Road and Bridge Tax

The United States had just celebrated the two-hundredth anniversary of our nations birth. Port Summerville had a big firework show, boat parade and barbecue. It was getting toward the end of the festivities and ran into the county clerk; Miss Odem as I was about to leave.

“John, I haven’t seen you in a while. Have you paid your road and bridge taxes this year?”

One of my biggest government pet peeves was the annual ritual of renewing and registration of automobile license tags. I went through the same routine every year, and gave my speech to the newest girl working there. The others stepped aside because they’d been through this before, —a rite of passage for the new girl. Every year, and without exception, it went like this.

“Hello, Sir, how may I help you?”

“I’m here to pay my road and bridge tax.”

The others that knew me started to snicker; they’d been through this before. They just stood and watched.

“I don’t understand, I’ve never heard of a road and bridge tax.”

I was about to get on a roll, and this poor young girl was the next victim.

“Let me ask you a question, —” as I glanced at her name tag, — “Rita, do you have a birth certificate?”

“Yes, I do.”

“OK, having established that, does the state know when I buy a vehicle?”

“Yes, they do, the vehicle is registered at the time of purchase, then titled.”

“Exactly, so conversely does the state have evidence when I sell a vehicle?”

“Yes, it is a transfer of title. I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your name.”

“St. John, John, it’s right here—,” then showed her, — “on this registration form. Now Rita, you said you had a birth certificate, and when you die, you get, —not you per se, —but someone gets a death certificate. Correct?”

“Yes, that is right.”

“You see Rita, while you are alive, from birth until death, the state issues two pieces of paper to prove you exist, or in the case of death, used to exist, and that’s that. Born, you get a piece of paper, and when you die… another piece of paper. What you do in the middle I suppose is your business.”

“Mr. St. John, there are others in line, can we please move along?”

“Rita, they can wait a couple of minutes. This valuable information might help you in your new career.”

About half of the people in line were friends, and a couple of them witnessed this annual rant and waited patiently, then I continued the education of Rita.

“Where were we?”

Irritated, she said, “You’re born then you’re dead.”

“Oh yeah, now let me continue to explain. Your birth certificate is like a new vehicle registration, and the death certificate, well, more like a vehicle transfer in a weird sort of way, and yes, another fee to the state. The death certificate, or in this case, the vehicle transfer analogy, should help explain my rationale.”

At this point, Miss Odem and the rest of the staff were about to pass out as I continued.

“You see Rita, the state issues all kinds of pieces of paper while you are alive, like a driver’s license, marriage certificate, and if that doesn’t work out… divorce papers. But like I said, only two pieces of paper have a shared commonality. One says ‘welcome’ and the other says ‘goodbye.’”

“Yes, Mr. St. John, but what does all this have to do with your vehicle registration?”

“My point exactly. Do you need to remind and pay a fee to the state every year, proof you exist by registering for a new birth certificate? Or for that matter, does someone that survives you, not necessarily you, but someone else after their demise need to pay another reminder fee that they are, well you know, —passed on?”

“No, I don’t think they do.”

“Then why should I re-register a vehicle year after year for an automobile the state knows full well I already own? They should call it like it is, a road and bridge tax.”

“I see your point. Would you like a receipt for your road and bridge tax?”

“No thank you, Rita, a receipt is a complete waste of paper and taxpayer money.”

“Is our business finished?”

“I believe it is. Thank you, Rita. See you next year.”

“I’ll be counting the days. Goodbye, Mr. St. John.”

The others almost fell to the floor laughing. I always felt a little bad when I put someone through this, but this message needed to be passed along to others. Can’t wait until next year.




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