Volume 12, Issue 11 ~ March 11-17, 2004

Current Issue
Dock of the Bay
Letters to the Editor
Bay Reflections
Burton on the Bay
Not Just for Kids
Chesapeake Outdoors
Sky Watch
8 Days a Week
Music Notes
Museum Visitor
Curtain Call
Movie Times
Bay Weekly in Your Mailbox
Print Advertising Rates
Distribution Spots
Behind Bay Weekly
Contact Us

Powered by

Search bayweekly.com
Search WWW

Burton on the Bay
by Bill Burton

So Long, Subaru
I LUVBASS and so does my new Saturn

Nothing like the purring of a finely tuned automobile engine — unless, of course, the purring of a contented cat, which is a symphony to these old ears.

It hasn’t been easy, but hopefully I’ve accomplished both. The new car’s motor purrs smooth as silk; the engine of the old car, wherever it might now be, purrs more like an old tom cat. Still, I like to think that out there on the West Coast, a few felines will soon have reason to purr away for the remainder of their nine lives.

It wasn’t simple orchestrating all of this, but neither the cats nor the automobiles were to blame. When a Marylander deals in any form of private transportation, that quagmire known as the Motor Vehicle Administration comes in play. So, realistically, no one can expect the transaction to be simple.

Alas, once again MVA lived up to expectations.

There’s the Triple A, American Automobile Association, an outfit programmed to assist motorists. Here in the Free State, we also have the BBB, Bureau of Bureaucratic Bumbling, otherwise known as MVA. Its process cost me at the least several hundred bucks in cold cash; probably eight hours or more in time, which at the pay scale of a fast food joint adds another 50 bucks to the tab; not to mention the inconvenience, frustration and gnawing outrage that comes when you’re being ripped off by an arm of government.

Ah, you know the feeling. So I hope out there at Stanford University in the State of California where fiscal problems might even be worse than those we endure hereabouts, some cats will soon be purring, for that would make my ordeal all worthwhile.

The Wonderful One-Horse Shay
The whole saga commenced on the sixth day of November of the year past. I climbed into the old ’92 Subaru Loyale 4x4 station wagon parked in the driveway up here on the shores of Stoney Creek in North County. As always, it started as soon as the key was turned, and as always, purred as loudly as an aging tom cat eyeing a dozen tins of tuna.

The odometer caught my eye. It read 118,869. For a guy who was born when Calvin Coolidge was president and who still drives around the boondocks at odd hours in pursuit of hunting and fishing endeavors, that’s a lot of mileage. For more formal occasions, wife Lois’ new red Toyota Camry is available. But fishing rods have a way of marring interiors, and my constant pipe smoking can permeate a family jalopy with the scent of, say, Fader’s Pipe Shop in Annapolis.

I’m of the compulsive sort; that 118,869 miles there in black and white on the dashboard prompted quick and decisive action. It was time to retire the old black car that only once in a dozen years broke down on the open road. I’d heard that somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 percent of all Subarus sold in the USA were still being driven. But I also have read many times over the years Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem about the One Horse Shay that fell totally apart one hundred years to the day.

It would be just my luck to have the old Subaru follow the One Horse Shay nine decades earlier. Like the shay until that last fateful moment, my Subaru drove like it did the day it left the dealership. There were holes in the interior roof caused by fishing rods, and the worn, frayed upholstery had the rich aroma of pipe tobacco. But under the hood, all was purrr-fect.

Being a friend of the Chesapeake, I decided fuel efficiency was not a prime consideration, but the prime consideration. The more miles to the gallon you get, the less the Bay endures from airborne pollution. Daughter Heather alerted me to a station wagon that gets up to 28 miles per gallon in city rounds, 35 on the open road, so I was off to Saturn of Bowie, test drove the vehicle three miles and wrote a check. All in less than half an hour.
Belayed at the Bureau of Bureaucratic Bumbling

That was the first check of several, for MVA soon got into the act. Had I traded the old Subaru in, things would have been a cakewalk. But it was old and not worth much by the book; what’s more, Saturn dealerships don’t dicker. I decided to keep the old car and donate it to a worthwhile charity. In memory of my old long-departed white shorthair Frieda, I wanted a charity that caters to felines.

I needed the old vanity plates LUVBASS to drive the Subaru home where it could be picked up by the Stanford Cat Network, so the dealership issued new plates on the spot. Then the deal started to turn sour. As long as the plates were on the old car, driven or not, MVA in Annapolis told me I needed insurance.

Well, I got busy: fall rockfishing, Canada goose hunting, a vacation in the mountains of Virginia, deer season and such, and all the time the insurance tab was running up on a car parked in the driveway.

All the while, a lady at MVA insisted I couldn’t turn in the LUVBASS plates until the Cat Network signed on as new owner. No, she reiterated, no way could I even transfer my beloved plates to the new car until the network signed the old title.

Each tick of the clock meant a few more cents for GEICO. Another two trips to MVA in Annapolis, same story. Then, last week, I figured I had had enough; the Subaru’s plates expired January 31, and I didn’t want to lose them to another fisherman after 20 years.

I took the old vanity plates to Annapolis and turned them in to a different person behind the counter. She accepted them and filled out the paperwork to transfer them to the Saturn. And I turned in the Saturn’s ‘new’ plates. No problem. Different personnel, different results. You figure!

Figure also, why, when MVA sends me a refund check on those plates, I get only $40 bucks back on $81 paid for two years of driving. I had expected to pay the tab for the new registration seeing the old one had expired, but now it came to 131 smackeroos. And when I asked that the old cracked, weather-beaten and faded LUVBASS plates be replaced befitting a new car, there was another $20 charge.

Hey, did they think the plates that were more than a decade old would last forever? Can’t a driver expect new personalized plates at some time or other? After all, you pay, I believe, $25 extra a year to have them. Somewhere amidst all of this, there was still another charge, $5 for “title, registration,” whatever that means. I had paid the original titling fee.

In Perspective
During World War II, I bought my first car, a Model A Ford in running condition, for $15 and registered it for $5. My added insurance fee for a Subaru that wasn’t driven during the fiasco at Annapolis cost me more than ten times that. So much for nostalgia! But I won’t dwell there too long, seeing that come December, I’ve got to head back to the Bureau of Bureaucratic Bumbling for a driver’s license renewal. Who knows what’s in store for one who publicly airs his gripes?

And don’t remind me of the tax write-off due for my donation to a non-profit organization. I’ve had enough of bureaucratic entanglements for a lifetime.

I’ll settle for the purr of my new Saturn and of a cat or two several thousand miles away. If you feel the same about cats and want to get rid of your old clunker, call 650-566-8287 for prompt and courteous service. Just don’t let MVA get into the act.

Enough said.

to the top

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated March 12, 2004 @ 1:37am.