(This is not a rant, well, not a bad rant anyway.”)
I have yet to meet a car owner that does not dread receiving a letter with “Department of Motor Vehicles” as the return address. Just the thought of license renewals, surly government employees, emission checks, waiting for numbers to be called and getting your mug shot, sorry, license photo taken strikes fear in the hearts of many. It was with trepidation that I opened the envelope informing me that one of the cars needed its registration renewed.
The process for license renewal here in Oregon is to get an emission check from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). If your vehicle meets the governmental standards for emissions, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will issue you your tabs; two agencies, two tasks.
Preparing myself, I visited both the DEQ and the DMV websites at Oregon.gov. They were very thorough and informative if not a bit confusing. I never did figure out why those of us who live in Portland pay $21 for an inspection while people in Medford pay $10. Nor did the site explain why people of Portland and Medford are inspected while everyone else in Oregon goes without. I also wondered why do you pay only if you pass the test since you are paying for the test process itself? Confused but feeling better prepared, I felt the time for my visit had come.
The day was remarkable for late February, sunny and warm with a light breeze. One of the last things I wanted was to get an emissions check. Before I headed to my area’s vehicle inspection station, I took the recommended road trip to warm up the car. As I approached my Portland Area Clean Air Station, I saw that most of the bays were open and each had a line of five to six cars waiting for testing. I nearly turned away but thought better of it when I considered that it would likely be just as bad on my next visit.
Arriving at the entrance booth, a smiling attendant greeted me warmly and politely and asked to see my paperwork. Reviewing the paperwork, he asked me to open the driver’s side door where he inspected a small sticker. Next, he asked if I would “like to take care of everything today?” Not exactly sure what that meant but liking the sound of it, I said sure. Finally, after carefully reviewing the lines stretched out in front of him, he asked me to join my fellow inspectees in line number three. Joining line number three (which I swear had doubled in size as I approached), I suffered the minor panic attack that people sometimes suffer in these types of lines.
How long will this take? Do I have all the right paperwork? Will the car pass the test? Are all the other lines moving faster than mine? Do I have the right form of payment? How serious were they about not using your cellphone in the lines? Is it the DEQ that takes credit cards or is that the DMV? I just turned up the music to chill out while I waited.
After waiting patiently in line with the other brethren of the DEQ and inching forward one car length at a time, I was now parked in front of the cavernous garage door. The red light turned to green and the attendant waved me forward then working diligently to get me in the exact position required for testing. Opening my door, he politely asked me to leave the motor running and to step into the waiting booth while he performed the test. Attaching the testing equipment’s umbilical cord to the car, the attendant proceeded to determine if my car had low enough emissions to be allowed to operate on Portland streets. After waiting the requisite time and detaching the cord, he entered the booth to tell me the car had passed inspection.
“Would you like to take care of everything today?” At this point, I admitted my ignorance and asked what he meant by taking care of everything.
“Since you passed the inspection, I can also issue you a new set of biannual license tabs, saving you a trip to the DMV. We accept cash, credit card, debit card or money order.”
What? Oregon is trying to save me time? Can this be? Two governmental organizations, the DEQ and the DMV, working together? Making it convenient for customers? Saving me a trip to the DMV? Is everyone always this friendly? Allowing for multiple forms of payment? All sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings washed over me while I considered this great customer service. I was so excited and happy; I could have kissed this guy. Thinking better of it, I passed him the cash and received my new license tabs.
Driving out the garage, I thought this might be a nice day after all.