Tuesday, February 12, 2002

THE BIG CITY jabs its more complacent residents periodically to remind them who's boss. We love our little corner of Capitol Hill, but it's easy to forget that this isn't Chevy Chase.

My wife got a one-two (three? four?) punch when she went to renew the validation stickers for the license plates of the car she rarely drives. First she tried to use the District of Columbia's Web site, but it kept insisting there was an error in the vehicle identification number. Then, with time running out, she mailed in a check. The check got cashed, but (you're probably ahead of me here) no tags were sent. The helpful customer-service representative on the phone could find no record of any check, and, of course, the burden of proof was on Jacqueline.

So Jacqueline paid the bank to fax and mail her a copy of the canceled check. The fax was illegible, and the mailed copy took its sweet time. She was past the deadline when she went to the DMV office (a treat of its own kind), but that document did the trick and she got the stickers.

The stickers were in place for four days when the Bad Guys came by with their tin snips and cut the corners off the plates to get them. Sticker theft is not a new problem, but this modus operandi apparently is. As recently as December, a victim of the metal-cutting approach wrote to Dr. Gridlock (a Washington Post columnist on driving and transit issues) and the Doctor said he had never before heard of such a thing. (He heard of it plenty right after that.)

So now it's a race against the cops. D.C. history would seem to indicate that the same police officers who let crimes like that happen will be much more diligent when it comes to harassing the victims.

We cursed a lot about all of the above, but all in all our D.C. crime record isn't bad. In addition to the sticker heist, Jacqueline's previous car was broken into outside my previous Hill apartment (stolen: cassette tapes with purely sentimental value) and my previous car was broken into twice, once outside that apartment (stolen: a very cheap car stereo) and once in the Washington Times parking lot in Northeast Washington (a failed theft attempt).

And the only bad guys I am currently battling, at least outside the medical community, are the assholes at my gym who don't seem to understand that locker rooms have lockers. While they shower and steam and Jacuzzi, they leave their clothes and shoes and other gear on the floor. The locker room is one big laundry hamper. This wasn't happening when I first joined, but suddenly everybody but me Got the Memo.

I'm well on the road to being beaten up. I've already tossed one pile in with the dirty towels and thrown my own dirty towels on top of another pile. (What? Oh — I just saw the pile there and figured that's where we're supposed to throw our shit!)

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