Tag Archives: AAA


Alert “06880” reader Sal Gilbertie had time — p-l-e-n-t-y of time — to write to “06880” today. At 1:02 p.m., he sent this report:

I have been at the Norwalk DMV for about 2 hours now. If the current speed of customer flow is maintained, I’m guessing I have another 2 hours before my business will be complete.

Just snapped this picture, which represents some of the problem. I am directly in front of service windows 1-6, of 22 total service windows. Window 1 on the right did not fit into the picture, and window 6 on the left is obscured by the pole. Trust me: All are empty.

DMV - Norwalk - February 24, 2016

To be fair, this was taken at 12:31 p.m., quite possibly the tail end of some sort of lunch break (unannounced, if it occurred at all). However, at no time since I have been here have more than 11 of the 22 windows been staffed with DMV personnel at any time.

Everyone in the entire place is very friendly, pleasant and patient (staff and customers).

But everyone (all of the staff and customers with whom I have spoken) agrees that the place is clearly understaffed.

The general consensus is that DMV is a “pay-for-play” kind of place. The 2 questions most people seem to ask are:

  • “Why doesn’t DMV raise its fees so it can hire more people?”
  • “When the DMV does make changes, why don’t they adequately plan for an ever-increasing level of service requirements, since there will never be fewer people or fewer cars?”

CT DMVIn a state like Connecticut — with an economy like ours — there are probably lots of well qualified people who would welcome a chance to have a job in DMV.

Lots of people are wasting lots of time here. Kind of takes some of the mystery out of why productivity and the economy are growing so slowly, doesn’t it?

How hard can this be to fix?

POSTSCRIPT: Sal emailed again, at 1:39 p.m.:

I just finished. My business was completed efficiently and pleasantly, albeit with plenty of time lost.

SPECIAL “0688o” PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: AAA offers many DMV services — including driver’s license renewals. They’re no longer in Westport — but there are offices just over the Norwalk line, and in Fairfield. Click here for details.

AAA Leaves Westport — But We Won’t Have Far To Drive

AAA is a great organization. They’re still just a phone call away for road assistance — and now with cell phones, calling for help is easier than ever — while their walk-in offices have adapted well to changing times.

GPS has rendered TripTiks — those cobbled-together map books that showed you exactly how to get anywhere — irrelevant to anyone but your great-grandparents. But these days AAA also offers an important collection of services, like a free notary, passport photos, and the most time-saving, hassle-avoiding life hack you may ever enjoy: DMV services, including drivers license renewals. It rocks — and you don’t even have to be a member!

Recently, AAA studied the number of visitors to its Compo Shopping Center location. They’ve been there 5 years, after 20 in the small Saugatuck plaza across from Dunville’s.


This location is convenient — and it’s near Gold’s! — but AAA found that most visitors came from Norwalk. The 2nd highest number were from Fairfield. Hometown Westport was 3rd.

So AAA is doing the logical thing: They’re moving to Norwalk. Even smarter: They’re opening a new branch in Fairfield.

The Norwalk office will be at 495 Westport Avenue (Route 1). That’s the Hawley Lane Shoes plaza, across from The Edge and movie theaters. Just 2.2 miles from the current location, the new office will be larger than the current one — and there’s more parking. The move takes place in 6-8 weeks.

The new Fairfield site is 1201 Kings Highway North — the Staples shopping center  off I-95 Exit 24. The target date is June 1.

It seems like a winning solution for everyone. Unless you want a pastrami on rye while waiting for your license to be laminated.

(Hat tip: Sandy Soennichsen)

David Pogue’s Tireless Travels

David Pogue is a world-renowned tech guru.  He writes regularly for the New York Times, Scientific American and the Missing Manual book series.  You see him on CNBC and PBS; hear him on NPR, and watch him on the seatback TV monitor every time you fly.

He’s insightful, hilarious and ubiquitous.

He’s also just a regular Westport commuter.

I forgot to mention that David teaches a course at Columbia Business School. Last Tuesday he planned to come home after school, then fly the next morning to Columbus to give a speech.

But in the middle of class he got an urgent call from his talk organizers about tornadoes in the Midwest.  They told him to get to Ohio that night, without going home first.

It’s a good thing the tech genius had his cell phone on.  He changed plans, and headed straight to the airport.  His Honda Fit would be safe and sound in the Greens Farms train station lot overnight.

Or so he thought.

When David got to Westport the next day, here’s what he saw:

The wheels — tires, rims, caps — were gone.  All four — vanished.

The bad guys must have been interrupted in mid-job, David says, because the front right side was still propped up by a fancy jack.

Westport police arrived promptly — they sent 3 cars, in fact. They were sympathetic, taking plenty of photos and asking lots of details.

They even took the jack, on the off-chance they could recover fingerprints.

But they stressed that it should not be towed.  That would ruin the disc brakes, which the car rested on.  The cops told David he should ask Honda of Westport to come put new wheels on the car — in the parking lot.

Geico agreed that was a wise plan.

So the car spent another night in the parking lot.  David stressed, worried the bad guys would return to pick away more pieces of his Fit.

Luckily, it was safe overnight.  But another problem remained:  Honda had no replacement wheels.  David’s assistant Jan Carpenter called 8 Honda dealerships — all over Connecticut — to no avail.  Ordering would mean at least 1 or 2 more nights in the crime-ridden Green’s Farms lot.

Finally, Jan came up with a crazy suggestion:  Ask Westport Honda to bring three spares from Honda Fits already sitting in their lot.  David could use his own spare as the 4th.

“But we can’t drive on those,” the Honda guy said.  “They’re new cars!”

Jan — whose technological know-how seems to equal her boss’s — explained they wouldn’t have to actually drive on them.  They’d just roll the car a couple of feet onto a flatbed tow truck.

Incredibly, David says, Honda agreed.  Once the car had temp tires, AAA  took the car to Honda, where it sits safely until the new wheels arrive.

This is not, David says, his favorite car story.  But, he adds, thanks to so many clever and helpful parties, it has a happy ending.

And we’re sure he’ll get a column, radio or video story out of it somewhere down the road.

AAA On The Move

Westport’s AAA office is moving.

On Monday the auto club — provider of travel guides, insurance, even driver’s licenses — moves from its Saugatuck location (near Dunville’s) to Compo Shopping Center (next to Gold’s).

A spokeswoman called the relocation “a business decision.”

Need a map to find the new spot?

No problem.  Just go to AAA.