MTC Visits the DEQ

While enjoying a cup of Stumptown coffee this morning, I remembered (or was reminded) that I needed to schlep the car to the nearest DEQ station for a smog check and registration renewal--a miserable task on any day, but more so on a rainy Saturday made for staying at home with a laptop-warmed lap or a fat book.

Public Service Tip #1: Check the DEQ webcams online so you can estimate how long the wait might be before you drive there.

Public Service Tip #2: If the webcam shows no lines, confirm that the DEQ station is actually open. A few years ago, on the last Monday remaining before my car’s registration was due to lapse, I was delighted to discover that the closest station had no lines at all! Halfway there, it dawned on me that it is closed on Mondays. (One would think someone would turn the webcams off, or at least point them toward a big sign reading “We’re Closed, Stupid!”).

Today I got lucky: Light crosstown traffic, no lines at all, and I remembered to bring all the paperwork. I was there and back within an hour, including ten minutes spent carefully stowing the new registration and proof of insurance card in their proper places rather than tossing them, willy-nilly, in the glove compartment. (Does anybody still call those compartments “jockey boxes” as I was raised to do?)

Having a car that's only two years old made today's visit to the DEQ easier. I didn't have to worry about failing the test. Between that anxiety and general lassitude, I once kept driving an unregistered car for several months*--an act for which I still feel the sting of shame. (Actually it’s more of a deep, throbbing ache).

Public Service Tip #3: If you drive an unregistered vehicle, don’t park downtown, unless you want a ticket.

Public Service Tip #4: If you’re still driving a clunker and need to pass the smog test, be sure that the engine is really hot when you get to the DEQ. DO NOT turn the engine off while waiting in line. You want that puppy running hot enough to burn off as much bad stuff as possible before they shove the tube up the tailpipe.

Given how easy it went today, I shouldn't complain, but I will. Does a car that is just two years old really need a smog check? I'll bet that almost every vehicle that is less than five years old is going to pass. So why mandate testing of cars that are unlikely to be causing problems?

I'm not arguing that the legislation is bad policy; I am confident that it has helped to reduce pollutants. And, my complaint is not about having to pay the $21 testing fee on top of the registration fee and the specialty license plate fee. The legislature can go ahead and add $21 to my registration fee if it wants. My complaint is about the time wasted by a great many citizens forced to have a smog test done that isn't really necessary in the first few years of a car's life.

Public Service Tip #5: If you opt for the Cultural Trust license plate, be prepared to keep paying the $30 surcharge each time you renew your registration, even if you vehemently swore that you wouldn’t give another dime to the Cultural Trust after the Legislature essentially stole all that money against the express wishes of the good citizens who voluntarily contributed to it by buying a Cultural Trust plate. Because, really, it’s a lot of trouble to go to the DMV to swap back to the ordinary plates. Besides, you’ll be scared that all your culture-loving friends and colleagues will shame and shun you.

While you're here, jump in the Wayback Machine and check out this post with the Raymond Carver poem, The Car.

* For most of that time, the vehicle was parked off the street. And by "several months" I mean more than one month, but less than two ... years.


Stephen said...

When I was in my 20s I had a car that had the tail pipe that fell off & I tied it back up using a cloths hanger, thinking I would get it fixed soon... then I drove around like that for 7 years.
DEQ is never fun. I am glad your trip was painless.

Jenny Wren said...

Great poem! And a lovely photo too. I once had a Subaru Loyale that I loved. I drove it down from Portland when I visited San Francisco for the first time. The muffler fell off in Ashland.

We were staying with friends at their apartment on Nob Hill (at The Brocklebank Apartments, where Kim Novak's character in "Vertigo" lived). This is the type of place where they make you carry any bags or groceries in through the back door.

Needless to say, we caused quite a stir every time we came or went in that noisy car.

David said...

As you point out, cars are tested until they're old enough to actually become a problem. Then they're exempt, along with buses, trucks, and all the other foul-smelling, particulate-spewing monstrosities that make commuting through the Vista tunnel equivalent to smoking 5 cigarettes a day.

The test are simply means of extracting additional funds...not that I object to government extracting funds*; but I do wish they'd be honest about it, rather than pretending it's part of a plan to actually do anything about the air.


* except for military spending, but that's a whole 'nother subject.