I haven’t been getting in my writing time this week, what with vet visits, working in the shop and helping out a buddy with a household disaster. A buddy who conveniently lives about an hour away. All this means that I wasn’t getting this blog, or my column, or the current novel written. Fortunately today the early-warning signs of a migraine appeared to enforce sitting in front of the computer while my medication does it’s thing. Wrting is sufficiently absorbing to distract me while this occurs.

Among other things there was getting tabs on the van. Local law enforcement gets testy when they notice that if one wanted to be picky I should technically have renewed my license tabs in January… Oops.

That meant that I had to take the vehicle through emissions. This is actually a good thing. I believe in emissions testing and standards. When I grew up the sky was brown at the horizon from automotive exhaust pollution. Five years after strict standards were imposed it was blue again. So while I am not exactly thrilled with the process I don’t complain. The van failed it’s emissions test. OK, so I must take it to a state certified emissions specialist and spend $150 attempting to correct the problem. Sadly my mechanic is not among those, so I took it to the window-licking morons at the local Firestone (On Ranier Ave. in Renton, WA.) Their method of attempting to ‘correct the problem’ was to test it on their own equipment.

Weirdly this did not magically correct the emissions. They signed the waiver for the state saying that I had made the required attempt to correct the problem. Huh? “Did you do anything to try and correct the problem?” we asked.

“There was nothing we could do,” the Firestone guy replied, “It’s too old to have the right error codes. Maybe you need to change the spark plugs.”

Now firmly convinced that the good people of Firestone commute on a short bus while wearing a yellow helmet we left. We could have demanded that they do something for our $150, but at this point we didn’t trust them to sit the right way on a toilet, let alone mess with a vehicle we depend on.

Now, I am pretty sure that if I spent that $150 at my own mechanic he’d have changed the spark plugs and tweaked this and that and the van would have passed its next test. Instead the ‘state certified technician’ stopped what he was doing long enough to stick a tube up the tailpipe and look at a computer screen then shrug in incomprehension. Then he took the printout to the office and went back to throwing excrement and rotten fruit at his coworkers. Or perhaps grooming them.

So I took the van and the piece of paper from Firestone back to the emissions test center where they re-tested my van. It’s hard to imagine but it failed again. So I went into the office and got a waiver to register my still polluting van, all nice and legal like. This system is obviously broken. Imagine my shock.

Having completely wasted $150 we could ill afford to accomplish nothing we will still need to take the van to our mechanic and get it properly sorted out. But now that will have to wait until we can afford it again. Government efficiency at it’s finest. I should note that this entire sca… uh… system is subcontracted out to private industry.

Anyway… the ever-helpful headache has provided me the opportunity to catch up on my writing so I’d best be about it. I hope you all have a terrific weekend.