment.) "Well, they need to pay it back somehow. It's their fault for breaking the law." "Not everyone in jail belongs there. And with no chance for parole..." "That's why people need to elect better judges." "Even so, there's mandatory sentencing." "Then vote for better judges." "Mandatory sentencing takes judges out of the equation." "Maybe we should just shoot them, then." Now, this is where I should have de-escalated, but I'm no good at people and tend to blurt whatever comes to mind when riled. "Sounds like you've got your man in the White House." "I can vote for whoever I want." "Of course. If you're into shooting people you've got the right guy." "It's not my job to argue politics." "I agree." Then her demeanor turned on a dime, all sunshine and fake smiles, like a hangman who asks if the knot's too tight. I really didn't mean to politicize things, was just stating the sad truth about prison labor because it weighs on my mind, but her response was a vivid example of the authoritarian mentality that allows no critique of the system while self-righteously dehumanizing its victims. Well, what did I expect from the The Bureaucracy?