If I hadn't lived in Texas all my life, I wouldn't believe such a place exists - like Lilliputt, or Animal Farm. You'd think a fifth-generation Texan could navigate here. Yeah, right.
When I applied for Bruiser's plates, I received a confirmation that said they would be ready in two weeks and (I THOUGHT it said) they would email me when they arrived, and I could pick them up at the main tax office in downtown Ft. Worth, never mind that the sub-courthouse where I pick up my normal plates is 10 times closer to where I live. Oh, and for my audacity in getting fancy after they had already given me all the license plate I needed, they were going to charge me a fee to synchronize the renewal dates of my regular plates and the personalized plates.
I waited the two weeks, checking the email every day, even the junk folder just in case my email server was anything like the state of Texas. Nothing. Nada.
So I went back and checked that confirmation again. I should have known. What they ACTUALLY had said was, they would email me if there was a "PROBLEM" with my order. What that means in Texese is they would email me if I had come up with some combination of letters and/or words that offended the sensibilities of the state of Texas. That is not difficult to do in a state that is offended by its border with Oklahoma, the sale of whiskey on Sunday, and aspersions cast against the official state religion, football.
No, if I am so fortunate as to be blessed by the state with Bruiser's plates, I have to call them on the telephone during business hours and grovel for the arrival date. That might seem odd to you that the state would resort to the twenty-first century equivalent of smoke signals when they have my email address right in front of them. If it does seem odd, you don't live in Texas. You probably live in Massachusetts.
So, I call. Busy signal the first 19 times. Finally, a dial tone. Rings for 20 minutes before converting itself from a dial tone to another busy signal, no input from me. I am persistent. Finally, I get a dial tone that eventually becomes a message that tells me the office is closed "for the holiday." What holiday? It's March
30? I ask. The recording doesn't answer that question, but it asks me if I would like to be connected with a person. My choices are general tax questions and handicapped license plates (I realize the preferred phrase is "license plates for disabled persons, but this is Texas and if you live in Texas you are handicapped). Or I could continue holding.
My question concerned neither of those issues, and besides, those people weren't there, they were on holiday. So, I chose to continue holding. Don't ask me why holding for some unknown person who isn't there makes more sense than being transferred to a specific person who isn't there, because in retrospect, I don't know. I actually only had to hold for a few seconds before a very pleasant female voice said "Goodbye" and the busy signal picked up where it had left off. I concluded that in spite of the ambivalence of the recorded message, they really weren't there, they were on holiday.
What the heck holiday is March 30? I looked up U.S. holidays. Negative. Recognizing that some Texas legislators refuse to concede that Texas joined the union, I looked up Texas holidays. There is no Texas holiday on March 30. There is on March 31, though. Cezar Chavez's birthday is March 31. The website says it is an "optional" holiday. Hmmm. Apparently, Tarrant County gives itself the option of celebrating it on the day before it actually happens.
Typical contradiction. A state that spends half the legislative session plugging loopholes in the "right to work" laws, celebrates the birthday of a union organizer. Go figure.
I didn't bother calling on March 31. I thought they would probably be there, but I didn't want to spend an hour holding to find out. I just waited for April Fool's day. You know how sometimes the person you are calling is on the line even before a dial tone happens? That's how it was on April Fool's Day. A voice that sounded like it was coming from the far end of a drain culvert asked me what I wanted and I explained how I was supposed to call in two weeks, and the two weeks is up. She looks Bruiser up on the computer and says, it's not two weeks yet. Sure it is, I said. I counted on my fingers and I counted four of them twice, which makes fourteen.
No, she says, in a voice that conveyed a silent "you idiot," it's not two weeks from the date on the confirmation, it's two weeks from the date they are MANUFACTURED. Dummy. The convicts in Huntsville didn't get around to banging them out until March 25, so they won't be here until April 9, she says. Okay, I said, I'll call on April 9. "Don't" she said. "We'll be on holiday." I bit my tongue and did not ask whose birthday it was, and was it really on April 9, or April 10. I knew it was Good Friday anyway. I have a feeling EVERY Friday in that place is a good one, and every day of the week is April Fool's Day. For reasons God only knows, I thanked the disembodied voice and hung up.
Why does it take EXACTLY two weeks to get license plates from Huntsville to Fort Worth? Are they still using stagecoaches? Do they send them up one at a time with a Texas Ranger escort? And how was I supposed to know when they got around to making them anyway? "I pledge allegiance to the United States, and to the Psychic State of Texas..."
I have to go. The water heater just busted and flooded the house. Great. I can't get a personalized license plate, but I get my own personal Katrina.
I'll let you know how this all turns out. Just call me.