So, maybe I find this funnier than it really is, but here goes. The last thing one of my co-workers jokingly said to me as I was leaving the Charlotte office for the last time, was "don't let them eat you alive". And I immediately smiled and laughed to myself. Little did I know...
About a month ago we relocated from Charlotte, NC to Long Beach, CA. I have lived in a few other states, but California is definitely the most densely populated area I have lived in. Living in Seattle is a close second, but it really has nothing on Cali. The day we moved here, Jake flew into Santa Ana airport from Seattle after visiting family and I flew into LAX so I could get a direct flight from Charlotte [layovers are the death of me]. Since LAX is only 40 miles from Santa Ana, I thought it wouldn't be a big deal for Jake to pick up the rental car in Santa Ana, drive to LAX to pick me up and then back to Long Beach to get the keys to our house. This whole process should really take a little over an hour, according to Google maps but in reality, it takes closer to 3. Why, you ask? One word = traffic. After this little experience, I have now learned to allow 3x the amount of time to get anywhere. It's really like of crazy. We were definitely warned about this and it's so stereotypical, but it's completely true. So, moral of the story is, don't expect to get anywhere fast.
California drivers...where do I start? Like I said, we've only been here a short time but I can already see how some people just can't cut it here. Driving is like being on a racetrack with cars constantly changing lanes on both sides of you and going about 20 mph over the speed limit. Most freeways have six lanes in each direction and they are all packed. It's really an adrenaline rush. I told Jake if he wasn't fully awake when we got onto the freeway, he would be once we got to our destination. Driving in CA is a little different than the 2-lane highway on Kauai I learned how to drive on.
The DMV. After three trips to the barely air-conditioned DMV, I finally got our leased car registered with CA plates [goodbye $328] and my "coveted" CA Driver's License. Let me explain. [Visit 1] I made an appointment online for the following week, gave myself 20 minutes to get there and headed over. The parking lot was full and there was not a single parking space open. I drove around 3 times and saw a young mom and her son walking to the car. I asked if I could have her spot and she said sure. As I reversed and tried to position myself to pull into her spot, a truck came out of nowhere and would not move to let me pull into her spot. I heard those words creep up into my throat, "don't let them eat you alive". But there was nothing I could do. I saw a security guard and pulled over, I said, "I have an appointment in 5 minutes, but there is nowhere to park. What do I do?" He said "We'll honor your appointment. It's okay if you are a few minutes late." I drove around for 10 more minutes and finally found a spot. I took a deep breath and realized I was already stressed out before I even stepped foot into the actual DMV. I saw a line out the door. I told myself, that must be the non-appointment line. I walked in and saw another, shorter line labeled "appointments only". I waited in this line for about 40 more minutes and got up to the front. I had my passport, copy of our lease, birth certificate, you name it, I was ready. Apparently, there was a new law that went into effect on July 1, 2016 [the day we arrived] that stated you need two documents to prove your residency when applying for a CA license. Since I only had 10 days after we moved there to get my license according to the rules, I didn't have a lot of paperwork with our new address. And I needed another document in addition to our lease to prove our residency. Now, if you know how Type A I am, then you know these kinds of things don't usually happen to me. I was mad. I didn't even have another document in my possession [yet] so there was nothing I could do.
[Visit 2] Once I gathered the documentation a week later, I made another appointment for the following week. I filled out the paperwork beforehand and had more than enough documentation to support my residency. I waited in line, got my paperwork approved, took the written driving test [which is hard, BTW! 4 people didn't pass when I was in the room taking the test], got my photo taken with one eye partially shut. Classic Albers move, if you ask Jake. Then I got my paper permit which reminded me of when I was 15 1/2 getting my first license. Nostalgia! So, that was done. Now, it was onto getting the car registered. I had heard that you can get big fines for not getting your car registered in CA if you are living here, so this was our next priority. We filled out the paperwork, brought in the documentation and attempted to register the car. The person at the desk informed us that we owed over $3,000 in CA sales tax. Now, I had read about this online and thought several things. 1. This is a lease, we don't own the car. Why would we have to pay sales tax on the full value if we are just 'renting it'. 2. We are paying sales tax each month which is built into our lease payments 3. What would we do if we had to pay $3k of sales tax! This was not going to be easy. We went round and round with him and he would not budge. He suggested we call the leasing company to secure documentation that proved we paid the sales tax. I found our bill of sale and noticed a line called "Taxes and Fees" which showed roughly the same amount he was telling us we had to pay. I showed it to him and magically, we owed zero. THANK GOD. But, we couldn't complete the process just yet, because we need a SMOG check. Yes, our brand new, 2016 car needed to be tested. I am certain that this is just something they invented so they can make more fees, but reluctantly while I was finishing up my drivers' license stuff, Jake took the car to get a SMOG check.
[Visit 3] About 2 hours later, Jake met up with me back at the DMV with the SMOG paperwork. We had to go back in the appointment line and wait some more. After waiting in line, the guy ended up giving us a non-appointment number which came with a 2 hour wait. I took one look at that ticket and said, no, we already had an appointment earlier today, we are back to finish licensing the car. Jake was able to move us up in line and we were next. Next thing we knew, we were getting handed CA plates and I wanted to cry tears of joy. WE DID IT -- I wanted to shout from the mountaintops. The DMV employee instructed us to give them the North Carolina plates, which we did. Now I am dealing with the state of North Carolina because our renewal just came up and they are asking for the old plates back. Well, maybe by 2017, the CA DMV will have sent them back to North Carolina or maybe they just melt them down. Who knows?