Pen pals for eight years: DC DMV and me

dc_flagMy friends in the DC DMV are reaching out to me again, asking me to pay that fine we paid waaay back in 2001! I thought they had finally fixed their records.  I was wrong. The following letter is hitting the mailboxes – and cyberspace – today:


 September 12, 2009

Professional Account Management
c/o DC Treasurer
PO Box 37038
Washington, DC 20013-7038

RE: Citation 543536103, 9/7/01

To Whom It May Concern:

I received a call from Bridget at Professional Account Management on Friday, September 4, 2009, asking me if I wanted to pay the balance due on my outstanding citation (referenced above). Bridget’s call was a surprise to me, because my last contact with Professional Account Management was in April 2008. I was hopeful that my last letter finally resulted in DC correcting its accounting records.

I am not writing to appeal this citation, but to provide proof – once again – that we paid the DC Treasurer $45 to satisfy this citation and the penalty for late payment – in October, 2001.

Bridget stated that we are still being asked to pay this citation because we did not write the citation number on the check.  And she’s right; we didn’t. However, this omission did not stop the DC Treasurer from promptly cashing our check #580. One would think that during a routine reconciling of records, this random $45 deposit from us could have been easily credited to the only outstanding citation in our name.

However, apparently your recordkeeping systems (or staff) were not able to make this obvious connection. In fact, some of your previous invoices indicate that we paid $15 towards this fine, confusing matters even further. I have spent the past eight years trying to demonstrate to you that, if you simply match up my $45 deposit with this citation, you can cross this little nagging amount off your follow-up list and – even better – balance the District of Columbia’s budget, which, I fear, may have been out of whack by exactly $45 since 2001!

I should not be held accountable for this error. I paid. You took my money. Your staff failed to properly credit my payment to the one outstanding citation to my name. Your mistake; not mine. Best of all – it’s easily rectified.

If you would kindly review the enclosed correspondence – along with the copy of the check deposited by the DC Treasurer – and update your records to show that Citation 543536103 is paid in full, I would be most appreciative. It’s that simple.

In an odd way, your pluck and determination to balance your records is admirable (albeit misguided) .  Even though you are in the wrong, I must say your steadfastness over all these years has been impressive.  So impressive, in fact, that I would strongly advocate that your diligent folks in Professional Account Management should be given more authority to more carefully watch over all the District’s finances.  Their zealous oversight might, for example, have saved the District’s taxpayers millions of dollars, avoiding that embarassing $50 million shortfall that Harriette Walters and her cronies so cleverly orchestrated.  That is but one example (one of many I am sure) where this sort of effort might be better applied.  And, best of all, in that case, you’d even be right!

If you are unable rectify your error, which is amply supported by my attached evidence, then I would suggest that the DC Treasurer actually owes me the $45 that they were unable to match to any pending debt in my name. After all, you did take my money.

Once I receive my refund, I will happily re-send it to you so that you may have another chance to note in your system that Citation 543536103 is, in fact, PAID, and has been for almost eight years.  If not, I am afraid I may have to turn your records over to a collection agency and insist on proper restitution.  And we all know what a pain those pesky calls can be!

So, for the 8th consecutive year, may I kindly suggest that you focus your efforts on collecting fines that have not, in fact, already been paid.  I promise to keep writing you until you finally correct your error.

Cc (w/o attachments):

Adrian Fenty, Mayor, District of Columbia
Natwar M. Gandhi, Chief Financial Officer, District of Columbia
Lucinda M. Babers, Director, DC Department Of Motor Vehicles

(…oh yes, I most certainly did copy them!)

License and registration please, Ma’am

speedometerI got a little speeding ticket this evening.  

Officer So-and-So explained that he was monitoring speed on this stretch of road as part of a grant from Operation I-Forget-What and that excessive speed is a hallmark of aggressive driving (?!) and that he clocked me going 57 in a 40 m.p.h. zone and would I please give him my license and registration.

How was I supposed to know how fast I was going? My speedometer has been broken for, like, going on two years now! I drive by relative speed… but I guess I was relatively passing all the other cars on the road. Curt and I were talking about our days and the next thing you know, BAM.

He reduced the ticket speed to 49 so that I would only have to pay the minimum fine (gee, thanks), explained what the 27 different colors of carbonless copies meant, asked if I had any questions, and without so much as a perfunctory pleasantry, sent me on my way. Next victim.  Harumpf.

In a driving career that spans a hundred 26 years, I’ve only been cited for a few moving violations.  I am, in fact, a very careful, defensive driver. I don’t take stupid risks. The key to my success is anticipating the dumb stuff that my fellow motorists are about to do, before they do it.

My most recent speeding ticket – my first one – was 11 years ago. I was returning from Baby Boss’s two-week doctor checkup. He was wailing in the back seat because it was way past nursing time. I was hustling home because my coworkers were coming to my house to share lunch and ooooh and aaaah over my new baby.  There’s this stretch of highway where cars often run in the exit-only lane until the last minute, then they suddenly merge left. I always felt (and still do) that the safest thing there is to pass this area in the left lane, so as to avoid the idiots who evidently can’t read all the LANE ENDS MERGE LEFT signage.  I mean it’s really well-marked.

On that day, the car in the exit-only lane was a police cruiser. I proceeded by him in the left, not at an excessive speed, but a bit faster than he was going (because after all, wasn’t he preparing to exit?), but sure ’nuff, he hopped over at the last minute, behind me, then turned on his lights and pulled me and my screaming infant over. 

But instead of introducing himself like tonight’s officer did, he greeted me with a blustery, WHAT IN GOD’S NAME DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, PASSING A POLICE OFFICER LIKE THAT??  So, I explained my safety-based rationale and asked if we could please hurry because I NEED TO BREASTFEED MY INFANT NOW, IT’S PAST HIS LUNCHTIME. And he was all, I was going 55 and you must have been going faster, ma’am, so I’m writing you a ticket for going 60 in a 55-m.p.h. zone!  And I was all, I don’t even know how you can say how fast I was going since you, too, were moving, but my BREASTS ARE STARTING TO LEAK so can we move it along please?? And of course, my postpartum hormones kicked in and the tears started flowing, because how ridiculous was this anyway? But I couldn’t stop it. And I thought I’d heard that officers often have sympathy for a crying woman with a crying baby – especially one whose milk had just let down with a vengeance –  but that was not the case in my situation.

Of course I was throwing around all of this breast-talk for effect.  Way back when I was mothering infants, I was not given to talking about my breasts. (I’m really still not.) I don’t even like the term “breastfeeding.” It’s too… anotomical. I was nursing, thank you, and I was the model of discretion. But this officer had earned no such euphemisms.

That cold-hearted bastard gave me a ticket anyway. I should have gone to court to fight it, but that was really the last thing on my mind, what with having an infant and a two-year-old at home. So, I didn’t. I paid it.

Not that I’m still bitter or anything.

Still, I think once every 11 years is a pretty good record.  For as often as I do exceed the speed limit, I don’t ever drive recklessly or aggressively. Just maybe a-little-too-fastly.   Oh come on, you know you do it, too. I was just the unlucky stiff who got caught. This time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see a man about a speedometer repair…

How (not) to make pepper slaw

There’s a big party in our neighborhood tomorrow. An end-of-summer bash! Everyone’s supposed to bring a side dish to share with the masses.  I thought that a mass of pepper slaw would be the perfect thing to bring… it’s not mayonnaise-based, it’s easy to eat, people love it, and it’s a Central PA classic. Best of all, I was sure I had all the ingredients in the house, except for the cabbage.

This morning, I loaded the Peezer into the car and off we went to the grocery store, to purchase a head of cabbage and a cartful of things he asked for and I couldn’t say no other Very Important Things (cat food, Oreos, Fleet Fiber Gummies [the kid won’t poop without ’em], a new electric toothbrush with a skateboard handle – you know, the essentials in every four-year-old’s life).  One head of cabbage was a buck-ninety, and considering that the recipe I use yield enough to feed an entire platoon, I was feeling exceedingly thrifty. Well done, me, I thought as I imagined patting myself on the back.

Once home, I commenced to making the slaw.  An account of how it all went down follows. But if you want to jump to the actual recipe itself without the rest of the story (and I hope you don’t because it’s kinda funny but if your time is limited, g’head) – go to my other blog, My Grandmas’ Recipes, where I posted the recipe with noticeably less commentary.

 I got out the Cuisinart and all of its parts and put it together. I found my largest mixing bowl. Processed a few baby carrots, one green pepper, and one onion, separately, until each vegetable was finely chopped, and transferred each to the mixing bowl.

Chopped green pepper, onion, and carrot
Chopped green pepper, onion, and carrot

 Then, I combined 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, and a cup-and-a-half of sugar in a microwave bowl and cooked it, stirring every minute, until the sugar was dissolved. Total cook time was 3 or 4 minutes.  I set it aside to cool.

Next, I went back to the food processor. This is really the messy part of this recipe because I can’t seem to do it wihtout getting bits of cabbage everywhere. I removed the outer few leaves of cabbage, then cut the rest of the head into chunks (tossing away the hard part at the base). I completely filled my processor bowl, then began pulsing to make it into a super-fine chop. Only what happened was this – 

Learn from my mistakes. Don't fill the bowl full of cabbage.
Learn from my mistakes. Don't fill the bowl full of cabbage.

So I removed the unchopped leaves on the top, then finished processing until it looked like this: 

Choppety chop chop.
Choppety chop chop.

Then I returned the unchopped cabbage to the bowl, chopped ’em up, and that is how I learned that you can only fill the bowl half-full of cabbage leaves, or else it won’t chop evenly and you will make significantly more work for yourself that way, and if ever there were a good example of the saying, “do as I say, not as I do,” this is it.  

Each half-bowl of cabbage was super-finely chopped in 6-8 pulses of my magical wonderful Cuisinart (whose main purpose in life is to make slaw, because otherwise, I just don’t use it that much).

Finally, with all the chopped veggies now scattered all over my kitchen island in the giant mixing bowl, I was ready to add the spices. A teaspoon of salt, a generous teaspoon of mustard seed, and a generous teaspoon of… well, I was sure the celery seed was in here somewhere…. could I be out of it? No, it’s not possible, one little jar lasts forever…

I stood on a chair to get a better view and twirled my spice turntable around three times. I finally found the jar – empty! – rolling around in the back corner of the cupboard, like a lone tumbleweed.  Celery seed is a crucial ingredient here. You can’t not have celery seed in this slaw.  There is no substitute. It’s probably illegal in Pennsylvania to make pepper slaw without celery seed, it’s that important.

celery%20seedI should’ve known to check for the spices first! Rookie mistake!  I got back in the car and drove over to Safeway, even though I swore I would never again return after my last visit, when the young man who rang up my groceries refused to put the bags into my cart, then gave me the evil eye because I wasn’t clearing the bagging area fast enough. Still, at a mile away it’s the closest grocery store, so that’s where I went, and my head exploded in Aisle 4 when I saw that a tiny jar of McCormick’s celery seed was $5.69!  For an ounce and a half! And then I was super-mad at myself because I much prefer to buy my spices at the Penzey’s store in Rockville, because they’re soooo much better than the grocery store spices and they’re less expensive and hello? A store full of spices! But I didn’t want to take 40 minutes (and waste the gas) to drive down there and back, so I took the stupid 1.62 ounce glass jar to the Express Checkout and waited impatiently behind two guys with 15 items each, wondering why Safeway doesn’t have some self-checkout lanes but does have automatic change dispensers so that the cashiers, what, don’t have to count coins to make change??  WTF, Safeway? And then I didn’t feel so very thrifty after all because now I was $7.59 into the slaw, not counting the ingredients I already had when I started this odyssey seven hours ago making the slaw.

Fifteen minutes later, I arrived home and went straight to and looked up celery seed and discovered that they sell an EIGHT (8!) OUNCE BAG of whole Indian celery seed for $3.89!, which is a lot of celery seed to buy at one time, considering I only use one teaspoon at a time for pepper slaw, but I could keep that giant bag of celery seed in the freezer and refill the stupid little McCormick jar for years to come.

….Anyway. You add a generous teaspoon of celery seed to the bowl o’ veggies and spices (remember the veggies and spices? Probably not because it was like 20 minutes ago) and pour the cooled dressing over it all, then you stir and stir and stir and stir and stir some more to make sure everything is evenly mixed. It will look like this: 

Finally! Pepper slaw!
Finally! Pepper slaw!

Then throw it  in the ‘fridge and let it chill for at least a  few hours because the flavors will blend, the mustard and celery seed will soften, and it will taste super-good.  Heck, leave it in overnight of even for a couple of days. It lasts in the ‘fridge for forever.

To recap: Buy your spices at Penzey’s. Visit My Grandmas’ Recipes for the actual recipe. Do as I say, not as I do. Got that?