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The Price of Aggravation vs. The Cost: A Study in Bipolar Economics   Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I had to make another dreaded trip to San Francisco Superior Court for an ongoing saga because someone stole the registration sticker from my license plate almost a year ago.  I was constantly being stopped by the police and given tickets even though my car really was legally registered.  For an entire year I fought with the California Department of Motor Vehicles to get a replacement sticker,  but nobody could figure out if they should charge me again, and if so how much, because of all these tickets of which I was now curator.  It had become a maddening circle of bureaucracy that can only happen when you are dealing with city and state workers striving to punish California for their own shortcomings.  Finally I just decided to wait until it was time to re-register my car and start fresh.

Finally the big day had arrived.   However, those tickets from constantly being hauled over to the side of the road because I didn’t have the little sticker and the cost to clear them was astronomical.  I was told I could wipe them all out, but I had to prove I had that little sticker which was stolen a year ago that nobody would give me!   All in spite of the fact my car was legally registered the entire time!  So if I wanted to update my registration, I had to pay an ungodly sum.  I could not win.

But I wanted this not so funny Comedy of Errors over with.  I didn’t care how much it cost or what I could do to possibly reduce it.  It just had to end.  So I went back in a week when I had the correct amount of money, but the penalties went up even higher or a new ticket was added to this putrid witch’s brew, so I’d have to again wait until I had even more money.   At this juncture I needed to be squired around in a wheel chair with oxygen tanks attached to the back I was so distraught.

It became a never ending cycle of prescription strength frustration eating away at my Bipolar mind.  I started mumbling to myself each time I approached  the courthouse that this time might be the time I lose it, forcing a cop to haul me kicking and screaming to jail, which is only an elevator ride away from good ole room 145.  Just knowing I was about to come in contact with a lazy overpaid city clerk who rejoices in giving you bad news you can barely hear through the dirty plexiglass , which they refuse to repeat, made every muscle in my body stiffen.

Finally I heard that if you join AAA you can avoid the DMV all together and handle vehicle registration right at your local office, which was two blocks from mine.  So sure enough I went in and was taken right away.  By now the sum I owed was over twelve hundred dollars.  This was not including the six hundred I sent the DMV weeks ago with the standard re-registration paperwork they forward me every year.  However, not surprisingly, they never re-registered my car or issued my new stickers.  They just cashed my check.  For all I know some unkept nasty DMV worker with an “if they won’t pay me enough I’m gonna take it” attitude took a trip to Reno and lost it all on the slot machines, which have the absolute worst odds possible in the degenerate world of gambling.

I didn’t care.  I wanted it to be over.  I was going to pay whatever it took right then and there.  The AAA clerk told me it was a mistake, that I might be overpaying.  I didn’t care.  I wanted that fucking sticker.  Resolving this was worth any amount of money to me.  He looked bewildered.  Nobody could understand why I would blindly pay such a hefty price.  But to make this go away once and for all, I would have thrown in my best Swiss watch as part of the deal, if I hadn’t sold it the day before to pay for my re-registration.

And now finally I have my registration tags.  I do not bemoan the money.  I feel free to drive my car and not have to constantly look in my rear view mirror for a CHP pulling me over and informing me my car doesn’t have the proper little sticker then slap me with another ticket.  After a year of that it’s worth every single penny.   Many would say I had to be mentally ill to blindly pay that amount.  Of course they would be right, as I am Bipolar II.  But I’m not crazy.  Crazy is running into the Courthouse with a baseball bat, smashing in the plexiglass at window number two in room 145, and dragging the bloated bastard of a clerk out through the shards of glass.  Then, sit on him, grab him by the neck and say, “Now, I’d sure appreciate it if you can give me one of those little red stickers for my license plate.  Otherwise I’m going to take you out to my car, pull off the licence plate and pin you to the back of it.  Do you understand me?”

So what is crazier,  pay the money and fix the problem, not matter how unfair? Or, act like a wild animal and be taken off to a cage?  In the Bipolar world, sometimes we do things that may puzzle others.  But to us they make perfect sense and demonstrate excellent impulse control.

Years ago I remember being in a deli with my grandfather.  I ordered a sandwich but he wasn’t hungry.  The waitress bought him coffee and a sandwich anyway, in spite of the fact he didn’t order anything.  He just pushed it off to the side and we continued our conversation.  I asked him why he was not sending it back and refusing to pay for it?  He told me the amount of aggravation it would cause compared to the price of the food just wasn’t worth it.  As a Bipolar man, I have never forgotten that and it’s served me well.  Sometimes you just can’t put a price on overpaying.