Rule Number One: Obey All Rules

If you’ve ever wondered, Mayberry’s Barney Fife does have a sister.  She’s alive and well, working for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Fitting, isn’t it?

This isn’t a hot rumor or a sighting by celebrity stalkers. No, I had an actual interaction. Her, me and my driving permit-seeking daughter, who quickly learned that passing a written test wasn’t what she needed to be nervous about.

The painful reality about a trip to the BMV is that we all know going in, chances are good that you’ll probably be back to finish what you came to do. No matter how well prepared you think you are, all it takes is the absence of some obscure affidavit verifying that your uncle really did give you his ’78 Gremlin or a form rendered null and void because your husband signed it with a glitter pen, to send you out the door in disgrace and defeated. We also know that no matter your argument, excuse or plea, the BMV always wins. Always.

And it’s all because of the Fifes.

You see there’s this little-known statute that requires all BMVs to have at least one member of the Fife extended family on staff.

Odd, I know.

This person is responsible for knowing, in a Rain Man kind of way, every rule and regulation pertaining to the BMV. More importantly, this person must possess an uncanny ability to ferret out, in a Rain Man kind of way, any and all potential and actual infractions of those regulations.

Guaranteed, this is the person who calls your number when you’re next in line.

Yes, Miss Fife had our number.

But I had no fear. Because I was prepared. I too, was up on the code, thanks to exhaustive study of every possible page and link on their website. Miss Fife’s official uniform, badge and I’m-the-law demeanor did not shake my confidence. I had the BMV version of a Golden Ticket: my daughter’s original embossed birth certificate and her Social Security card. History was in the making; this trip was going down as one and done.

Even though we had the ammo we needed to get the job done, my natural instinct to kill ‘em with kindness kicked in as we moved to the on-deck position. I answered Miss Fife’s “Next!” with a smile and the approach of a winner.

Drafting my confidence, my daughter stepped forward and announced “I’m here to get my temporary license.”

Attempting to break through our force field of self assurance, Miss Fife’s voice said “Okay”, but her raised eyebrows and smirk hissed “We’ll see about that, my pretty.”

“According to your website, we should have everything you need,” I almost sang. “We went for the gold just for you.” I smiled, handing her the proof, wondering if complimenting her on her perm would be over the top.

She pored over the documents, looking for the infraction she knew had to be there. I saw her visibly deflate as her fingers passed over the birth certificate’s embossed seal. Reluctantly, she turned to pull out the computer keyboard, signaling, what I liked to think was not her defeat, but our victory.

But one that was short-lived.

“We have a problem.” This time she was the one almost singing.

“Really?” Something in my gut lurched and kill ‘em with kindness automatically kicked in to overdrive. “You have the original, official, straight-from-the-government documents. And we know they’re always exactly what you need.”

“This birth certificate’s from Indiana,” she said, spitting out “Indiana” as if my daughter was an illegal immigrant who had somehow evaded birth certificate-tracking dogs and tunneled under a towering barbed wire-topped fence running along the Ohio-Indiana line.

“This,” she crowed, triumphantly holding up the official embossed birth certificate, “doesn’t say if she’s a boy or a girl. It’s no good. Can’t take it.”

Wha…?  I looked at my pony-tailed daughter, standing there in her all-girls school uniform skirt, knowing the name on the birth certificate wasn’t a red-flagging, gender-neutral Toni, Bobbi, Alex or Riley. Did the fact that I bore this child give me exclusive rights to the ability to determine if she was a boy or a girl?

“Can’t do a thing until you get a new one. ” She handed the tainted version back, dismissing us like we had tried to use Monopoly money to buy a pack of smokes.

“But,” I started, fully prepared to broach the idea of applying common sense.

Knowing common sense didn’t have a thing to do with it, she nipped it, nipped it in the bud. “Nope. Had this problem with Indiana for a while. Seems to me it’s just common sense (So she gets to play that card?) that a birth certificate says whether a baby’s a boy or a girl.”

As much as I fought it, I found myself agreeing with her, which was almost as disturbing as the realization that the Fifes had most likely infiltrated government offices nationwide and a distant cousin was working in County Records in Indiana, just waiting to bat me around.

Miss Fife barked “Next!”, signaling us to fall away so her next victim could step up to the line. She was warmed up and ready for a real challenge. Our infraction had been mere child’s play.

But little did I know, thanks to the power of Google and a Visa, so was the fix. By the time we got home, my red-tape-hating husband (having listened to my 10-minute rant after making the mistake of answering my call) had proven you truly could get anything online.

Just three days later we stormed the BMV armed with our gender-specific birth certificate, fully prepared to go head-to-head with our foe Miss Fife.

Ever-ready, she was poised for battle. But all it took was the letter “F” on a single piece of paper to disarm her. And it hit me; handing her our gender-specific birth certificate was the equivalent of Andy taking Barney’s gun. It appears the entire Fife family is under a one-bullet limit. And Barney’s sis had already fired hers.


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5 Responses to “Rule Number One: Obey All Rules”

  1. Jerry says:

    Great, I know what you mean about them. They have your SS# on their computer, but if you bring a copy or duplicate that does not count. Crazy!!!! Look out now, another Crago on the road. Have a good one.

  2. Janice Crago says:

    The Taurus is going to get double duty, Jerry. You’re right — watch out!

  3. Becky Sherer says:

    You should have gone for the perm compliment.

  4. This is a very respectable thought. Carry On composing!

  5. Nancy says:

    Wes and I had a fun little BMV excursion this week. We purchased a used car in Illinois and paid the sales tax there. When we ventured off to our friendly neighborhood License Branch the next day armed with about 6 forms of ID each (they weren’t going to get us on THAT technicality) we were feeling mildly confident, but there was still that ever present still small voice that wouldn’t allow us to feel outright smug, you just never know what they might throw at you at the BMV. Turns out we had our own personal member of The Fife family assigned to us that day. Wasn’t that special? She nailed us on line 6, of the Out-of-State Vehicle Purchase form, which was supposed to state the amount of tax paid on the vehicle. Our trustworthy used car salesman from the day before had neglected to fill in line 6. No matter that the amount was clearly stated on another form, it didn’t count. She said our options were to drive back to Illinois and have him fill in the form properly, or call him and have him fax the form. This she explained while jotting down their fax no. at the BMV, thrusting it at us and quickly sweeping all our paperwork into a pile and shoving it in our direction while simultaneously scanning the horizon for her next victim. Wes and I slithered back to our seats and got out our cell phones praying we could catch the guy at work, which, Praise God, we did! Wes gave him the number and he said he’d fax a form over right away with all the blanks filled in. Or would he? We waited, and waited and waited, no fax. Finally Wes called him back and he said he had already faxed it. Turns out Miss Fife had given us the WRONG fax number! There’s just no such thing as a glitch free trip to the BMV!

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