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)

Me Treasure

Since I know, as well as you, that it’s a really bad idea to write about work on a public website, please understand that the story I’m about to share is based on a discussion I had with a friend of mine. It has nothing to do with any place I have ever worked. But I’m going to write it in the first person so that you feel more connected to the story. You know, since you don’t really know the friend I’m talking about, and all.
There’s this person I work with who brings in candy all the time, which normally I would be really happy about, since I enjoy candy as much as the next guy. Actually, probably a lot more than the next guy. In fact, I’m eating a Charms Blo-Pop as I type this. But the thing is, she brings in deceptively awful candy. All the time. It looks like brand name candy, has the logo wrappers and everything, but at about the second chew, you immediately realize that something is just not right.
Did you ever get a bad peanut in your M&M’s? Where it kind of tastes burnt, or it’s harder than a normal peanut and you check to see if you chipped a tooth? Usually you can cover that taste up by popping another one in really quickly, but just imagine if the next one, and the one after that, were all equally as bad. Where the exception would be the M&M that actually tasted good. This is my world.
Is there a place you can go to buy really old candy that no one wants anymore? Like the Payless Shoe Source of sweets? Does the Dollar Store sell reject bags of candy? Because I just don’t understand how someone can consistently bring in old stale candy. Once in a while you might get a bad run of Snickers, sure. But every time?
You would think the tip off would be the off-holiday themes, like the pastel egg-shaped York Peppermint Patties suddenly appearing in August. Or the black and orange M&M’s in May. Or the E.T. themed Reese’s Pieces. But people apply different standards to office food. It’s like we’re on Survivor and suddenly fish eyeballs just seem like a really good source of protein.
Anyway, so today it was Nestle Caramel Treasures. I resisted at first, I honestly did, because my gut told me it was too good to be true. I smelled a trap. I mean, who gives away good caramel? I’ll tell you who – no one, that’s who. No one gives away good caramel, but what they do give away is dehydrated caramel. Desiccated caramel dust resting inside a waxy shell of chocolate, all wrapped in seductive purple foil.
Was this sitting in her attic for two years? Or perhaps frozen and defrosted fifteen times? How can you even make candy that inedible? And the worst part is that it didn’t get any better by the fourth one.

The Bird

By Jenny Amadeo, age 7

[click to appreciate the fine quality of my artwork]

Once there was a pretty red bird who caught a worm for her babies.

And…… when she got to her nest her babies were….. gone!

When she saw her babies were gone she got very frightened and she did not no what to do.

But when she looked down she saw a rabbit with her baby rabbits and she looked all around and she did not see her babies.

But when she looked up in a tree she saw a squirrel with her babies.

And then she bit his tail and the squirrel let go of the babies and she got her babies back.

The End

1. My favorite part of this story is that my mother apparently used the cover to balance her checkbook.
2. I believe that The Bird is an allegory of the ongoing war on terrorism, where the pretty red bird represents America, the squirrel represents al-Qaeda, the babies represent the world, and the rabbit represents England.
3. And this story captures the genesis of my life-long love affair with periods of ellipsis and starting sentences with prepositions.