The Maryland MVA and the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz

| April 28, 2014
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….or, you could just go to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration and get a high paying job with a pension without the trip to see a Wizard.  No thought process needed–just an innate ability to say “no” and abject refusal to consider anything that might be considered common sense. If you have the ability to dial a phone and rotate in an office chair without getting up to address a pissed off customer, please apply for a management position.

Oh, how I wish this was satire; but sadly, it is the truth.

My Maryland MVA experiences

photo 1-1In August of 2012, I had a run in with the drones in the Annapolis MVA while trying to renew a permit for my daughter. While common sense might suggest that a permit issued by the MVA might be easily renewed (after all they issued it), it was not to be. It took 5 trips each with different documents that were “required”; but changed with each drone. I was told that a US Passport was not a valid for of identification. I was told that a US Social Security card combined with a driver’s permit were not acceptable. I was told they needed bank statements. I was also told that a utility bill (for a 16 year old) would be acceptable.   All this was to renew a permit that very office had issued 2 years before. In the end, someone who was monitoring the Twitter feed for the MVA realized the absurdity and stepped in.

Fast forward to 2014

In January, my son was involved in an accident and totaled a car. We turned the car and title over to Geico Insurance, cashed a check and returned the plates to the MVA.  It all seemed good.

Until I received the letter. The letter said that because I failed to maintain insurance on a car I did not own, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration had fined me $150 and will continue to fine me $7 per day unless I can prove otherwise.  I called the MVA and was told to bring in a “total loss letter” to the local MVA and they’d take care of it. Little did I realize that this was merely a standard operating procedure of the MVA–pass the buck and make it someone else’s problem.

Easy enough. I called Geico and they sent out a letter right away showing the date of the loss.

Today, I went to the MVA hoping for the best. The receptionist did not give me too much confidence when she said “those letters are never good.” But I had spoken with the MVA and had what I needed. I was sure of it!

But no!  The clerk in booth 4 at the Annapolis MVA insisted that a letter from Geico Insurance (an organization approved to insure cars in Maryland BY Maryland) was not acceptable. But it was on their letterhead I pleaded. Nyet–I needed to have an original signature. But you can see when the title was transferred in your computer right? Yes, but no! No original signature, no help!

At that point, I realized I’d have a better shot at pleading my case to the wall. The clerk at booth 4 was not paid nearly enough to utilize common sense.

photo 4-1I went to the Branch Manager who took her time finishing up her personal phone call (unless “I love you” is now the MVA approved method of ending a call) and wheeled around with a glare.  I explained my dilemma and very authoritatively asked “who told you that?”  I told her the clerk in window 4 was responsible. She wheeled around in her chair again, made a secret coded PA announcement, whispered a few things in the phone, wheeled around toward me again and said, “you need an original signature.” Mind you, she never got up from her chair this whole time.

I asked why this was so difficult; and the manager simply waved her hand, shrugged her shoulders, and wheeled her back to me. I was a beaten man. On my way out, I spoke with a woman who was having the same issue with a different insurer. This was her fourth trip.

Geico is sending me a signed letter now ( I asked if the CEO could please prick his finger and place a blood thumbprint on it; but they assured me that would not be necessary), and I fully expect the MVA to change the rules again by the time I try to go through this exercise again. Anyone have any guesses as to how many trips I will need and how many hours will be lost?

But why is the Maryland MVA so inept?

But I wonder how the Maryland MVA even passes muster with the State and legislature. The administration breeds contempt and encourages mediocrity.

. And the MVA can’t even do that!

Their self-serve kiosks apparently cannot operate without an employee. Well, that is when they operate at all. Why are they there?

If the standard answer is “no” to anything but the most routine transaction, why not be up front about it rather than waste peoples’ time? Even more disturbing is the “because I said so” mentality that pervades the Maryland MVA in Annapolis.

Evens more perplexing is how can a State that likes to think they are progressive (marijuana reform, gay marriage, minimum wage increase, etc) can perpetuate mediocrity?

Maybe the answer is that all of the big wigs don’t need to deal with the Maryland MVA like us peons. I saw Governor Martin O’Malley tweeted a photo of his son, William, learning to drive–did the Governor and his son deal with the clerk in window 4 or the manager who refused to get off her chair? Or did the MVA come to them?

Have you had a similar experience? Leave a comment! If you think I am on the mark, please share this or tweet it. Until next time….

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Category: Editorial, OPINION

About the Author ()

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news--and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009. John's background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.
  • Tim Hamilton

    The employees at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration are the ones who give state employees their bad rap. Go to their Facebook page and read the scathing reviews. Person after person refer to the MVA employees’ nastiness and unprofessionalism. I know that the job can be grueling, but they did accept the position willingly. So do it or don’t do it. But don’t be nasty and deliberately unhelpful. MVA employees represent everything that is wrong with bureaucracy.