What I learned this week…

I was pulled over this morning. The thing is, as soon as I saw the blues and reds coming up in the rear view, I basically knew what it was about. I’ve never entirely cured myself of the lead foot that’s afflicted me since dad first put me behind the wheel of a mid-1980s Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera when I was about twelve. I had a lot of horsepower and a wide open road and, well, one thing led to another.

My point is, I didn’t get pulled over because this particular trooper felt like being a jerk this morning. The guy was doing his job and just happened to be sitting somewhere where he got a good look at me being stupid.

Once we pulled off to the side of the road, I waited patiently, kept my hands visible on the steering wheel, didn’t fidget or reach around for things, and waited for him to come up alongside. I produced my registration, insurance, and driver’s license – while narrating what I was doing and where I was reaching; left rear pocket for wallet, glovebox for everything else.

Directly behind my driver’s license in my wallet is the license that the state of Maryland requires me to hold to purchase handguns. He obviously saw it. The trooper asked if I had any guns in the vehicle. No, sir. Hands back to a very visible place on the wheel. OK.

I sat quietly for about five minutes, waiting for someone, somewhere to report back that I have no current points, no history of violations, and I’m not sitting on a stack of warrants.

Once we confirmed all that, I was handed back my documentation, issued a warning, and told to be safely on my way.

Every word that passed between me and this particular trooper was civil and professional. I didn’t feel any compulsion to give the guy a hard time or make an already dangerous job more difficult. I didn’t want to make a point or try to capture the whole thing with my phone.

We were sitting there on the side of a two lane country road because I gave him a reason to put me there.

So what did I learn this week? Nothing new, just a good solid reminder that if you act like you’ve got half a brain in your damned head, accept that you too can be in the wrong, and don’t antagonize the officer who’s just trying to get through his day, an engagement with the police doesn’t need to result with rolling around in the ditch getting your dumb ass shot.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Electronic License Plates. My beloved home state of Maryland is launching a program to test “electronic license plates.” I have no earthy idea why bits of stamped tin that have been good enough and dirt cheap to make for more than a century needs to be made electronic – and more expensive, and trackable, and more prone to being damaged and needing replaced. It can’t possibly be as a means to make some state service less expensive or the process to receive it less onerous because God knows that’s not how we do things in here in Maryland.

Sleeping separately. Over the last ten years you can count on maybe all your toes and fingers how many nights I haven’t slept in the midst of dogs – some in the bed, some in crates, some loose on the floor, but always close enough to hear every snore and snort. With Maggie’s second accident in as many nights, though, I banished both dogs to the laundry room and their crates in wee small hours of the morning. They didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. I’m fairly sure the cat was fine with the arrangement, though. At least for the time being, this will have to be the new order of things. The alternative is planning to scrub the bedroom floor every night between 2 and 5 AM, which feels like a complete nonstarter for any number of reasons. Since we don’t have a definitive diagnosis yet there’s no way of telling if this is the short term fix or the long. In either case, it’s annoying and displeases me greatly.

Landlording. I bought a condo back in about 2001, fresh into my first professional job and figuring I’d be there for the long haul. Two years later, I was pulling up stakes for greener pastures and I’ve been renting the place out ever since. I’ve never been at risk of retiring off the rents received – once the property manager and inevitable repairs are paid for, it’s a break even proposition most of the time. I got a call this week that my property manager was winding down his business and I think that means it’s probably time for me to settle up, take back a little bit of equity, and finally let the condo go. There’s no one thing that’s really getting me out of the landlording business, but the steady drumbeat of needing to find new tenants, make repairs, replace appliances, and now the prospect of needing to learn to work with the quirks of a completely different management company are all combining to tell me it’s time to accept that the capital gains tax isn’t going to get any lower and move on.

How “common sense” regulations are applied in Maryland, or A proposal for common sense voting regulation…

On July 12th, the President of the United States remarked that “it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.” It’s a nice bit of hyperbole, but the fact is that federal law prohibits a firearms dealer from selling a handgun to anyone younger than 21. It also prohibits everyone who’s not a licensed firearms dealer from transferring a handgun to anyone younger than 18. Since the very thing he’s telling us is bad and easy to do is already illegal, it strikes me that he could have an enforcement problem rather than an insufficient legislation problem… but let me explain why I would say such a thing.

I only bring this up because if our elected leaders think it’s “too easy” to buy a lawful handgun, I’d happily invite them to try walking through the process here in my native Maryland. The first stop is a 4-hour training course which will run you about $100. This portion is waiverable for those who meet certain conditions – law enforcement officers, current and former military members, and current owners of one of Maryland’s “controlled” species of firearms. The next step is applying for the Maryland Handgun Qualification License. This requires a potential buyer to submit a set of fingerprints ($52.75) and an application to the State Police (an additional $50), then wait for up to 30 days while the application is reviewed. Before you’ve even set foot in a gun shop, the state has already dinged you for at least $102.75 in fees – and that’s just if you don’t need to take the class as well.

If your application for a Maryland HQL is approved, all that means is that you have been given permission by the state to go to a gun shop, select your handgun, and then send the state another application for their permission to actually purchase the firearm you desire. Then you wait and on the 8th day you may be allowed to actually pick up your firearm from the shop… or not. That depends entirely on the store you’ve purchased from. If the state has a longer-than-seven-day backlog (I’ve seen the backlog run as long as two months) in conducting their mandatory checks, some shops will wait for final release to the customer while others strictly observe only the seven day wait mandated by law. Oh, and don’t you dare think about trying to go through this process any more often than once per month.

So there you have it, from start to finish you could be looking upwards of a 60-day process filled with regulatory hoops in order to legally purchase a handgun. I can see how that might be far easier than walking into a bookstore and picking up the latest best seller or heading over to Best Buy to pick up a new laptop… or in a pinch, even walking into a library and checking out a book or using one of their computers. Very difficult tasks, indeed. Unless, of course, the president was talking about people who sell a firearm illegally. In that case, I don’t suppose any number of new laws or additional fees will be much of a bother to them since they’re not bothering to comply with the existing laws anyway.

I’m often curious how many of my fellow citizens might be convinced to support similar “common sense” regulations that impinged on their Constitutional right to vote by requiring state issued identification, a 4-hour voter’s training class, a $100 voting license, and only being allowed to vote one ballot per election cycle – so if you want to vote for president, forget about also voting in the down-ballot race for Senate, governor, or county commissioner. I hope I can be forgiven for thinking that if one freedom can be thus abridged, there shouldn’t be a problem placing similar checks on the others as well. It’s for our own good after all.

4 hours…

I took four hours off tomorrow afternoon. Normally that’s good enough reason for celebration, but in this case it’s time dedicated to hanging out with the fine men and women of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Come on… The filling out forms. The taking bad pictures. The standing in line. The standing in another line. The filling out more forms. And finally forking over a fistful of cash. That sounds like some real kicks on a Friday afternoon, right? If this goes as smoothly as everything else involved with this move, it should be finished with everything sometime next Tuesday. With the stack of paperwork I’m taking with me, I think I have all the bases covered… Which practically guarantees things will go horribly wrong in a new and interesting variety of ways.

Safer…

As part of the mind-numbing process of restoring my status as a citizen of the great State of Maryland, my one year old truck was subjected to a vigorous “safety inspection.” I can’t be the only person that things this is probably overkill for a truck that rolled off the assembly line less than 12 months ago, right? But still, a “senior tech” poked prodded, scanned, and test drove my ride to make sure it was fit for service on the roads. Personally, I assumed that as long as it could roll through the toll booth, Maryland would welcome it. Apparently that was wildly optimistic. Although everything was in good working order, it seems my front window tint offended the sensibilities of the fine men and women of the Maryland General Assembly and in order to pass inspection had to be removed. Fine. Done. Give me my certificate of inspection and I’ll be on the way… and $139.00 lighter in the wallet. That and the $50 bucks its going to cost me to get the tint reapplied. I know I certainly feel safer.

So now, we’re on to the last step in the process. That would be waiting on MVA to let me know they’ve received my titled from Toyota, so I can drive over there, hand over 73 different forms of ID, give them more money to send a title back to Toyota, and walk away with a newly minted license that says I live where I live. If this process wasn’t intentionally designed to be a giant pain in the ass, there is a room full of bureaucrats somewhere in Glen Burnie who have missed their calling.