It’s time for the annual attempt to get a column out of license tab renewal. Every year I’m thwarted.
I got the letter six weeks ago. Did I go online to get the tabs? Heck, no. Perhaps some people had the courage to trust the MNLARS system, but I couldn’t get past the name: it sounded like someone trying to gently ask Lars why the system doesn’t work. “Mmmmnnn, Lars, you got a moment?”
So I wasn’t surprised when the governor announced on Wednesday that the state is scrapping the entire system. It probably was about time.
I mean, it took eight years to get the thing up. Part of the problem might have been paying contractors $300 an hour to work on it, because that’s hardly an incentive to get the job done.
“So how did the transfer of data from the old system to the new one work out?” we ask.
“Oh, it was a nightmare. We were going from files that were written in hexadecimal code originally used to navigate the Mercury space capsule, and we had to convert it to base 8, and there’s only so many programmers who are missing two fingers, so it took about six days for each plate.”
Someday they’ll find a system that works. For now, I like going to the service center. It’s my annual chance to write that old-time man-of-the-people column where I can rail against the way the bureaucracy treats the Little Guy (which would be me, as I’m 5 feet 4). Unfortunately, no one at the service center ever obliges. They’re always prompt, helpful and friendly.
This year I vowed to make sure it’s a nightmare. I would go on the last day of the month, when all the other slackers get tabs. And I’d go at noon. Surely that would provide some telling anecdote I could milk for clichéd curmudgeonly harrumphs.
The place was packed. Two-thirds of the chairs were taken. The line was twice as long as the last time I was there. Meaning: six people. It moved quickly, until one citizen got to the desk and unfolded what appeared to be a document so old you thought she was renewing plates for a covered wagon.
Then it was my turn, Feeling sheepish, I said, “Hello, it’s me, Mr. Last Day Possible. Well, that’s not my real name. I’m not trying to pull some identity theft thing. Ha ha! Sorry, I get flustered when dealing with authorities. You always worry you’ll blurt out the wrong thing, and it will turn out that you’re on the lookout for Mr. Lastay Possible, French con man, and you’re secretly pushing a button right now to summon the guards. Ha! Anyway, sorry about MNLARS.”
“A602,” she said.
I took a seat and started reading “War and Peace,” thinking I might regale the agent with the thrilling conclusion of the story when I was finally called. But it took exactly six minutes.
“How are you today?” said a cheerful public servant, who probably didn’t want to hear about the book anyway. (Spoiler: Napoleon loses.) I said I was just grand, and we were done in five minutes.
Year after year, it’s the same thing: A simple interaction refuses to turn into something annoying I can recount with faux outrage. This is the worst state for hack columnists.
Next week: Sure, the MnDOT signs say the project will be completed Aug. 24, 2020, but morning or afternoon? A little help, OK?