About 4 years ago I got into a pretty bad car accident. I totaled my touring van on the 101 freeway in the slow lane. At the time, I had just gotten back from a tour of the UK and had moved to a new place and was not getting my car insurance notices reminding me to renew my policy. Those were going to my old address and since I had paid for a year of my liability insurance upfront in one lump sum, I was not in the habit of paying monthly. This perfect storm of logistical misfortune resulted in me losing my license for one year due to not being insured at the time of the accident.
The wreck was harrowing. I will not go into detail, but I ended up getting hit and spinning out of control on the freeway. When the smoke cleared and I was still alive, the ambulance driver asked if I wanted a ride to the hospital. I asked if he was gonna pay for it, and when he said no, I told him that I’d rather bleed to death at the scene of the accident than go into debt for the ambulance ride.
I lost my license for one year, but in all honesty I really did not want to get behind the wheel again any time soon. I rode my bike to work and took public transportation. If I had a musical gig, a friend or a fan would often offer to drive me. I never seemed to be without a ride to something band related. I remained car less for 4 years and even moved twice in that time with the help of my friends. I got used to taking the metro and the bus. I secretly enjoyed being driven to work by the Metro transit bus drivers where I could relax and read a book and just sort of arrive at work on time every day. When my co-workers had to leave their desks at 11am to move their cars, often coming back to the office whining about another parking ticket I would secretly bask in the glory of not owning a 4 wheeled money black hole.
The only real drawback to not having wheels was dating. It is not sexy to be without a car in LA. And even less sexy to get picked up by your girlfriend every time you want to do something together. Eventually I knew I would fall in love with someone who lived far away and it would not be long before I would be wishing I was able to have someone special in my passenger seat. Eventually I was able to save enough money to buy a used car and this spring I spent most of my time looking for ‘for sale’ signs in car windows and weighing my options. I only had $1,500 to spend and I wanted something that got good gas mileage that I could load my music equipment in for playing shows out of town. Eventually I found a cute 1986 Honda hatchback that got 40 MPG and ran like a champ. As soon as I test drove it, I was in love. It was a manual, which I wanted…I hate automatic transmissions with a passion, and it was in decent condition for it’s age and looked like it had been well taken care of. I drained both of my bank accounts to buy it. I was finally getting a car. I was so excited.
After securing the sale, the guy I bought the car from wrote me up a bill of sale. There were issues with the registration, but he had paid it and gotten the car smogged and had given me the paperwork for the smog certificate to show the DMV to get new plates and tags for the car. He had an extension form with a big red number on it which is supposed to alert the cops that the car is indeed registered even if the tags are not current. The extension was taped to the windshield and would serve as a ‘hall pass’ until I could get to the DMV which I planned on doing the very next day. My plan was to drive to my aunts house in Thousand Oaks so that I could go to the more enjoyable and less crowded DMV near her place as soon as they opened the following morning.
Feeling accomplished and proud, I buckled up and turned the igniton. I put the car into first gear and eased out of the driveway and turned right onto a residential street. A few more turns and I was on Desoto headed to the 118 freeway. Five minutes into my first drive in over four years a CHP officer pulled up behind me and I saw the dreaded red police lights in my rearview. I was getting pulled over.
The officer asked if I had just bought the car. I told him I had. He asked for the paperwork. I told him the car was not in my name yet as I had just bought it 5 minutes ago. I told him I was heading to the DMV the next morning to take care of the transfer of title. He asked for my license and I gave it to him. He came back 15 minutes later and told me that my license was not currently valid. I told him it had been suspended for a year, but that was over 4 years ago. He said it had not been re-instated and that he would have to write me a ticket and impound my vehicle. He called a tow truck and 20 minutes later the car I had just drained my bank account for (I had .19 cents left in my checking and .2 cents in my savings) was on the back of a tow truck being hauled away to a CHP impound facility.
FML. FML. FML.
I called my aunt and while in a state of shock I managed to make out the cross streets of where the CHP had abandoned me. She drove out to pick me up and then the next morning we set about dealing with a Montana sized mess of red tape and financial hoop jumping. After an entire day of seeing an insurance agent to get an insurance policy and an SR-22 form, trips to the impound facility and trips to the CHP station, we found out that I needed to get my license re-instated to get the car out of impound. The next day I went to the DMV, issued them my SR-22 and paid the fees to get my license re-instated. I took and passed the test and they snapped a pic and I had a temporary license in my hands.
My aunt and I went back to the CHP station and showed them that I was 100% street legal. They called the impound facility and told them to release my car. We went to the impound facility and paid $300 in impound fees and storage charges to get my car back.
The following day I had to go to the DMV again to transfer the title and get my tags and new plates. I put the new plates on the car and stuck the reg tags on the back plate and finally, after 4 days of jumping through the flaming hoops of the DMV and the CHP I was finally street legal and owned a car. My aunt helped me pay for a tune up and oil change and she even filled it with gas. I drove home the following evening and thus began my new life as a licensed and insured California driver.
I wish the story could end here…but it doesn’t.
Three days after buying the car I got my first parking ticket…I wasn’t paying attention, I deserved it. I paid it over the phone the next day with my credit card…no big deal. A week later, I found myself driving around the streets near my home after a late night of designing vitamin labels with a client fruitlessly searching for parking on the side of the street that is not going to be cleaned the next morning at 8am. 45 minutes into it, I decide to just park on the wrong side of the street and set my alarm for 7:30am so that I can drag myself out of bed with the other poor souls who had to resort to doing the same thing to avoid a $68 street sweeping ticket. I make it up my stairs and into my room and immediately become distracted with something online. Hours go by and I end up crashing without setting my alarm. I wake the next morning at 10am in a panic. I know I already have a ticket. This means that the money I made the night before (a meager $60) is going to go directly to the ticket. I may as well had never earned the money…not so easy come, but very easy go. I decide to combat my feelings of despondence and become determined to earn more money as a way to fend off the dark feelings that were welling up in me. I drive to a nearby cafe to knock out some more graphic design work for another client. I note that the parking is 2 hour parking between 8am and 6pm. I park at 4:30pm and figure that 2 hours takes me past 6pm where I should be scott free. I finish my work and send off an invoice to my client for $75. Then I pack up my computer and head back to my car.
There is a parking ticket on my windshield.
Apparently I neglected to see that it is ‘permit only’ parking after 6pm and my ticket is another $68
I tally up my earnings and subtrack my losses. I am in the red negative $1. I muster up the strength to refrain from shooting myself in the face and head home a beaten man.
The end you say? If only it were. There is unfortunately a third act to this tragedy.
Today I had to get up and drive my guitarist to Playa Del Rey to meet with my manager in order for him to sign a management contract. He needs to be represented by our manager in order to attain a performing visa to stay in the country. He is Italian and his tourist visa is expiring in April. We have been doing everything we can to gather enough documents to keep him here so he can continue to make music and perform in The Brian Travis Band. We meet with my manager and the paperwork gets signed and notarized. We head back to Hollywood and park in front of his place. Thankfully there are no restrictions to park on the street near his apartment. I pop the hatchback and as I am taking my backpack out of the car, my guitar player has opened the hatchback and is pulling his guitar out of the car. As he is closing the hatch, it slips from his hand and the hatch slams shut shattering the entire back windshield of my car.
The End. (did I mention I have to appear in court next month for driving without a license!?!)
PS. Needless to say, if anyone out there can commiserate and/or would like to make a donation to help with the black hole of expenses that owning a car for less than one month has wrought upon me, your donation will be graciously accepted and I will send you a free signed BTB CD and you will be rewarded in the afterlife with virgins and/or hostess cupcakes. Relatives; if you would like to issue me an advance on my inheritance my paypal account is: email@example.com