One Egg Shy

The musings of Chris. Writer, humanitarian, hero.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Car Inspection

I had to get my car inspected the other day. Normally I wouldn’t be concerned, but in the last year my usually reliable ride has been giving me some trouble.

In the summer my battery died while I was going through a tollbooth on the PA turnpike. After the line of cars behind me realized that honking their horns wasn’t helping me go anywhere, some wonderful, anonymous hero jumped out of his car and helped me push through the toll and onto the shoulder. It was a Sunday, so there were no repair shops. I was somehow five miles away from my family’s mountain cabin, so I figured I could stay there for the night. After a tow truck ride in which the driver pitched movie ideas to me when he learned that I was an aspiring writer, a night spent in a surreal, inter-racial family sitcom with my dad’s friend, his kids, his African American girlfriend and her daughter who were using the cabin for the weekend, and a new, $220 car battery, I sped home as quick as my new battery would allow.

The next problem was a few months later when my car started leaking coolant. For a while, I didn’t even know something was wrong; I thought that the smell of burnt vagina that I kept catching after driving for any distance more than five minutes was maybe the mating scent of the human female college student. It wasn’t. It was a collection of car troubles that dropped me $900.

So as I pulled up to the car inspection station, I was a little nervous. What could be wrong this time? Perhaps the tires would fall off. Could the gas tank explode? Maybe the flux capacitor would break, stranding me in 2005 forever (or at least until 12:00 AM on January 1st). I almost didn’t want to get out of my car when it was my turn.

They make you wait in that little booth. It’s one of those social situations, like getting a hair cut or waiting in line at a peep show, where you are forced to have an awkward social interaction whether you want to or not. You get two shots with two different people. I usually use the mistakes from the first try to really nail the second.

“So, you’re getting your car inspected, huh?” I ask, as if the person could possibly be there for an enema. “What are the odds that she’ll pass?” I don’t usually think of my car as female, what with its being a stick, but it seems to be the standard way of referring to one’s whip.

What I first take as rudeness is replaced by embarrassment when I realize that the elderly, Hispanic gentleman doesn’t speak any English. This is further revealed when he says, “No Englass,” and smiles a toothless grin. He knows enough of our language to know that when the attendant yells “Ford!” that it’s his car. Maybe he was just pretending to not know the language. Lord knows I’ve done it countless times while getting my hair cut.

I get a second chance with the person after me. She was a blonde, probably around 40, with a license plate that read “Steph R.” We made awkward eye contact and I said, “Hello.” She nodded back to me and the silence started. Thinking about my failure with Ramon (yes, I gave him a name), I wondered whether I should even chance it.

“I almost feel like it’s me that they are inspecting, not just my car,” I said, throwing out the feelers.

“I know what you mean,” Stephanie replied. Success!

“It’s like, if my tires don’t have enough pressure, then I’m too fat,” I said.

“Yeah,” she replied with a slight smile. It was all the encouragement I needed.

“Or if my turn signal isn’t working, I have no direction in life.” I was going strong, but I guess my brakes were faulty, because I didn’t know when to stop.”Or, or or,” I started, getting into it now. “If my exhaust system is messed up, it’s like I’ve got bad gas!”

Silence.

I cleared my throat. She crossed her legs. I contemplated my fingernails. She fingered her mace.
“Saturn!”yelled the attendant. That was me. I thought better than to try an awkward goodbye. Steph and I left how we started–strangers.

“It’s good for another two years,” the attendant told me.

I was relieved. I now couldn’t get pulled over for anything other than my erratic driving, and I had two years to contemplate better conversation starters for that little room. I’m thinking of starting next time with, “You know, getting my car inspected is kind of like having sex.” What do you think?

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