I didn’t intend to break the law. It was a crime of omission, which I committed because I’m forgetful, and honestly, sometimes a little dumb.

I was living my life blissfully unaware of my fugitive status. Then one day, out of nowhere, it hit me — like remembering I owed someone an email six years ago or that my kids have a half-day and I’m already 10 minutes late picking them up — that I hadn’t updated my car registration in a while.

Like, a long while.

How long had it actually been, I wondered. How long had I been driving all around the valley in a vehicle that could have, and probably should have, been impounded? I crept around to the back of my car like a minor character in a horror movie who is about to turn a corner and come face-to-face with an ax murderer, and, through laced fingers, glanced at my license plate. My heart dropped to my bowels as I read the digits on the tags — 09 21.

My registration was two years out-of-date.

I don’t know for sure how this happened, but I think that years ago, in an effort to be a good person and live a greener lifestyle, I opted for paperless registration renewal reminders. Then, I have to assume, the reminder landed in my promotions folder, spam or just general inbox that currently contains 51,815 unread emails. Anyway, I never saw it.

This was the explanation I planned to offer to the judge and jury when I was inevitably tried in a court of law. But I knew this would not be defense enough for an acquittal — my peers probably all have up-to-date plates — and I prepared myself for the worst as I went to my computer and pulled up the Utah Department of Motor Vehicles registration renewal page online. I expected to be hit with a major fine and a court date.

But what I was actually given was a notice that explained that so much time had passed since my last renewal, I would need to go to the DMV in person. This was a punishment even worse than I had imagined.

I once spent an entire afternoon in a windowless room in the Longmont, Colorado, DMV waiting for my number to be called. It felt as though each patron was taking a full hour at the single registration desk. I was living the infamous DMV scene in the “Zootopia” movie.

As time passed, I felt my youth slipping away. My phone, which had been fully charged when I walked in, died after three hours of scrolling. The patrons sitting behind me, who had initially been engaged in juicy conversations, ran out of things to talk about. We sat together in painful boredom until, at last, I heard my number announced over the muffled sound system. I’m pretty sure the sun had set.

I was reliving that memory when I scheduled an appointment at the Draper DMV. The morning of the appointment I said my goodbyes to my family, still thinking there was a good chance that the DMV employees would drag me out of the building and into the back of a squad car. I pulled up to the parking lot and spent a minute contemplating what I was about to do. I Googled “prison visitation” and then “average DMV wait time” before checking in online, then braced myself for what was to come.

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The website had given me a number and instructed me to wait for my number to appear on the digital board in the waiting room before approaching a station. To my surprise, my number was already on the board of the large, spacious and very clean waiting room when I walked in. I was going to face my fate sooner than I thought.

I made my walk of doom toward the DMV employee behind my assigned station, then placed all my outdated documents on the counter between us. I launched into the explanation I had rehearsed after watching a few episodes of “Law and Order,” and then finally confessed the problem at hand, my lapsed registration.

“No problem,” she said, then found my information in the system, told me how much I owed, processed my payment, and handed me my new tags within 20 seconds.

In a state of dazed disbelief, I left the DMV five minutes after I had walked in, handcuff-free. I was overjoyed to not be incarcerated or thrown into a dank pit, and I gleefully attached the new decals to my license plate.

But I also had some hard questions to ask myself.

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How had I escaped what should have been my fate? How will I make sure I don’t accidentally archive the 2024 renewal reminder? Had I momentarily entered a parallel universe where time and space bent and bureaucracy was efficient?

And, perhaps most troubling of all, am I now a fan of the Department of Motor Vehicles?

I contemplated these philosophical quandaries as I drove home, shiny new decals gleaming, and fresh registration documents in my glove box.

Ultimately, I could only answer my final question. Yes, I am a fan of our DMV, because it might be the best in the world. At the very least it’s better than Colorado’s, and that’s what really matters.

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