The United States had just celebrated the two-hundredth anniversary of our nation’s’ birth. Port Summerville had a big firework show, boat parade, and barbecue. It was getting toward the end of the festivities when I ran into the county clerk; Miss Odem. As I was about to leave, she said, “Hello, John, I haven’t seen you in a while. Did you pay your road and bridge taxes this year?”
The biggest government pet peeves I had was the annual ritual to renew 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 who knew me snickered; they’d been through this before.
“I don’t understand, I’ve never heard of a road and bridge tax.”
“Yes, I know you haven’t, but you will.” 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 when purchased, then titled.”
“Exactly, so conversely does the state have evidence when I sell a vehicle?”
“Yes, it is a title transfer. I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your name.”
“Last name, St. John, first name, John, it’s right here —,” then pointed, — “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’s 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 end, used to exist, and that’s that. Born, you get a piece of paper, and when you die— another one.
“Mr. St. John, there are others in line, can we please move along?”
“Rita, they can wait, this valuable information might help you further along with your new career.” I knew most the people in line, and several have witnessed this annual rant and waited patiently, then I continued educating Rita. “Where was I?”
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 way, and another fee to the state. The death certificate, or in this case, the vehicle transfer analogy should help explain my rationale.” Miss Odem and the staff rolled their eyes as I continued. “You see Rita, the state issues all kinds of paper while you are alive, like a driver’s license, permits, marriage certificate, and if it doesn’t work out— divorce papers, but only two share a 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 to prove you exist by registering for a new birth certificate? Or for that matter, does someone who survives you, not necessarily you, but someone else after their demise needs to pay another reminder fee 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 I already own? They should call it like it is; a road and bridge tax.”
“I see your point. Do you want a receipt for your road and bridge tax fee?”
“No thank you, Rita, a receipt is a complete waste of paper and taxpayer money.”
“Is there anything else Mr. St John?”
“I don’t believe so. Thank you, Rita. See you next year.”
“I’ll be counting the days. Goodbye, Mr. St. John.”
I always felt a little bad when I put someone through that, but this message needed to be passed along to others. Can’t wait until next year.