One Of My Most Endearing Qualities, As Far As My Bride Is Concerned…

Is my punctuality. Actually, if the truth be told, it drives her insane. You see, I really hate being late for anything. I mean really really hate it. If you tell me to be at your house at 7 I’m there at 6:45. If we have to be somewhere at a given time and it’s a 30 minute drive, I want to leave an hour early just, you know, in case there’s traffic or something. I showed up at her apartment 2 hours early for our first date, for gosh sakes. So I found it somewhat gratifying this morning when I encountered someone who is worse than me.

I had to get the car inspected. New Jersey a few years ago went from annual car inspections to a system where older cars are done every other year and new cars every four years, at least for the first go around. So naturally over the course of the past two years I forgot to look at the sticker in my windshield, and when I did the number ‘4/06′ therein didn’t really register. Until yesterday, that is, when I realized that I had to face the dreaded last day of the month crowds at the motor vehicle inspection line on a Saturday morning.
The inspection station opens at 7 am, and based on past experience I knew, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that it would be a zoo this morning so I had to get there early. I mean, in the past if you got there at 7 you were looking at a minimum 45 minute wait. So I set my alarm for the usual 5:28 wakeup and was out the door at the usual 5:43. But to show how casual and relaxed I am now, I didn’t take the fastest route to the DMV but rather the more mature scenic route so I could hit a Dunkin’ and get a big cup of coffee. See? I’ve mellowed, baby. Anyhow, I got to the station at 6:10…and I was second. I was so tickled; I could now truthfully inform my bride that there was someone out there worse than me.
The DMV station in Eatontown has got the standard sort of long swoopy driveway that curls about and leads into the inspection bays. A few years ago they added a ticket machine, much like one at a parking garage, that gives each car a ticket as you go by and you then hand the ticket to the person who checks over your license, registration and insurance card as you pull into one of the three bays. There is, oh, about 150 yards of curvy lane from the machine to the bays. I’m really not quite sure what purpose this ticket serves but the bureaucracy seems to think it’s spiffy. Anyhow, access to the ticket machine was blocked by a little chain stretched across the road right in front of it, and there’s a sign on the chain that says “Form Line Here” or some such not-unreasonble command an hour before the place opens.
Anyhow, so we’re sitting there, and I’m feeling good about being number two. Cars start lining up behind me and I’m doing the “I’ll be done before you” dance in my mind. I did start to get a little nervous, though, because I knew that usually once you got nearer to the bays the lane split into two lanes so they could squeeze more cars into the line, and I was afraid I might, you know, choose the wrong lane or something and someone would pass me. But I was able to console myself that getting inspected third was just about as good as being the second car into the bay. And that helped. A little.
So the minutes crept along and the number of cars behind me grew (Yes!) though not, it must be admitted, to anywhere near the volumes of the past, which only makes sense, I guess, as in any given month only half as many cars at most are being inspected now. There wasn’t much to occupy my attention, really, just the squirrels chasing eachother about, the Motor Vehicle employees driving by on their way in and the guy in front of me who seemed awfully fidgety. I mean awfully fidgety. Dude, sit still already!
At 6:51 he gets out of his car, looks at his watch and then back at me and says “It’s 7 o’clock, isn’t it?” He then walks forward and unhooks the Chain, gets back in his car, moves up, pushes the button to get a ticket and drives around the building to the bays.
I sat there stunned.
I hear all these cars behind me start up in an Indy 500 roar of jubilation, and as they creep forward and apply thousands of tons of psychological pressure on me I’m thinking “We are soooo screwed.” I mean, bureaucracies do not take well to such wanton displays of initiative, especially state ones. Hear I was, pleased at being in the presence of someone who was more anal than I; now I discover he’s an ass too.
But what could I do? Of course I caved. I crept forward, got my ticket and began the long drive around the building. I opened my window as I saw the perturbed looks on the employess as the first car drove by, and I heard several voices say “Who opened the gate?” and all the while I’m thinking I’m staying way behind this guy and try and disassociate myself from any knowledge of his existence. I pull up to within about ten feet of him (but no closer) at the stop sign in front of the still-closed inspection bays…and wait.
Sure enough, in a minute or so a very official looking fellow comes over and begins to just ream the bejeebus out of this guy…”Sir, are you the one who opened the chain? That is NOT your decision” and so on, and me and the guy behind me are just sinking in our seats, both of us trying to think of ways to say “It’s his fault!” without sounding too 3rd grade-like when the fellow moved on to chastise us, but he seemed to realize, quite correctly mind you, that the first car was wholly and entirely at fault. Whew. A few minutes later they opened the three bay doors and we peeled off into them for our inspection.
Shockingly, Mr. Chain failed.

11 Responses to “One Of My Most Endearing Qualities, As Far As My Bride Is Concerned…”

  1. cullen says:

    Man, I am so like that. If I’m not early, I’m late. I have to be at least 15 minutes early to work or I go crazy. I would rather spend the extra time relieved that I was all ready at a place than that time anxious at home that something might happen on the way to the place.
    Drives my wife nuts too, Bing. I have even been guilty of lying to her about the time we need to be someplace. Gotta be somewhere at 8 p.m.? I tell her we need to be there at 7:30 p.m. Sometimes. Can’t get away with it all the time, but I do it with movies often.

  2. Donnah says:

    It’s not just bureaucracies that don’t appreciate such initiative: try prying the doors open to Penney’s before business hours.

  3. Donnah says:

    Good story, btw, Bingley.

  4. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Heh, I’m the same way, as well, Bing. Except I wouldn’t unhook the chain, of course. And I shave things a bit closer (15 minutes versus 30 minutes early).
    So I would have been #3 in that line.
    Good story!

  5. Rob says:

    My goal is to be where I need to be EXACTLY on time. “I’m here. Start the movie.” If it’s a 20-minute drive, I leave 22 minutes before. That’s how much I account for traffic. Admittedly, this doesn’t always work out for me but the specter of me waiting an hour in line at a car inspection station would be a little too much for me to bear. Patience is a virtue I do not possess.

  6. Mr. Bingley says:

    A few years ago, well maybe it was a lot of years ago, come to think of it, the inspection stations were manned by State Troopers. I was having these nervous visions of some 6′ 38″ tall guy stiffly marching out in his Smokey-the-Bear hat and whuppin’ us all to the end of the line!

  7. cullen says:

    Remind me to not go anywhere with Rob. I would go crazy.

  8. Rob says:

    If we were to go somewhere together, twould have to be one or the other, Cullen. 🙂 The lone exception is when I go to Saints games. I tend to get to them a few hours early. Tailgating is the only thing worth arriving early for.

  9. cullen says:

    There’s plenty to do near the Superdome if you arrive early, so I can see that. And you know I’m pickin’.

  10. Mike Rentner says:

    I don’t understand why they would care where the line forms. What’s the big deal?
    Government employees are the worst.
    Oh, wait. I’m a government emplyee right now. Sheesh, I hate being the worst!

  11. Otstsanding story, little non-grassmowing brother!
    I am his cosmic opposite. Mother always said I was perpetually late because I was SOOOOarrogant, I thought the world should wait for me.
    And hey! It always has…

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