Opinion Poll: In a Minute

You know how there are those things you have had on your To Do list for ages, and when you finally accomplish them, you feel like you can pretty much coast for the rest of the year? Well, I can pretty much coast for the rest of 2006 because after almost four years in Chicago, I finally crossed off the most dreaded item on my list: I got Illinois license plates.
I can’t even explain how amazing I feel – I was literally giddy when I walked out of the DMV. I found myself whistling a happy little tune, and my step had more bounce than usual. For four years, every time I would look at my old Wisconsin license plates, I would feel a twinge in my belly. The “America’s Dairyland” motto flashed at me like a constant reminder of my failure.
I hadn’t realized how stressful it had been to live a constant lie for so long. I felt just like River Phoenix in Running on Empty – always having to stay one step ahead of the law, never being able to build any lasting relationships with people, singing Fire and Rain with Martha Plimpton… it was killing me slowly.
And it’s not like I never tried to get Illinois license plates – I was all set to get them two years ago, even went down to the DMV, but was then thrown out when I brought the wrong paperwork.
“That’s not your title. That’s your application for a title. You need the actual title.”
“It’s not? Uh… oh. Okay.”
I went home and dug through my “HONDA” file, finding nothing but old registration forms and a maintenance handbook. My title was lost! After a few calls to the dealer, I was sent some paperwork to request a new title. The new paperwork asked a lot of questions I wasn’t prepared to answer, so I filed it away in the “HONDA” file, where it remained for another two years.
Then finally, after waking up once again in a cold sweat after the recurring nightmare where my car gets towed for a simple parking violation, but then I can’t produce the title to claim my car, so then my car gets sold at a police auction for $200, I decided I had better give it one more try. I sat down a few weeks ago and spent an entire day going page by page through every single file cabinet in my apartment. I found something that looked kind of like my vehicle registration, except it had the word “Title” across the top.
So that’s what a title looks like? Huh. I thought it would be, I don’t know, bigger.
I took every document in my files that had anything to do with my Honda – even the oil change schedule – and headed off to the DMV. Beforehand, however, I started concocting my story for when the disgruntled city employee tried to give me a hard time.
“Okay, so according to this form, you brought the car into Illinois in 2002. Why are you just now getting the title transferred?”
“Um… well, see… when I first moved here, I had a job really far north, so I spent most of my time at my parents’ house in Wisconsin. So really, the car spent more time in Wisconsin than it did in Illinois.”
“Oh, is that right? Well, why don’t I just call your parents right now and ask them? Is that what you want me to do?”
“No wait – don’t call them! Don’t call my parents! Okay, fine! I lied! My car never spent time there – it was always in Chicago!”
“Okay, we’ve got a Code Orange here. Repeat – Code Orange! Auction off her car immediately.”

I nervously wiped the sweat from my upper lip as I walked through the doors. I was told to first talk to the revenue department. There was only one man ahead of me, and his paperwork wasn’t filled out correctly. I quickly double checked mine as the woman with a Russian accent yelled, “Next in line!”
“Okay, so you drove the car for at least 90 days in Wisconsin before moving to Illinois?”
“Uh, yes.”
That’s it, Jenny. Keep your answers short and sweet. Criminals talk too much – that’s always how they get caught.
“All right, then you don’t have to pay any additional taxes. Just take this paperwork over to the audit department.”
I glanced from side to side, a bit in disbelief, and said, “That’s it? Okay, thanks so much!”
At the audit department, I had a choice of two employees, and went with the young ditsy looking one. I laughed as she sassed her older, no-nonsense boss. I didn’t get impatient as she took two calls while reviewing my paperwork. I joked with her about how everyone leaves the Special Darks, as she lamented the lack of Krackels in the department candy dish.
She told me I owed $143, and pointed me to the cashier. Just as I turned, ready to run full-speed over to the cashier, she stopped me. I felt sick.
“Oh wait. You left this part blank – where did you get your car?”
I didn’t look up, but just mumbled, “Dealer. In Milwaukee.”
“Okay, that’s all I need.”
I actually did a Tiger Woods arm pump when I walked out the door with my new plates in hand, my new title to arrive in three to four weeks. As soon as I got home, I called my friend Natasha to share the good news.
“Cool! So did you already put your new plates on?”
“Kind of. I got the back one on fine, but the bolts on my front plate are rusted solid, so I couldn’t get it off.”
“So wait – now you have one Wisconsin plate and one Illinois plate?”
“Pretty much.”
“Oh that’s gotta be illegal. You’re totally going to get towed!”
And me without my title.
* * *
So in addition to this being a cautionary tale for all you procrastinators out there, this also seemed like an excellent opportunity to have another Opinion Poll!
Question: Which simple task has been sitting on your To Do list for ages, and slowly eats you away from the inside?
1. License plate renewal
2. Dentist/doctor appointment
3. Haircut appointment
4. Oil change
5. Cleaning out closet
6. Calling relative/old friend
7. Other (please explain)

28 Responses to “Opinion Poll: In a Minute”

  1. brandon Says:

    oh, crap! grammy!
    /runs off to find phone. sound of dead line
    oh, crap! phone bill!

  2. Darby Says:

    For a while there I would have said oil change. And by for a while I mean an “Oh my god, how did that car SURVIVE for so long without exploding?” sort of while. But I got finally got that done a couple weeks ago. Heck, even got a full tune-up out of the deal. So now my crappy car’s going to live for a little while longer, at least. So much for my excuse to blow it up, collect the insurance cash, and buy myself a Beamer.
    So, now I gotta go with the closet option. Because oh dear lord. You know Tetris? Fitting the funny-shaped blocks together? My closets are like that, except three-dimensional, and the lines at the bottom don’t disappear (though I think maybe they’ve been turned from coal to diamond by now). And unlike the imaginary pixel world of video games, my closets are probably more of a huge fire hazard. One of these days they’re going to explode, I just know it. It eats me alive inside every time I think of the fact that the Midwest Apocalypse is going to start because of my inability to dispose of knick-knacks and keep-sakes and old Star Trek novels.

  3. Neil Says:

    Forget about ever running for office in Illinois now.

  4. kat Says:

    2, 3, AND 6. if i had a car, i’m sure all that other stuff would be on my list, too.
    but not 5. i am way too OCD for messy closets.

  5. shari Says:

    Congratulations! I, however, am practically perfect in every way, and shake my parasol disdainfully — but with a spoonful of sugar — at your opinion poll. Love, Mary Poppins

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    You’ve lived in Chicago for four years already? Time is melting. Congratulations on being legal.
    As for the poll, I would have said, haircut, but I have discovered the thrill of cutting my own hair and now can’t stop.

  7. steph Says:

    im totally guilty of #2. i have a severe fear of dentists to begin with, but the last time i went he had to pull out a wisdom tooth..with pliers…and he grunted as he did it…i was traumatized. i havent been back in almost 2 years because of it.

  8. jenny Says:

    brandon: Another reason cell phones come in really handy… unless you forget to pay that bill, too.
    darby: Love Tetris. Have you ever watched those infomercials for the closet organizer things? Or those vacuum sealed bags that let you fit 50 sweaters into a dresser drawer? I love those.
    Neil: You’re so right! I’m totally screwed! It would only take the rabid political bloggers 10 seconds to dig up that skeleton.
    Kat: I’d like to introduce you to Darby. He will clean your teeth if you organize his closet. It’s like the barter system.
    Shari: You know what you can do with that spoonful of sugar? What?! What?! I was just going to say, “Put it in a cup of Earl Grey. Or sprinkle it on some fresh grapefruit.”
    Viv: I know – four years – how is that possible? I’m a fan of the DIY haircut, myself. One of the benefits of curly hair.

  9. Miriam Says:

    I finally went to the Dentist of Doom. Now I have a Treatment Plan, a Dental Team, and a full datebook for 6-9 months.
    I’d rather spend the afternoon in the Motor Vehicle Office.

  10. Dustin Says:

    Ummm…taxes? Ya, I filed for an extension and I still haven’t gotten around to it.

  11. Jenn Says:

    Ummmmm…. all of the above?

  12. Sarah Says:

    Oh my God, i went through the very same thing with those damn Chicago license plates. I am already bad about this kind of crap to start with–it takes me months to get to the post office, for example. I had sold something on eBay and was very conscientious about immediately packign it up and addressing it and putting it in the car…where it sat for six weeks. The post office is 1 mile away, and I don’t live in the city where 1 mile away means, having to rearrange my work schedule to walk there during business hours.
    I finally actually made it to the post office only after being motivated by something that I needed to mail that would result in me getting a check.
    Here is how lazy I am: When I got to the post office, I didn’t feel like going in to mail the ebay package…so I didn’t, I just put the letter in the blue mailbox thing at the entrance. It took like three months for me to mail the box.
    I too had all sorts of crazy scenarios conjured up before I finally went to the DMV (and to make things worse, my driver’s license was from MN where I have not lived in 10 years). I had visions of them for some reason running a credit check that was going to reveal all sorts of scary stuff that would just lead them to contact the CPD. I thought my missing social security card was going to bring up issues of why I didn’t change my name after getting married, which would in turn, result in a call to the Department of Homeland Security in regards to my immigrant husband’s year of grad school without a student visa. I was sure I was going to have to take a driver’s test, and would crash into someone and then be crippled by debt for life since I couldn’t find my insurance cards….but, like you, my greatest and most certain fear is that my mother would be called for some reason.
    My suggestion to you in the future: do not go to the DMV. Go to one of those janky check cashing places…They will be so happy that you are not trying to pay for your electric-bill money order in nickels and Colt 45 bottletops that they will accept your greasy thumb print on a napkin as evidence enough that you deserve Illinois plates.
    And, as luck would have it for me, approximately two days after I got the damn IL plates, before I could even mourn the passing of my beautiful America’s Dairylands, we found out we had to move to bloody Michigan.

  13. Cheryl Says:

    Aaargh, all of the above. Plus: 8) getting my printer fixed, 9) filling out this healthcare reimbursement thingy that was really so nice of my company to offer so I’d better frickin’ take advantage of it, and 10) painting a picture of a mermaid for my apartment. This was a very cathartic entry.
    On a side note, I love the Special Darks. Grab me some next time you go to the DMV.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Cheryl,
    Let me know if I can help with the form:) You’re on your own with the mermaid, though.

  15. katie Says:

    I have nightmares about my teeth falling out because it has been so long since my last cleaning.

  16. jenny Says:

    Steph: Oh, I feel your pain. I’m so not a fan of the dentists. I finally found one I kind of like, but now I think he’s retiring. Just my luck…
    Miriam: Wow – you have a dental team? Do you have a team logo or secret handshake?
    Dustin: Taxes! Of course! I’ve never filed an extension, but I’ve definitely pushed it to the absolute limit of the deadline…
    Jenn: A girl after my own heart!
    Sarah: Okay, first of all, I’d like to give you the award for the longest comment in the history of Run Jen Run. It’s almost like this is your summer blog away from blog. And I am so with you on the post office. In fact, I owe a certain blogger a certain book of poetry from another certain person, but it requires me to actually go to the post office, which is why I’m three months late now. The question now is – do you have Michigan plates?
    Cheryl: Oh man! I’ve been meaning to paint a mermaid in my apartment for like, the last three years! Way to remind me!
    Viv: That’s what blogs are all about – bringing people together to help each other fill out forms. Does my heart good.
    Katie: I have lots of teeth dreams, too. But I’m mostly afraid I’m going to smash them all when I slip in the shower or fall down stairs.

  17. Dave2 Says:

    Oh heavens… ALL of them! My travel schedule has me in dire straights, as there are dozens of little things like this going on with me. I think my old license plates are good through the end of the month though, so at least I won’t get ticketed or impounded on the way back from the airport!

  18. Tracy Lynn Says:

    So I read the post, and I’m feeling pretty smug, and I read the comments, and I’m feeling Cheshire cat pleased with myself. Then I walk into my study and see the package that I put together to mail FIVE MONTHS AGO that is still sitting on the table.
    Serves me right, for being smug.

  19. Jennifer Says:

    I love this post. I am the QUEEN of to-do lists, transferring the non checked off to the clean new one, mostly weekly, sometimes daily, watching the old ones move like a rolling average or something.
    BUT, your timing is incredible. The oldest one got checked off this very weekend. And wasn’t done by me, as the cherry on top! Talkin’ about Tiger Wood’s arm pump worthy goodness, right there, I tell you what.

  20. Robert Says:

    Ummm…my taxes, again. (Shut up!) The extension’s good until October. What’s worse is that I’m getting a refund if I ever finish them.
    Either that or the dentist appointment I haven’t kept in three years.

  21. jenny Says:

    Dave2: You’re not home enough to even need license plates. If you get pulled over, just say that you only live in WA for 4 days a month, so really, you’re a resident of the world. And then call me from jail.
    Tracy Lynn: You and that Shari should get together and start a business: The Smugrighteous Center for Better Living… ;)
    Jennifer: Congrats on crossing off one of the lingering to-do’s. You understand my joy, clearly!
    Robert: Hmm… I might need to look into these “extensions” you people keep talking about. I could delay my taxes until October?

  22. ms. sizzle Says:

    Running on Empty! Aw man I love that flick. :)
    I like that people leave the Special Darks as they are my fav.
    Now I feel super paranoid about getting Washington plates. Apparently here there isn’t a “DMV” kind of thing so you have to go to one place for licensing and another for the plates. And there is a test! I don’t want to take a test!
    As for things I need to do, uh, besides losing 60 pounds? I guess I’d better go get those damn plates and a new license. Thanks for the push, pal. :)

  23. Margaret Says:

    Confession is good for the soul. My cousin had a baby in April, and I couldn’t call and couldn’t call and the harrassment from my mom was too great, so I called in early June. I can’t seem to get off the phone with any family member outside my immediate circle with out making plans to see that person, so I told her I would come visit and bring her a gift and didn’t. #6 plagues me, but they’re probably annoyed so maybe I’m off the hook?

  24. ashbloem Says:

    Sigh. Taxes. And it’s sad, because I’m owed money, so the only person I am hurting is myself.

  25. Jessica Says:

    My co-worker (our marketing director) photographed my wedding and gave us a disc of our photos. All I need to do in order to get my mother and mother-in-law off my back with their own copies is order them (online or from a photo store). It would take me mere minutes and yet I keep putting it off. Did I mention that my wedding was TWO years ago?

  26. plain jane Says:

    A warning to all you dental procrastinators. I put off the dentist for 2 years and now have to spend an ungodly amount of money on my teeth. Make an appointment today!
    I’m off to clean my “junk room”.

  27. Justin24601 Says:

    I put off getting MO tags too. You have to pay freaking property tax here. WTF?!
    Currently, the only think I have to do is remember to deposit a $5 refund check for my air filter.

  28. canadian_sadie Says:

    I’ve put off doing my taxes since the year 2000. And it’s going to catch up with me sooner or later. They just sent me a letter demanding that I do them…and frankly? It’s not encouraging me. It’s making me stubborn, and wilful, and I’m NOT going to do it!!! How do they like THEM apples?!
    Yeah…so…nice to meet you :) I like your blog. :)