In Houston, this is how it happened: The government mailed you the bill. You returned it with a check, and a couple of weeks later the postman brought your plates to the door. End of story.
Here’s how it happens down here:
Usually, we go to a nearby office, stand in line and pay the car tax. We get a receipt and a sticker for the car window. It can take a couple of hours or more.
Three or four years ago, they announced it could all be done online. I tried that. You could pay online, but you could not get the sticker online, and you need the sticker. To get that sticker, you had to return to the office and stand in line. Catch 22.
Most Latino stuff online is laughable.
Every five or so years, they change the license plates, and that’s when it really gets fun. They changed the plates this year. Here’s how that went:
I went to the office in January, early. I paid the tax and was told there would be new plates this year. But the plates had not arrived yet. Come back later.
The old plates are good till December, so not to worry.
The office is on a main drag, and we drive by there every day. For months we saw mobs of people standing outside the door. The mobs diminished recently, so we returned this week with the proper paperwork.
Latinos love paperwork. They realize this is a problem, and they are fighting this lamentable trait but with only marginal success. Their hearts are not in it.
Plus, paperwork lets bureaucrats feel like big shots.
Here’s what we had to return to the office with:
1. A copy of the car’s original receipt of purchase.
2. The receipt of the tax paid in January.
3. The old “circulation card,” which is a piece of paper you must keep in the car. It’s like the registration. You’ll be getting a new one with the plates.
4. Copy of an official identification. Driver’s license or voter card will do.
5. Copy of your “CURP,” which is a national identification number.
6. A copy of your electric bill or something similar with your address. Sure, the address is on your driver’s license and on the tax receipt too, but they really want to be convinced, plus it’s an opportunity to ask for more paperwork.
7. The old car plates.
Interestingly, what they do not require is proof of liability insurance.
But know that cops do care about liability insurance.
After going to one desk to have all the paperwork checked, we were told to take a seat “for about an hour.” We did so, and finally received our new plates, stickers and circulation cards in one hour and five minutes, give or take. We have two cars.
* * * *
My driver’s license, which I renewed five years ago, expires in two months, so while waiting I asked about the renewal, which is done in the same office.
Here’s what I need for that:
1. A copy of my voter card. Yes, here you must have an official card with a photo to vote, and nobody gripes about how discriminatory it is. This card also serves as sort of a national ID even though you are not required to have it, only if you want to vote.
2. A copy of your electric bill or something similar with your address.
3. A clean bill of health. Your own doctor cannot provide this. You must go to a government clinic and stand in line. The exam is a joke and costs about $3.
4. Your old driver’s license.
The renewal is available for various periods from one to 10 years. More years, the higher the cost. The 10-year license runs about $115 at today’s exchange rate.
But I will be 78 in a decade, and my father died at 75. He and I were very much alike. Perhaps the five-year license would be more sensible and realistic.