When I was a kid, I was notoriously fucking things up. I would forget to pay bills, or just neglected to pay bills, or just couldn’t pay bills. I had collectors calling me all the time, and they would intimidate me so badly that I was afraid to answer the phone half the time. Once, I inadvertently answered a collector’s call and then promptly placed the phone in the microwave and shut the door because I was so scared to speak to her. She called back and left a message on my answering machine that I’m preeeettttty sure was against their company’s Code of Conduct. It wasn’t that I was a grifter or anything like that. I just couldn’t get my shit together in my early years, like most of my friends.
Over a period of the last 15 years, I slowly dug my way out of that mess. I brought my credit score up from sub 500 to something reasonable that allowed me to purchase a car without a co-signer. Yes, making a good salary was part of that equation, but more so, it was just about getting to a point in my life where managing my finances and paying my bills on time didn’t feel like such an overwhelming burden. When Mr. 2.0 and I got married, we agreed that I would manage the bill paying process. Well, actually, he decided, and after much whining and gnashing of teeth, I relented. I HATED paying bills because it always left me feeling so sad and impotent. But over time, it became less of a painful agony and more of a pain in the ass – I hated spending the hour or two each month doing it, but I never had to worry about covering everything. In fact, before I left my corporate gig, I really never even paid attention to the balance of our accounts at all because I knew it was never really an issue, despite spending unbelievable amounts of money on booze and carry-out. That all changed when I left my job, but we tightened our belts considerably and so far, while we have nowhere near the expendable income we used to have, we’re still managing and paying bills is still just a chore, not torture. I felt as though I’d finally “arrived” at adulthood – look, I can pay my bills, no one is trying to get money from me and my credit score is closer to a really good bowling series rather than a really excellent batting average.
Which is all the more reason that I cannot BELIEVE I let my license plates expire. And not just mine – all of them. My son, who is 22 and a cop magnet with his beat up, one headlight, POS car is a ticket waiting to happen. Mr. 2.0, who has probably never driven on expired plates in his life. And me, who has had her fair share of hitting up the 24-hour kiosk for plate registrations late at night after signing up for sketchy and completely useless online insurance – but not recently! Not for years! I would like to exclaim that I have no idea how this happened, but of course I know. I got the email reminders, over and over again, telling me there was still time to renew online. And I pushed them to the side while I balanced everything else. And then I just forgot. So imagine my embarrassment, my sick déjà vu, when I walked out to my car at the store three days ago, parked right next to one of Fort Wayne’s finest, to realize my plates were over a week past due. I could tell Mr. 2.0 was disappointed because I got the, “Oh… honey…” and sigh. No problem, I thought, I’ll just jump online when we get home, renew the registrations and we’ll all keep copies of the receipt until the stickers are mailed. Except it turns out you’re not allowed to renew online if your plates are expired. With a giant storm rolling in and far too much work to do, I opted not to go directly to the 24-hour kiosk that day; to take my chances and hope we could all avoid getting ticketed for another day or two until I had time to drive out to the BMV.
This is not the end of the world. We were able to get everything pulled together today and by the time everyone gets home tonight, we’ll all be legal again. Although it was a careless mistake, it was easily fixed and thankfully we have the wherewithal to pay for the stickers (even if it does mean charging them). Fifteen years ago, not only would I not have had that kind of cash laying around, but I wouldn’t have had any credit card that could have withstood the charge, either. I’m not really sure where I’m going with this story, except to remind myself, and others, that sober or not, people fuck up. And sometimes life is messy and you spend the entire day trying to fix a stupid mistake that you’ll be certain not to repeat next October when you get the friendly reminder email that you could make things SO MUCH EASIER on yourself if you just keep your shit together a tiny bit.