A terrible thing happened the other day: I realized that I had failed to return the registration form and check needed to renew my car registration for another year.
How could I have been so stupid? A little research showed that I had written the $45 check, but a massive search of my home and office failed to produce the paper work that should have been returned by the DMV. Had I failed to mail out the check? Or had the DMV or Postal Service — two equally maligned organizations — failed to get the registration back to me?
At that point, a week before the expiration of the registration and the deadline for inspection of the car, it didn’t matter why or how I got in this position. A trip to the motor vehicle station at Bakers Basin Road — a renowned black hole of bureaucracy — would be required to extricate myself.
So I armed myself with the latest edition of U.S. 1, as well as some supplemental reading material in case the wait turned out to be even more horrendous than I expected, and headed off to Bakers Basin. I was pleasantly surprised. The wait was minimal. The receptionist directed me to the aisle for a registration renewals. The man at the counter immediately determined my problem: the check had never been received. The registration was about to expire but he could issue a new one on the spot — and direct the agency to ignore the check if for some reason it appeared. Equally important, I am sure, I could pay the $45 fee on the spot, by swiping the credit card through the handy scanner.
Within 10 minutes it was over. At that point, still clutching my reading material I thought I would take advantage of my location and get the car inspected. The wait for inspection was no worse — 10 minutes at most. It then took no more than five minutes to have the car checked out and a new sticker installed.
Problem (s) solved. I drove back to the office thinking not about the demise of our country but rather about how much worked, and worked so well. I have noticed a few other examples.
The case of the missing C of O. Ten years ago or so I had some renovation work done at the office. I got the permits from the West Windsor building department and hired a contractor. He did the work, I paid the bill — everything on time and within budget. Perhaps in our euphoria over the successful completion, neither of us thought twice about a final inspection and certificate of occupancy from the township.
That was 10 years ago. A month ago, for another minor transaction, I needed to show a C of O. A call to the West Windsor building department got the wheels turning. In a lot of minds, township building departments are ranked alongside the motor vehicle department and post office in efficiency. But for me, at least, this was another example of what really can work pretty well. Within a week all the sub-inspections — mandated by the state, incidentally — were completed and I had my C of O.
Meetings that connect. Any day now we are going to see a study showing that old fashioned real-world socializing has become more popular than ever. A few weeks ago I stopped by the reception at the PNC Bank in Plainsboro, celebrating the merger between the Princeton Chamber and the Plainsboro Business Partnership. It was a nice event, made even more effective by the fact that everyone had a name tag.
Everyone — even people like me who showed up without pre-registering — had a name tag. The secret: A portable name tag printer that enabled the chamber staff to print one out on the spot. It worked! I was so impressed that I asked the chamber for details on the device. It’s a Dymo LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo that can be purchased at places like Staples for about $200.
Want a book fast? Try a bookstore. While planning the cover story for this issue, we in the office were guessing about the content of cover subject’s Michael Shuman’s talk. The solution was to read the book. After dealing with the author’s “people,” who promised to send out a copy, we finally faced a hard deadline. Still no book. The solution: Drive to the nearest bookstore and buy it. Barnes & Noble not only had it in stock but also had a person who led us right to it.
Which is more current — the newspaper in your driveway or the morning talk shows? A few years ago I read an interview with a New York Times editor in which he concluded that the newspaper would have to concentrate its most ambitious efforts on substantial stories for which it could provide depth and perspective. In other words, cede the breaking news coverage to the electronic journalists.
That emphasis notwithstanding, I have been amazed at the amount of coverage that ends up on my front porch on a Friday morning, reflecting events of the day before that the morning news people are only beginning to understand. It’s the power of the modern web and its instantaneous news and photo transmission, coupled with the other worldwide web: super-fast web printing presses that — 160 years after they first rolled — still work amazingly well.