I am in the process of having to re-introduce myself to many of my old friends. You see, the identity I’ve been driving for the past seven years has been updated and no one on the road seems to recognize my new sleek, black look.
I drive by the familiar makes and models I’ve passed for years on the same stretch between Winthrop and Twisp and now I get a blank stare — even in the school parking lot, no one seems to know who’s behind the windshield.
It feels lonely on the highway as I pass by the familiar Subarus, Toyotas, F150s and GMCs and none of them wave at me anymore. Before, I’d get a friendly wave, an ecstatic smile, or at least a hand gesture from the top of the steering wheel acknowledging my existence. It’s as if I don’t exist now that no one knows my new car.
Getting a new car should be a pleasurable experience, or at least that is what the advertising industry would like us to think. Afterall, the automobile is a symbol of the American dream, the ultimate source of freedom and escape. Nowadays, buying a car is a lot like air travel. What used to be a novel and exciting experience has given way to a series of hassles and inconveniences that you have no choice but to endure because you have few options. It feels weird in the land of opportunity that less is more. I am no economist, but something seems amiss, and it’s not just the scarcity of micro-chips driving the problem.
Despite the otherwise unsavory experience of car buying, one person in this process has made the journey much more enjoyable. Jim Grennell of Methow Valley Licensing in Twisp surprised and delighted me with his friendly, outgoing service as I registered and licensed the vehicle. Jim’s upbeat customer service was much appreciated as he troubleshot a few snafus with our title and handled our registration with positivity.
Jim opened the licensing business three years ago, and despite the pandemic, he’s seen over 25,000 transactions in the office which include tab renewals for trucks, vessels, trailers, campers and snowmobiles, as well as title transfers for in- and out-of-state vehicles, trip permits, disabled parking placards, commercial truck tonnage and other various vehicle/vessel services. Jim’s handled over 17,000 walk up services and about 8,000 mail in/pickup orders.
I asked him how this business works. He explained, as a subagent for the Department of Licensing (DOL), Grennell is an independent contractor who operates a private business after completing intensive training through the DOL to establish viability and competence for performing the business in a professional and courteous manner. Computers, printers, plates, tabs and other supplies are provided by the state. According to Jim, “fees are collected from each transaction and the subagent is responsible for rent, phones, insurance, signage, advertising and furnishing. Fees for services are the same at a subagent office as they are at the County Auditor office. So, using your local vehicle licensing office supports a local business in the community.”
Having this service locally available cuts down of vehicle trips to Okanogan and keeps local dollars circulating in the local economy. Next time you go to pick up your tabs or new plates, make a point of peering in the window to check out Jim’s license plate collection. Each time he registers an out-of-state vehicle, he asks the owner for the old plate to display on his shelf. He’s currently displaying 37 out of 50 states as well as a couple international ones. Methow Valley Licensing office hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. with an occasional lunch break and inventory closure as needed.