Every January, I am forced to do something that inevitably costs me a lot of money… and money is something I rarely have after the Christmas holiday.
I have to have my car inspected.
I can’t count how many times in the past I’ve sat there holding my breath during an inspection as I awaited the verdict, feeling like a criminal about to be sentenced.
“Well,” the mechanic usually would say, “you’re going to need a new exhaust system, brakes, rotors and four new tires. Oh, and when I had the car up on the lift and got a good look underneath it, I noticed that the only thing holding it together is rust. Other than that, everything looks fine.”
This would force me to hand over my credit card, which already was begging for mercy after my weeks of non-stop Christmas shopping.
So two weeks ago I decided to get the painful ritual over with earlier than usual instead of waiting until the last day of the month. But first, I had to do something else I also dreaded. I had to clean out my car.
I’m in the habit of taking my two Rottweilers with me wherever I go, so my car pretty much looks like a kennel on wheels. The seats that appear to be covered in luxurious, soft black fleece, actually are buried beneath two inches of dog fur. And the windows all have so many nose prints on them, they look as if they’re decorated with abstract patterns. To make matters worse, my car doesn’t exactly smell like roses in bloom.
So I gathered my cleaning products and set to work trying to make the vehicle look and smell better.
I soon learned that washing car windows in below-freezing weather results in instant icing. And if there’s one thing worse than nose prints on the car windows, it’s streaky, frozen nose prints.
I then attempted to vacuum up all of the fur. Within minutes, my vacuum cleaner started to make a noise that sounded like a jet plane about take off…and then it died. I took it apart and found a clog of dog fur about the size of a baseball in it. The problem is, when my vacuum cleaner gets clogged, it overheats and shuts itself down for 20 minutes. Impatient and freezing, I decided to pick up the fur with my bare hands.
Once again, the sub-freezing weather hindered my work. My fingers were so cold and stiff after 10 minutes, I couldn’t bend them to pick up any more fur. Finally, I said, “The heck with it! It’s good enough!” and quit cleaning. Then I grabbed a can of cinnamon-apple air freshener and sprayed the inside of the car with it until I swore I heard the car cough. It, in my opinion, was ready for the inspection, come what may.
In the past, I’ve always gone to an area mechanic to have my car inspected. This involved sitting in a drafty waiting room about the size of a closet and reading such stimulating magazines as, “Auto Parts Monthly” or “1001 Designer Seat Covers.”
But this time, I went to Sears Automotive at the Steeplegate Mall. I didn’t even have to make an appointment. I walked in and they took me right away.
“Feel free to shop around for an hour,” they told me. “We’ll call you when your car is ready, or if we have any questions.”
It felt wonderful to be in a nice warm mall on a cold day. I browsed through the stores, checked out all of the sales, and even enjoyed a cup of hot tea.
All too soon, my phone rang. I was certain when I answered it, I was going to hear, “Well, we’ve checked out your car and it needs $800 worth of parts plus a surgically implanted pacemaker to keep it running.”
“Your car is all set,” the voice told me. “It passed inspection.”
I was too shocked to speak. In the history of owning my car, I’d never once heard those words.
“Are you sure you called the right number?” I asked. “My car doesn’t need anything?”
“Well…actually, it does,” the voice said.
“Here it comes,” I thought, bracing myself to hear a list that sounded like the inventory sheet from Auto Parts R Us.
“It’s a little low on antifreeze.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, I told them to put some in for me.
When I returned to Sears to pick up my car, I was amazed at how small my bill was. Never before had an inspection cost me so little.
Still, I didn’t end up saving any money.
That’s because while I was roaming through the mall as I waited for my car, I bought some new boots, a leather handbag, gloves, four DVDs, a sweater, a pair of earrings and some perfume.
But on the plus side, at least I didn’t have to sit in some drafty waiting room and read, “Torque Wrenches of Tomorrow.”
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