securedownload2lnAll summer long I’ve been glancing at the 8/12 state inspection sticker on my windshield with a blossoming sense of dread and anxiety. Inspections on the sloviemobile usually means plunking down a huge hunk of green to fix all the things my car failed.

The law in Virginia when it comes to inspections sucks. If you fail, they put a special sticker on your car, and you are NOT allowed to drive the car unless you are on your way to a mechanic to get it fixed. That means that if you take your car to a shifty mechanic, they can pretty much say anything is wrong with your car, and you have to pay to have it fixed or you can’t drive anywhere – unless you want to risk getting pulled over.

When I lived in Jersey, you had 30 days to have the problem corrected, which to me seemed more reasonable. A few years ago I had a cracked tail light. I covered it with red tape, and you couldn’t even tell it was there unless you looked closely. But, my car failed because of it. I was not going to pay $200 plus labor for a new tail light cover. Instead I had hubby look around a Richmond junkyard where he found one for a few bucks and installed it himself.

I had to take the car to the store and wouldn’t you know it – 2 blocks from home a cop pulled me over because of my failed inspection sticker. I explained it was nothing but a tail light cover and hubby was on his way home with it but we needed milk and was it really that bad that I took the car to the store? I think at seeing the brick my youngest was in the middle of shitting made the cop take pity on me and let me off with a warning.

Today I took my car for its annual inspection and I was dreading it. My car, at 218,000 miles, hasn’t passed an inspection in about 5 years. The last time it came through with flying colors I had taken it to a local shop called Kenny’s Auto Repair – a real run down joint with a zillion cars in the parking lot waiting to be worked on.

The next year, for reasons I can’t remember – probably convenience – I took it elsewhere. Each and every year, there was something wrong with my car. Brakes, tires,  leaking ratistat, loose flukengoogle, axle dandruff; if it could fail you – it was wrong with my car. The cost to get a new sticker on my windshield? Anywhere from $200 to $700 bucks. It hurt, but we figured it’s still cheaper than a car payment, so we may as well patch her up.

This year I took her back to Kenny’s. I got there 6 minutes after they opened, and there was one gal ahead of me. By the time 5 more minutes had passed, 3 more people came in for inspections, and the wait was more than 2 hours. I took it as a good sign – the sign of an honest mechanic. I watched them hoist her up on the lift, and 15 minutes later, lower her back down. Then, they were backing her out of the bay.

I looked to the mechanic with hopeful eyes, fulling expecting bad news, but hoping to hear none.

“You’re all set.” was all he said.

She passed? Really? Even with all her clunking and clattering and her coat hanger antenna, she passed?

I was so happy. So relieved. We don’t have a pot to piss in financially these days and the thought of having to put hundreds on the credit card to pay for whatever this year’s pre-inspection ailment was had me super bummed. But she passed. She passed.

As I drove home in a cloud of sheer elation, I thought of all the other mechanics over the past few years and wondered if they were simply taking advantage of me. Is it possible that my car was a-okay but they just told me stuff was broken to make a couple of bucks? I have a sinking suspicion that they did.

From now on, my car is only going to Kenny’s – that is, if I she’s still running a year from now.

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