I have a history of missing important automobile expiration dates: registration, insurance, inspection… it’s an embarrassing habit that I should have grown out of some time ago.
It is one thing to get pulled over in Phoenix for driving on expired Texas plates when you just moved to Arizona and are in your twenties. It is quite another thing to get pulled over for expired plates after dropping your kids off at school in New Jersey when you’ve lived there for seven years and are over forty.
2013 is the first year that I managed to get all my vehicles registered on time. I was feeling, finally, like a real adult. Driving Miss Lucy (my ’66 Mustang) down the main drag in town I noticed an inspection sting set up on the other side of the road. It’s pretty common: they make you slow down and check your inspection sticker as you go by, and pull over violators. This caused me to check my sticker. Which had an expiration date of tomorrow.
The DMV is its own circle of hell. I’m pretty sure it’s the 11th, right after the one containing clowns. But if we all hate it so much, consider the poor bastards that actually work there. That’s probably a hard job to love; definitely a hard job to stay positive in. You’re dealing with these cranky people all day long who can’t follow directions or get their shizz in on time…
I planned on lining up the next morning before they opened. But every time my alarm went off I thought about the DMV and hit snooze. I finally got up around 7:30, poured some coffee and looked up their 11th Circle of Hell Live Webcam. The line was already wrapped around to the entrance and they hadn’t even started inspecting yet. I started weighing how bad it would be if I blew it off. It’s a $200 ticket, but sitting in my yoga pants with a Puggle on my lap, I couldn’t bear the thought of heading over there. I always worry so much about if the car’s going to pass inspection or not.
Half an hour of reading blogs and Facebooking later, the page refreshed and there was no line. So I put Jack back on the bed, put on real pants, and headed out the door.
What I forgot was that the inspection station is a whole different vibe from the side where you get all the licensing and registration stuff taken care of. And at the DMV inspection station? I’m a rock star. Or, more correctly, my car is.
They all remember Miss Lucy from two years ago when they last inspected her, and everyone comes over from their own bay to tell me a Mustang story–because everyone has a Mustang story.
One guy told me how his dad had a ’65 fastback. He let him drive it sometimes, but he’d have to spend a lot of time airing it out if he wanted to take a girl out because his dad smoked cigars. His dad later had an accident and actually died in the car. They did restoration afterwards but then put it up for sale; none of the kids wanted it after that. “My dad loved that car,” he said.
The guy who completed my inspection actually got a little weepy, shook my hand overlong and told me it brought back a lot of good memories. It seemed like he wanted to tell me some of them but realized the reality that we were standing in the inspection bay in the NJDMV. I understood in that moment that Miss Lucy is always going to pass inspection.
It got me to thinking: I bet there’s a market for classic car therapy. You know how animal therapy reaches certain people? And Art or Music or Dance or Drama therapy reaches certain other people? I think I could just take this car around and certain people– namely, middle-aged guys– would automatically feel better. They’d tell me about their dead fathers and their glory days, and the girl that got away. We’d go for a drive, maybe get an ice cream. I’d be covered by everyone’s insurance, make a nice little side income. I wonder how you’d get licensed for that.
Do you have a Mustang story?