Yes, you’re right–you’re wrong

Georgia license plate courtesy GA Department of Natural Resources

Last Wednesday I went with Bill to our county tax commissioner’s office to cancel a license plate. The week before Thanksgiving Bill’s brother Dan and sister-in-law Elaine bought our 2014 Honda® Accord and we called the tax office to find out how to deal with the sale. We were told that as long as the new owners had insurance, we could cancel ours and that once they registered the car in their home state, we could cancel the license tag here. Well, not really.

The problem is that if you cancel your car insurance before you cancel your license plate, even if you don’t own the car anymore, you are technically operating a vehicle without insurance, which, of course, is against the law. In fact, apparently we’ll be getting a letter this week from the state of Georgia saying that because of the violation we are subject to a fine. Luckily we were served by a very understanding employee at the tax office who explained that despite what we were told on the phone, it was all wrong, and then kindly said that she would waive the fine. It’s one of those catch-22 situations where Dan & Elaine couldn’t register and get license plates for a car that they didn’t own and we couldn’t cancel the Georgia plates until they were back home and registered.

Of course, moving to France won’t exempt us from those “you can’t get there from here” situations. Generally to rent an apartment there you must have a bank account and to open an account you must have a permanent address such as the apartment you’ve rented. Gotcha! Fortunately for us our landlords are used to renting to international guests so not yet having a bank account there was not an issue.

At the tax office here I tried to imagine what it’s going to be like dealing with government offices in Carcassonne. From what I’ve read, it won’t really be all that different. You start by taking a number and then you wait…and wait…and wait. Once it’s your turn you explain why you are there, find out that what you believe to be right is actually wrong, and then what other papers you need to bring back the next day to resolve everything. We understand that if you bring every official document you own with you, plus a copy to leave behind, you’ll be a hit with every government office you visit. Then to be popular with any employee you encounter, it seems to be important to gently explain that you have a problem and could this person please solve it for you. Different culture, same result. At the end of the day everybody goes home happy.

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