So here we are in Oregon, where littering carries a maximum fine of $6250 (assuming there are no associated costs like hazmat disposal or kombucha abatement), driving 100 mph carries a minimum fine of $1000, your cans recycle for $0.10 deposit per can, everything else carries a fee or a fine of some sort, there is no sales tax, it’s only safe for Specially Trained Fueling Technicians to pump your gas (except in rural counties after hours, where suddenly their years of training and expertise are not so needed), and all rules are strictly enforced with no loopholes. And if you think you found a loophole, you will soon learn that there is a rule that loopholes cannot exist in Oregon, and that the fine for thinking you found one is $20 (you can pay online).
In the Portland area, most vehicles are subject to an emissions test. Even hybrids. I normally do this every two years by going to the Department of Environmental Quality station in Hillsboro, waiting 10-20 minutes, having them mess with my ride for about two minutes, paying about $212 plus $25 for the privilege of them certifying that our eco-loving hybrid miraculously passes the emissions test, and being handed my new registration with stickers. I do in the expected ways with these items, and my vehicle is registered in good standing.
Unfortunately, thanks to the Covfefe-19 pandemic, the DEQ stations were locked down for three months. Wouldn’t you know it? A renewal notice arrived during the lockdown. The registration for my wife’s car, the hybrid, expired in the first week of July. DEQ stations only reopened on July 1. We were advised by the DMV that during that time, the police probably would not issue citations for expired tabs until some point when they might start. That sounded to me like a trap, so I made plans not to take this as a promise of extending the “maybe we won’t cite you” period into July.
Of course, once the stations opened again (some still have not, which made the situation oh, so much better), they were about as swamped as you might expect. The DEQ maintains a camera that posts shots of the lines on its website, but only out to the little booth where one checks in. A long street leads up to that booth. In the past, when I picked bad times to renew, I had about a twenty-minute wait just to reach the booth. Here in the ecological paradise of the Beaver State, the normal post-booth wait is about half an hour.
I checked the cameras several times over a few days. It seemed there were no good times of day, with fully jammed lanes after the booth. It never occurred to our precious DEQ to put a camera on the street up to that booth, of course. Oh, and we were warned that there was construction in the area, with flagpeople and closed lanes. Fantastic timing and coordination for maximum pain!
After giving the eco-constipation (econstipation?) about a week to clear, it became evident that the station might remain backed up for weeks or months. Whatever suck I would have to endure in order to assure that our hybrid vehicle complied with Oregon’s strict environmental controls so that I could pay Oregon’s exorbitant registration fees, I was slated to endure. Every day of delay meant a strong likelihood of being stopped by very aggressive local deputies and police. In an area where authorities set up stings just to nail people for not stopping at unmarked crosswalks to let Aunt Adna cross, the thinking person does not one single thing that could give the police probable cause for a stop. Here, and especially in Beaverton, motorists are The Hunted. My wife was once stopped and cited for having her license plate frame slightly obscure her license tabs. Gods only know how much jail time she might have gotten had she committed a truly meaningful violation.
I girded up my loins, which was its own problem. One thing that the DMV’s Founding Fathers & Mothers do not seem to have considered is that older people risk serious urinary distress by being stuck in an inescapable line for two hours. It’s bad enough for men, who have easier options than women. I set out for the DEQ even so, fully prepared to bail on them at the first sign of an eterna-line. On the first trip, I saw cows before I realized I’d taken the wrong road northward. Just as well; bladder full. Normally that would not be so stressful, but bear in mind also that there are few public restrooms now, and that I wouldn’t call most of them safe. All the way back home, check map, visit restroom, back on the road. This time, just in case, I brought an empty plastic beverage bottle with a screw-top. (I had it figured that if I had to use this for emergency relief efforts, I could shield the area from view and no one would be the wiser.) One hour consumed.
After another half hour’s northward driving–passing in sight of daunting lane closures certain to cause delays along the main arterial–I managed to drive to the correct location. Past the flagpeople. Follow the DEQ detour signs. In case anyone was too stupid to observe those, there were two masked persons waving DEQ signs and pointing where to turn.
I’m glad I pay money so that even morons can be told where to turn in order to pay their registration and emissions fees.
So I turned up that street, compliant with the moron-helpers, hoping for a distant glimpse of the Booth Beyond Which There Remains Half An Hour Of Dicking Around Waiting. I saw the end of the line, with a little ridge ahead and no idea how far past it the booth might be. Offhand, it looked like the back of the line was somewhere near Olympia, WA. Faced with the choice of having to commit to the line and hope, or get the hell out of there, I consulted my bladder. It said: “Do it and perish.” With calm aplomb, I turned in to a vacant parking lot where I could exit the other way. I would have to try using something called “DEQtoo.”
The eco-paradise has gone a little ways in the Idaho direction (in Boise, there are emissions vans at nearly every gas station) by farming testing out to local auto-related businesses. I had distrusted this possibility enough to first attempt all the previous bullshit, but having made said attempt and met with futility, I would now have to attempt this new form of bullshit. (Not bullshit, you say? Oh, really? Since when is a six-year-old hybrid car with less than 80,000 miles on it going to flop the emissions test? My thirty-year-old pickup truck passes the emissions test with flying colors, but at least testing it is justified for strict eco-protection and eco-harmony (and to produce eco-money). If the eco-paradise really were concerned about ecology rather than money, and wanted to serve the public, they’d just state that hybrids under a certain age and below a certain mileage were automatically considered to pass the emissions test this year, thanks to Covfefe-19-related headaches.
Oh, no, but then they wouldn’t get to enforce this almost universally pointless test on vehicles certain to pass it, and thus would forgo all those $25 fees? Okay; I realize Oregon never, ever, ever met a fee it could live without. Then charge me the damn fee already, make me swear to the mileage, and state that at least for this year in this situation due to eterna-lines at the DEQ, all qualifying hybrids are considered to have passed. Then take my $212 to register the car, send me my tabs to stick on my license plates, issue my renewed registration, and let me forget that you exist for two more years.
We couldn’t have that, could we? No. Entirely too easy.
Under DEQtoo, a for-profit auto-related enterprise (a Jiffy Lube, for example) does the test, charges you whatever they charge you, and sends the results to Salem. What, you were told Oregon is Deeply Socialist? Odd socialism, this, farming out the means of production to private companies. Off I went to Jiffy Lube, where no one was wearing any masks or bothering with any form of social distancing. I love how the enforcement mechanisms in Oregon are so strict for everything except a Governor’s order pursuant to a serious pandemic public safety hazard, in which case it’s optional and people can just do whatever. Oregon is more prepared to enforce a tiny obstruction of part of a license plate than it is to keep a dangerous disease from spreading.
The process at Jiffy, presuming one doesn’t get Covfefe-19, isn’t too complex. You pull your car in, they scan it and collect all your information, they run the test, you pay them $20 for doing the test and sending the information to the DMV so that the DMV can now charge you the $25. (You didn’t really think that the DEQtoo fee replaced the emissions test fee, did you? If you imagined this, clearly you have never lived in Oregon.)
This took about twenty minutes. The kid handed me a piece of paper telling me what to do next in order to check on my test and complete registration online. He scrawled “WWW.DEQTOO.COM” in magic marker, to let me know where I should navigate online.
Of course, he didn’t even know the correct URL. It was http://www.deqtoo.org. While this did not daunt me terribly, it was just one more simple disservice they offered with a smile. Once I navigated to the correct website, I enjoyed the miracle of online renewal. First, of course, I had to pay DEQ to issue me a certificate of having passed their emissions test. I had to give them a bunch of information they already had. Having purchased this certificate, I was eligible to renew. I had to give them a bunch more information they already had plus some they didn’t. After about half an hour of dildoing around with these websites, I finally paid all the necessary fees, printed the necessary forms, and was told they would mail my tabs the next business day.
And that’s just how we roll nowadays here in Oregon.
2 thoughts on “Pandemic vehicle registration in the eco-paradise that is Oregon”
This is depressing.
A version of the Peter Principle thrives in Oregon. Government has grown to its point of maximum inconvenience coupled with incompetence, a fabulous combination.
Sign of the times: “I pay money so that even morons can be told where to turn in order to pay their registration and emissions fees.”
The morons elect morons who build moronic systems to manage morons who will elect new morons.
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What I was really hoping for, Jason, was that our authoritarianism would finally show us a good side: enforcement of mask wearing in the standard Oregonian fashion, which means strict, sneaky enforcement. I was hoping for plainclothes cops going into grocery stores and issuing citations, for example, to the asshole couple (plus Junior, his surly glare speaking volumes about his future outlook) today in Safeway just ignoring the mask rule and not getting in any trouble at all. But we don’t. We do, however, get people to wave direction flags so that all the people backed up in the DEQ’s small intestine won’t have to miss any of the potential testees who cannot read basic signs.
I’m not fundamentally hostile to government as a concept, but I really hate when it’s just stupid, or when it picks on everyone but who it should.