Hallelujah, the city vehicle inspections are over!

The past couple of weeks I’ve been kind of stressed out. My car registration expires in June, and the car had a broken parking brake. It wouldn’t pass until I got that fixed, and since the car is a Saturn I can’t just take it to the dealership because there are no more Saturn dealerships.

I got on eBay, found the part, and bought it. I had it in hand Monday, which was cutting it awful close because I only had this week to get the car through inspection. “No problem, though,” I thought. “Get it fixed Tuesday, run it through inspection Wednesday, and if it fails emissions (which it never has) fix it Thursday and go back to inspection Friday.” For those not familiar with Memphis inspections, you can’t get your car inspected at licensed garages. You have to wait in line at one of four city inspection centers. I’ll say more about this later.

Tuesday I took the part to Gateway near where I work, and while I was there I decided to go ahead and get some other much needed work done too: an alignment, new brakes, and an oil change. About an hour later they called me and said they couldn’t fix the parking brake and I needed to take it to a dealer. Since there are no more Saturn dealers they recommended Jimmy Gray Chevrolet near where I work. I told them to go ahead and do the other stuff, and I’d take the car to Jimmy Gray on Wednesday. That gave me Thursday to get the car inspected, again closer to the end of the month than I’d like. But I figured, if it fails I’ll get it fixed Friday and run it through inspection again Saturday.

Jimmy Gray got the parking brake fixed (both Jimmy Gray and Gateway were courteous and professional, by the way). Thursday I got to the inspection station at 7 AM and was second in line. The lady did all the tests, printed out a sheet of paper, and told me, “Sir, you passed everything else but you failed emissions. You’re slightly over on hydrocarbons. What you need to do is get that taken care of and come back to us.” Dammit. I did not want to spend Saturday in an inspection line.

Then she paused for a minute and continued, “However…… city inspections end tomorrow. So what you could do is just go get your tags on Monday (July 1).”

“So you’re saying I don’t really need to get this fixed?” I asked. She smiled and nodded. I drove on to Horn Lake, relieved, arriving at work 35 minutes early. About 11 the city sent out the official email saying the inspection stations were closing.

So Monday I’ll walk down to Washington Avenue and get my tags. I will get the emissions thing fixed at some point, because it’s surely not good for my car’s engine to be running with all that gunk inside it. However, I will get my tags first and drive to the service center in a legally licensed car. Now that MPD has those scanners on top of some of their cars that can read license plates, I don’t want to be driving around with expired tags for even part of a day.

I want to send my condolences to those who were laid off at the inspection centers. No matter what you do, it sucks to have your job pulled out from under you. I’ve been there. I wish you well and hope you land on your feet.

However… I am THRILLED that the inspections are gone. Memphis had the stupidest way of doing vehicle inspections in the country, and possibly in the world. You have to wait in line for sometimes an hour or more, while your car builds up emissions as it idles that could cause it to fail. (And in my case, I wait in the scorching June heat. At least ladies can wear a tube top to inspection and keep cool.) If you fail, you have to spend a second day going to get the car fixed, and a third day getting re-inspected. I suppose you could condense all that into one day, but when you have a job it’s hard to do that without taking vacation. Sitting in inspection line and in a service center’s waiting room is NOT a vacation.

For six months I lived in the state with the tightest emissions standards in the country, California. Right after I moved there I had to get the car inspected. I drove three blocks up the street and left my car with a licensed mechanic on Ingraham Boulevard in San Diego. He told me the inspection would take 35-40 minutes, so I gave him my phone number and walked up to World Curry on Garnet Avenue for lunch (that’s a restaurant concept I would love to see in Downtown Memphis). As I was eating, the mechanic called and told me I’d passed and could come get the car.

What if I had failed? The mechanic would have fixed the problem then and there and re-inspected. One day spent on inspection even if the car failed. Not three. And there were dozens of state-licensed mechanics all over town, so no one had to drive more than a mile to get it done.

I grew up in Arkansas and it handled inspections the same way as California (I assume it still does). I work in Mississippi and my co-workers who live there tell me it’s handled that way too.

Those who defend Memphis’ inspection system might say, you have to do it that way to test for emissions. Um, once again, I lived in CALIFORNIA and they found a way for licensed mechanics to apply the toughest emissions test in the country. If California can do it, why can’t Tennessee?

If inspections are ever brought back by the city, county, or state, I hope they bulldoze those inspection stations and go the licensed-mechanic route. I know the new Appling station won awards, but still. It’s like the city leaders, when they planned how inspections would work, thought, “How can we cause the maximum possible inconvenience to our citizens?”

As I said, I will go get the emissions problem looked at soon. But on Monday, I’ll be a proud polluter with 2014 tags.