It’s Like Taking a Test in Your Hardest Class, Only Worse

NJ State Motor Vehicle Inspection

I had to take Sunny, my daughter Tory’s beloved VW Beetle, to NJ State inspection. I would rather have a root canal than deal with a state inspection station. Unfortunately, Dr. K., my dentist, was on vacation last week so I didn’t have a choice.

The new, improved approach.

Prior to 2003 the NJ Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was a nightmare of bureaucracy. It was an abyss, one filled with employees who didn’t know much, and what they did know, they held as a closely guarded secret. It was also (surprise!) corrupt.  So NJ decided to improve the DMV: “. . .with a new and improved Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). We initiated fundamental changes and reforms, placing customer service at the top of our priorities.”

Tooling along the highway toward the “new” MVC, Sunny suddenly signaled distress: A “universal” symbol light lit up on her dashboard.

Does this really mean "check engine?" Sure isn't "universal" to me.

“Intestinal distress from cheap gas?” I wondered, glancing down.

Sunny was trying to tell me something, but I didn’t recognize the “universal symbol.”

time-stamped ticket to wait in line for vehicle inspection. Quality control?

I drove Sunny up to the one-arm gate at the MVC, punched the big red button and got a ticket. The gate arm rose and I drove around the building, stopping at the end of a single snaking line of cars waiting to be inspected; it was 12:48 pm. The line crept slowly forward, and as it did, I turned Sunny on, put her in gear, and coasted a few feet forward, stopped, set her brake and turned her off. Time ticked past. I was reading our local paper in between coastings.

Immersed in an article I didn’t hear the man until he was right in my window. Stooping low to see me, he said, “ ’Scuse me; I’m in back of you and I wanted to let you know that your rear brake light is out. You’re going to wait in line for a long time and then fail for that.”

“Aukk!” I replied, startled out of my newspaper.

Thanking him for the information, I put down the newspaper and dialed my husband Mike at the office. “Mike, Sunny’s dashboard lit up with a “universal” symbol as I was driving over here and the guy in back of me in line just told me one rear brake light is burned out. Do you think they will fail me for the dashboard light thingy?”

Mike said, “I’m not sure, but I don’t think they can fail you for a light on the dashboard. Why not go through the line and see what happens.”

With that I almost arrived at the entrance to lane #4.

Abyss or merely an inspection lane?

I drove in, handed the worker my license, registration, insurance card and the time-punched ticket. He thanked me and asked me to step out of the car. With that, I walked the length of the building to the holding pen for owners of the cars being inspected.

Try walking the length of a building on this sidewalk. It makes you dizzy.

And I watched, from a distance, as Sunny made her way through the test stations.


Aren't those headlight cute?


They put that testing wand up Sunny's tailpipe.

Brakes and tires.

The worker at the last inspection point shouted, “Who owns this thing?”

"Who owns this thing?"

“I do,” I replied as I walked over.

“It failed because the “check engine” light is lit on the dashboard; it also failed for emissions and a burned out taillight.”

I asked, “So what do I do now?”

“Get it fixed,” he replied as he walked away.

Raising my voice I asked, “Do I go to the short line when I return to be re-inspected or do I have to wait on this long one again?”

Never breaking stride, he said, “Long line.”

New, improved customer service? Maybe.

Sunny isn't 'rejected' by our family!

Sunny is now sporting a red ‘rejected’ sticker and we have a date with the car dealer this week to get her in top shape. Keep your fingers crossed it’s an easy fix for our happy little Beetle.


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