Unexpected Obstacles and the CA DMV

Clerk: “That will be four forty.”

Long pause. Me:”As in, four dollars and forty cents?”

Clerk: “No, Miss, four hundred and forty dollars.”

Me: Gulp.

And THAT is how my trip to the DMV went yesterday.

After some grumbling and a few exasperated looks thrown at the clerk, I reached into my wallet and took out my credit card. At the moment, I didn’t have enough in my bank account to cover that amount.

“No, Miss, we do not accept credit cards.”


I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to vent my frustration directly at her-complete with harsh words and numerous expletives. My eyes welled up with a few tears, but I held back. I could not cry to the DMV woman. I couldn’t throw a temper tantrum like a two year-old. After all, it wasn’t her fault that I wasn’t aware an 8% use tax fee would come with the title transfer. I should have done my homework better.

It wasn’t about the money, really. It was about the embarrassment. I had been caught totally unaware; unaware and unprepared. It felt like having the wind knocked out of me, and the feeling made my face warm with shame.

I try to be smart about my money. I plan ahead each month, allocating my income to necessary bills and expenses, and whatever little I have left over goes into savings.  Each month I creep closer and closer to paying off the amount I still owe on my credit cards, and I do it with pride. This month, in particular, I had applied a larger than normal payment towards a credit card. Which, you better bet, was the first thing I thought about when the DMV woman told me she needed $440.

If I had known, I wouldn’t have paid off so much on the credit card. If I had known, I would have been able to pay the fee on the spot. If I had known, I wouldn’t look like a twenty-something mess who can’t pay what she owes.

Now I have to go right back to the DMV next month, to do the exact same thing I was just there yesterday to do. More of my time taken up, more rearranging of my work schedule to accomodate this, more little stressors added to the day.  I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir about resenting the DMV here.

That night, getting over the shock of the large amount of money I will have to pay was easier than soothing the sting of embarrassment I still felt. It wasn’t about the money, entirely, even though the amount of money was a big deal. It was about not being able to fulfill my adult role regarding financial responsibilities. It was about not being prepared for the unexpected. I felt defenseless and foolish.

After drowning my feelings in the form of pizza, and putting my big girl panties on, I accepted that my trip to the DMV didn’t go as smoothly as I had expected. I also learned that I can still throw a pretty good temper tantrum, even if it is after the fact and in the privacy of my own bedroom.

In a few weeks, I will get to march right back into that DMV, smile brightly, and hand them the money that I don’t want to give up and that I don’t want them to have. I get to woman up, and act like an adult. I will get to walk away a little bit poorer, a little bit smarter, and a lot less embarrassed.

Feel free to share your own experiences with obstacles, embarrassment, or the DMV. 🙂




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Dreamer. Adventurer. Proponent of well-being. Full of grit and faith.

5 thoughts on “Unexpected Obstacles and the CA DMV

      1. Possibly the first time anyone’s ever accused me of being an optimist… but… you’re welcome. 🙂


  1. OUCH. That shit happens. You are being awfully tough on yourself! We took our car in for a quick oil check before a driving vacation in June — $484 unexpected. FFS. The fact you are saving $$ and paying down your debt is awesome.


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