I have looked bureaucracy in the face and I have emerged victorious.
You might think that dealing with your local Department of Motor Vehicles is difficult- imagine trying to negotiate from 8,000 miles away.
The core of this particular story actually began an entire year ago – and the length of time it took to fix really took on a time-line worthy of its Indian end.
It all started last November when I got a ticket for turning right on red while driving for work on Staten Island. I had thought that it was banned only in Manhattan. Apparently it is city-wide (take note drivers who move to New York!).
The details are a bit boring, but in essence: I tried to explain my confusion on the rule, because I was originally from another state and had only recently swapped my old license for a New York one. To my shock, the cop called me a liar (and used some choice expletives) and said I would have had to take a test to exchange my license -as such, I should’ve known the rule.
By the time he checked and realized he was wrong (ie: there was no test), his response was, “Sorry, I would have just given you a warning, but I already wrote the ticket.”
I certainly wasn’t going to pay a $200 ticket for something that the cop openly admitted deserved just a warning. I decided to plead Not Guilty – after all, who wouldn’t want to stick it to a rude, cursing cop?
I was soon given a court date – scheduled for five months later- but the week of the hearing I had to switch with someone at work, so I pushed it back again.
Then we decided to move to India. And the real fun began.
I called the New York State DMV and sat on hold for an hour. Finally I got through and explained that I needed to move up my court date before I moved to India.
“Ma’am, there is no earlier court date.”
“Well, what should I do then?”
“You can plead by mail if you no longer live in the state.”
“Great. Can you send me the form?”
“You have to have already moved for us to send you the form.”
Bureaucracy at its finest – I had to move my court date again to give myself sufficient time to actually move to India so I could prove to them I was moving so I could prove that I couldn’t show up for a court date that I would have gone to if they had moved up the date. Sensible?
So once we moved, I stayed up late one night for the appropriate time difference and tried calling. Every line was busy. For 4 days I tried getting through, every single night. Once I did get through it was never to the right person – no one seemed equipped to know how you plead Not Guilty by mail to a foreign country.
After about a week of frustrating phone calls, I finally spoke to someone who knew what they were doing and they agreed to send me a form.
Weeks later it arrived- banged up, but there it was: my chance to plead Not Guilty. I filled out the form, wrote a statement, and had it all signed by a Notary Public. Then I waited.
After two months of waiting I had started to wonder whether anything had been received. Would I look like a no-show at the court hearing? Would the DMV track me down in India and declare me a fugitive?
But my wondering was for naught: yesterday, victory was mine.
8,000 miles away. Countless hours on the phone. Months of pushed back court dates. But I had done it: I was found Not Guilty.
It’s an ironic victory in a country where people not only turn right on red, but speed through red lights as they see fit. A lot has changed in a year.