The VI BMV
This little drawing kinda says it all about today. A surly peacock. Why do they always look angry?
Let me tell you that living on an island like St. Thomas isn't all butterflies, flowers, sand, seas, and rum punch.
Practical things need to be done. Sometimes that involves other people. Today it was the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
If you engage with any government agency, anywhere, you need to have patience.
When you're dealing with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles on St Thomas, you need to store up bucketloads of patience, a smidgen of perseverance, and a hip-flask full of whiskey (or rum) before you stand in line.
Here's what the Virgin Islands BMV says its vision is:
"Our vision is to establish a model of Bureau of Motor Vehicles administration that is comparable to any jurisdiction."
Well, that's high falutin.
Okay - let me compare the VI Bureau of Motor Vehicles with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT).
I've recently had the honor of using the "services" in both places, so I think I have a pretty good perspective.
First, because the ADOT website is clear, I knew I would need an emissions test, I went down to the ADOT - Emissions Testing Facility. I pulled into the line and waited my turn. I think there were about three cars in front of me.
When I got to the testing station, a youngish guy asked me to take a seat while he put the car through its paces. I sat for about five minutes as the machines whirred. I watched the flashing lights, graphs, and readouts of the magical electronic evaluation system do their job. I paid about seventeen dollars and walked away with my certificate of squeaky cleanness.
I then drove about 1/4 mile to the BMV office. I walked through the door and went to a well-signed table that said, "Information." I went to that table, and a friendly person said, "Sir, you need to stand in the green line," as they pointed to a green line on the floor.
"Ah, thank you very much," I said. I can understand green, and I know what a line is. Perfect.
I waited in the green line for about 10-15 minutes. The line was pretty long, but they seemed to be working through customers systematically and efficiently.
When it was my turn, I sat in front of a young lady who helped me through the process of transferring the title of my father's car into my name and registering the vehicle. The whole process, start to finish, including vehicle emissions testing and travel time, took between thirty and forty minutes tops.
I walked out with a brand new title and registration with time left over for a beer.
St Thomas on the other hand was, shall I say, a little bit different.
We've done this several times before, so I thought we had it covered.
We took the old jalopy up over the hill from Magens Bay, through Charlotte Amalie and down to the Department of motor vehicles. We got there about 11:30, and I proudly pulled into the inspection area. The guy didn't even turn around. I could have run him over.
He eventually came to the car window and asked for the registration document.
Okay, I didn't understand him first. It sounded something like "I've got cotton balls in my mouth because I'm trying out for the Marlon Brando's role in The Godfather. So I probably can't articulate the words necessary to communicate. Please interpret my mumbles as - pass me the registration, my good man."
How we discovered it was the registration he wanted is beyond me. We just handed him every scrap of paper we had on hand, and he pointed at the right one.
Then he walked to the front of the car and said - "Turn on the lights, OK, Left Signal, OK, Right Signal, OK, Horn, Beep, OK." Enough with the front of the car, he went to the rear of the car and said, "Brakes, OK, Left Signal, OK, Right Signal, OK, Reverse, OK.." He stamped his seal of approval on the registration and gave us a slip of paper.
Then, again, he did his best Marlon Brando impression and told us to back across town to a building by "The Fort." I knew where "The Fort" was but had no clue what he was talking about. I was afraid to ask for more directions because I didn't want him to make me an offer I couldn't refuse.
The stamped piece of paper in hand, we hared off back across town, for what purpose we were still not sure, to that non-descript government building near "The Fort." We still didn't know why we were going, but we went anyway.
There was some debate as to whether it was before or after "The Fort" and in what proximity it was to "The Fort." So we headed instinctively to someplace close to the Police Department.
Andrea said, in her determined authoritative voice, "I've got this."
She stoically wandered into the government building, and was immediately x-rayed and had her phone confiscated. I'm sure, just when she thought she would never see the light of day again, she emerged unscathed, bewildered, but proudly clutching the now twice stamped document. We took our pirates treasure, loaded up the Jeep, and made our way back across town.
She discovered, only by chance, they had to check if there were any warrants, violations, or funny pictures of us on the internet.
When we got back across town to the BMV there are no instructions as to what to do or where to go; people were just milling around aimlessly. We had to ask one of the customers what the first steps were. I couldn't see the process/directions posted anywhere. Finally, we co-milled around with people who looked like they were all going in one direction. It was like that Apple Commercial in 1984.
It took about ten minutes to turn the paperwork into an incomprehensible void. It could have been from a science fiction movie. The woman at the counter logged our information into her mysterious master log book and gave us a number.
Our number was 109. Then we heard a disembodied voice say, "Number 87, come to window number three." Yup - we're in for the long haul.
I have to say; there was no rhyme or reason for the order they were calling numbers. By the time we thought they would be coming to number 109 they jumped and called number 110, then 111, then 108, and again called number 87. There is no way to tell how long we'd have to wait.
It was close to 2:20 pm before we heard our magic number. They closed at 2:30 pm today.
We had a small party before lodging ourselves firmly in front of window number #2. We were able to get away with paying only $180 for the entertainment we enjoyed at the VI BMV today.
I would say this BMV is the most inefficient and shoddily run organization on the island, but I fear there are a lot of places here that fit that bill.
On the bright side
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