Let’s Go to the Photographic Evidence

I spent some quality time at the DMV office last week. Alas, not the one in Putnam County, but that’s probably my mistake.


Our 14-year-old company vehicle. The plates are not 14 years old, but the age of the vehicle could be key to whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo requires they be replaced. Is the plate legible and readable?

I discovered that despite the huge advances in computing and data processing, a trip to the DMV is little changed from decades ago. It’s long. You need to bring a book or make sure your phone is charged (and be ready to ignore the roughly one dozen signs that say, ‘No Cell Phones’). The staff I found to be friendly, hardworking. But truly, what a slog. And it’s $95 to get a driver’s license you can fly with. What the hell is that about? My father’s favorite expression, one of them, was ‘talk is cheap, but it takes money to buy whiskey.’ And a driver’s license, apparently.

But while I was able, through some miracle of bureaucratic check-boxing, to get a license, I could not get my car title transferred to our new residence without the insurance card. I had the quote, of course, and had made these arrangements, but didn’t have the actual card. The agent only wanted to give me the card if I was going that very day. So, Friday, I returned. Of course, the DMV office had liberated me of all of my photo identification in the first visit a day or two before, so that was looking to be a complication. We got past that. I left, with new plates. An hour or two later, as I was in Carmel about to enjoy lunch at the Carmel Diner, my cell phone rings. They were the wrong plates. One digit off. The DMV office wanted them back, that very day. Being so close to consummation, what’s another few minutes? Right.


Our family Subaru, with brand new plates.

Anyway, I returned. I returned the old but new plates. I retrieved the correct new plates. The DMV clerk was relieved. I was relieved to finally be done. We all smiled. And it was Friday afternoon.

And in all this quality time, in what was now three trips to the DMV, I had some more time to think about Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and his proposal – now walked back – that all owners of cars more than 10 years old would have to get new plates. That a ‘mechanism’ was needed to see if they were still in good operating condition. And Cuomo, according to CBS New York, had the temerity in a radio interview to claim “this is cheap politics meets cheap journalism.”

Cheap journalism. Indeed. This was just the governor insisting on defending his money grab in requiring new plates for older vehicles. Finally, on Friday, the governor bowed to the public outcry and allowed that maybe there is a way to keep your plates if they are in good condition, according to CBS New York.

“We don’t want anyone to have to replace a plate if the plate is in fine condition … We have to find a way to inspect a license plate to determine whether or not it has to be replaced,” Cuomo said.

The governor told the station he’s looking for a “practical” way to make sure plates are readable; possibly making it part of the annual car inspection program or maybe asking drivers to bring their plates to the DMV to get an approval.

Bring your plates to the DMV. Did you read that? Is he crazy? All the hours of productivity lost at DMV offices across New York already, and he proposes that millions more people should spend millions more hours in line (collectively, I mean) so a clerk can look at the plates? To tell if they’re readable?

Friends, check out the plates in the nearby photographs below. On the left, the plate on our 14-yearold company vehicle, the Lexus. Despite the fears of our governor, it is still readable. Still in “good operating condition.” The other photo, on the right, depicts one of the brand new plates on our family Subaru. Are they both readable? Is the old plate pretty much as readable as the new plate?

I rest my case.

Last week, I promised a “mechanism” for additional thoughts on that great cocktail, the Manhattan. So here we go. One of our readers chimed in with his renewal that No. 4 Westchester Rye Whiskey was his preferred rye for a Manhattan. I’ve now tested it, and I agree, it is very good. So good that I think it’s now my preferred, as well.

Also, I ran across a recipe for a “reverse Manhattan,” and I’m rather fond of it, too. Instead of one part sweet vermouth and two parts whiskey, reverse them. Two parts vermouth, one part whiskey. Plus bitters and garnish, of course. Very nice indeed. Not for every day, but a good change.

What’s your favorite Manhattan ‘mechanism’? Send a note in and I’ll share it. Surely a good cocktail will help us ponder all the time we’re saving with our highly readable plates.

Douglas Cunningham is editor of the Putnam County Courier and the Putnam County News and Recorder. Reach him at 845-265-2468, or by email at

One response to “CUNNINGHAM’S CORNER”

  1. ELLEN COLAO says:

    This was an excellent editorial on the Dept of Motor Vehicles. I certainly appreciated your comments on “quality time” and your father’s quote, “Talk is cheap but it takes money to buy whiskey.” A perfect sequway to the cost of a license in NY State.
    I always tried to utilize the local DMV in Carmel as I understand that Putnam County receives revenue from it. However, it is a very frustrating experience especially, for me because I cannot stand for an extended length of time without feeling pain.
    Recently, I visited a friend in Delaware that had to go to the local DMV there and was amazed at the efficiency of this office. She was assigned a number upon arrival and then told to wait till the number appeared on a digital screen. There were chairs for us to wait until her number was called. Once called, she proceeded to the window and everything was processed there…even an eye test and photo ID. NO additional lines to wait. My friend left with her renewed license , right then and there. It was a very interesting process and my friend rubbed it in about the difference between our DMVs.
    Did your father ever say. “Time is money.”

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