Every October I’m forced to do something that inevitably costs me a lot of money – money I usually don’t have because my fuel supply for the winter also is delivered in October.
I’m talking about having 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 was rust. Other than that, everything looks fine.”
This would force me to hand over my debit card, which already was begging for mercy after paying for the 400 gallons of propane for my house.
So this October, I’m not going to wait until the end of the month to have my car inspected. I am going to get it over and done with during the first week. That way, I’ll know how much money I'll have left in my budget for the month and how thin I will have to stretch it. Basically it will determine whether I'll be eating steak…or SpaghettiOs for the next three weeks.
So in preparation, this weekend I decided it might be wise to clean out my car – something I haven’t done since my last inspection. I’m in the habit of taking my two dogs 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.
On top of that, you might say 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.
As I attempted to vacuum up all of the fur, my vacuum cleaner started to make a noise that sounded like a jet plane about to take off…and then it died. I took it apart and found it clogged with a clump of dog fur about the size of a baseball. The problem is, when my vacuum cleaner gets clogged, it overheats and shuts itself down for anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the mood it’s in on that particular day. Never being known for my patience, I proceeded to pick up the fur with my bare hands.
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 so much of it, I swore I heard the car cough.
In my opinion, the car now is ready for inspection.
In the past, I’d 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 last year, just to be different, I went to Sears Automotive at the Steeplegate Mall. I didn’t even have to make an appointment. I just walked in and they took me right away.
“Feel free to shop around while you wait,” the guy told me. "We’ll call you when your car is ready, or if we have any questions.”
It felt wonderful to be able to roam around inside a nice warm mall while my car was being inspected. I browsed through the stores, checked out all of the sales, and even enjoyed a cup of tea.
All too soon, my cell phone rang. I was certain when I answered it, I was going to hear, “Well, we’ve checked out your car and it needs $850 worth of parts plus a surgically implanted pacemaker to keep it running.”
“Your car is all set,” the voice told me. “Everything passed. You can come pick it up when you’re ready.”
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 an inventory sheet from Auto Parts R Us.
“It’s a little low on antifreeze.”
At that point, I felt comfortable enough to splurge. “Put some in,” I said.
When I returned to the automotive department to pick up my car, I was amazed at how small my bill was. I'd never had an inspection cost me so little.
And now, just one short year later, as luck would have it, Sears is out of business.
So I have no idea where I’ll end up going for an inspection this year. But I’m pretty sure that wherever it might be, I’ll once again be forced to sit in some drafty waiting room and read such exciting magazines as “Torque Wrenches of Tomorrow.”
And then I'll probably have to go stock up on SpaghettiOs.
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Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor” and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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