My God! It's From the Central Bureaucracy!


I got a letter today from the New York State DMV informing me that there had been a mistake in the fee they charged for my Non-Driver's ID. Apparently the DMV misinterpreted a fee increase to apply to me when it didn't, so they charged me $10 when they should have charged $5.

The letter, from, I stress, the DMV, was to inform me of this error and to tell me that I would shortly be receiving another letter from the DMV containing my $5 refund.

I'm glad they did this. Getting a $5 check in the mail might have been too much for me. It's nice that they provided this buffer. "Okay, just so there are no surprises, there's going to be a check coming from us. It'll be for $5. Just don't wig our or anything when it arrives."

I'm a bit disappointed, though, to have gotten the shocking news of the refund all at once. I think it might have been best to start with an e-mail. "This is the New York State DMV. This is to inform you that there is some business we need to transact. Further bulletins are forth-coming." That way, you know, I wouldn't be shocked to get a letter from the DMV. As it stands, there's no telling how I could have reacted to seeing that envelope. I did fine this time, but in the future, who knows?

They might also have softened me up with some further letters. "This is to let you know that an error has occurred. Further correspondence will detail the substance and nature of this error." "The error alluded to in the prior letter concerns your non-driver's ID. Further information about this error will be sent promptly." "The error with your non-driver's ID concerns the matter of payment. We will keep you informed as events develop." "The error in payment for your non-driver's ID involved your over-paying. The amount of over-pay will be detailed in the next letter." Only then would I be prepared for the shocking revelations that awaited me in my mailbox today.

So, let this be a warning to fellow New Yorkers: If you have a heart condition, or are otherwise easily frightened, beware letters from the DMV! There's no telling what they might tell you, without a moment's concern for whether you have received adequate warning!


"The error with your non-driver's ID concerns the matter of payment. We will keep you informed as events develop."

I can't remember -- you are/were a Xanth reader at some point, right? Do you remember the book where Mundanes are playing a game that takes them to Xanth? There's a really hilariously bad scene in it of which I've just been reminded.

The player is a girl, who's met a dazzlingly attractive male representative of some freaky Xanth species. He sits her down and very seriously asks if he can ask her a question. No -- not just seriously, downright grandly. "It concerns my marriage," he proclaims, and with that cliffhanger we're shunted off to some other scene to build suspense.

When we come back, OMG OMG OMG the girl is freaking the hell out. OMG she's going to get stuck married to a merman in a computer game, but OMG he's hot, flutter flutter will she say yes or no? That kind of thing. Then, he asks if she'll please accompany him around Xanth while he looks for a wife. Whew, suspense resolved, nobody saw that coming but thank god it was what happened.

What I always thought of that whole scene was that if he had been proposing, he'd have picked the worst way to do it. If you're attempting to sweep someone off of his or her feet, you don't take the New York DMV approach and state in advance, "Please be advised of a marriage proposal en route to you via US Mail." So either that wasn't what he had in mind, or if it was, he had no sense of timing and therefore she'd clearly say no.

Not that I'm suggesting you should say no to the $5 check, though. The analogy does not stretch so far.

As a practical matter, there's a chance I might not end up cashing that $5 check. Thanks to my out-of-state bank with no locations in New York, I have to mail all the checks I receive to Texas. Also, thanks to my lack of a job that provides regular checks, I am no longer periodically sending out checks to said bank. I've now started a collection of checks for insultingly small sums. Eventually I'll either get a check worth a decent enough amount to piggyback the smaller ones onto, or I'll reach a critical mass of small checks and send those.

My favorite Insultingly Small Check comes from Columbia University in its capacity as my landlord. You know how you give your landlord a security deposit and they have to put it in an account and pay you interest every year? Well, Columbia does that, but they also charge an annual pro-rated fee for the service of managing my account. So in January I got a letter from them informing me that my account had accrued $3.27 of interest, and that a $2.98 management fee would be deducted from that. The letter included a check for 29 cents.

This is also sort of like the New York City School Tax Credit. Ignore the "School" part in that above; some legislator threw it in because everyone loves schools. As a practical matter, it means that everyone who files a New York City tax return gets $12 "credited" to them, regardless of whether they pay any taxes or not. I wouldn't pay any taxes if I filed a return, as I earned no money in New York City. But getting the $12 means filling out an entire tax return. I've got just over half a month to decide if it's worth it.

I missed that Xanth novel, I think. I believe I stopped right around... Question Quest? A few books after he switched publishers. I know I didn't get as far as The Color of Her Panties, the book that caused my mom to ask me if these were weird perverted sex novels. I responded to the query by saying "Oh, mom!" and rolling my eyes, which was my way of brushing her off without giving the honest answer: "Well, they kind of are, actually."

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on March 24, 2006 1:41 AM.

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