The annual flight of that harried species of motorist, those without their vehicle registration tags, arrived in the Washington area this week, accompanied by loud clucks of protest and a flapping of tickets.
The spring migration to motor vehicle offices in Maryland and the District of Columbia was prompted by the April 1 deadline for vehicle registration. Although both jurisdictions had sent notices of the deadlines to owners months ago, flocks of the bewildered creatures started flying in under the wire only last week.
"It'll tell you the truth, I'm a procrastinator," said Cresta M. Beaird, who lives at the University Square apartments in Greenbelt. "I got this parking ticket last April and I just forgot about it. I mean, who can remember such things?" she said.
That memory slip prompted the state to withhold her 1978 vehicle registration stickers - the little tabs that are placed in the corners of license plates. In order to get her car certified for driving, she first had to pay $5 ticket, then take the receipt to a Motor Vehicle Administration office before the April 1 dead-line.
Mrs. Beaird, a registered nurse, is one of more than 100,000 Maryland residents who did not receive their registration stickers in the mail this year, according to Ejner Johnson, head of the state MVA.
Additionally, people who had simply forgotten to mail in their forms, as well as those who claimed they were the victims of bureaucratic foulups, all came in at the last minute to register their cars.
"I picked the worst week of the year to buy a car," said David Westbrook, 24, of Silver Spring, as he sat on a bench at the College Park office of the Maryland MVA. "They didn't give me a temporary tag when I bought my Datsun 1200 last week, and so I couldn't even drive my own car to get here. I borrowed my sister's car, and then waited two hours to get the forms," he said.
He was one of hundreds of people crowding into the small office yesterday. "It's the same story every year," said officer manager Joseph Kane. "People wait, and then we get all sorts of delays. It can't be helped," he said, adding he had hired 12 extra people to direct traffic outside the building.
"You're not going to believe this, but my mother-in-law threw away my forms as soon as they arrived." said Patrick Wade, 29, of Riverdale. "I know I waited until the last week (to renew the registration), but last year I waited until the last day, and then it took me six hours to get through," he said.
For Lanre Adenuga, 30, a native of Nigeria who now lives in Prince George's County and studies at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, the unpaid parking ticket that forced him into the College Park line yesterday was worth it.
"A (female) friend of mine parked my car in front of my house last year (where it was ticketed), and I never even knew about the ticket," he said, smiling. "But when a lady gets a ticket at my house, I pay it."
At Metropolitan Police headquarter at 300 Indiana Ave. in the District (the only location where Washington parking tickets can be paid), the situation was much the same yesterday.
Bessie B. Waters, supervisor of traffic warrants, said that 38,000 individuals had outstanding parking tickets lodged against them. Hundreds of them lined the hallways of the building trying to make amends.
"I need my wheels to make a living," said Eugene T. Sharpe, of 3500 19th Street SE, a cab driver. Sharpe said he waited in line between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to pay $35 worth of parking tickets and then fork over $53 for his car registration.
Officials in Maryland and the District said they expected the greatest crush would come Wednesday and Thursday, the deadline.
Virginia, which uses a system of staggered registration deadlines, reported no unusual delays yesterday.