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Stick This In Your Tailpipe

writer x

Consider yourself lucky if you don’t have to endure this exercise in futility where you live.

Every year in Phoenix, Arizona, motorists get the privilege of paying for license plate tags and an emissions test. It’s nothing more than a tax, really, and the amount you pay is based on the age and value of your vehicle. It’s quite clever: the more expensive the car, the bigger the tax.

I call it stealing.

And I’d like to wring the pencil-neck of whatever crook politician thought this was a good idea. It’s been around for years but every year you go through it, you’re reminded of how ridiculous it is.

Here’s the part that turns your hair on fire…

If your vehicle is of a certain age, you must do more than simply write a check to the State of Arizona. If your vehicle is more than four years older than the current calendar year, the lucky owner gets to drive his car to a state-owned “Emissions Testing Facility” to get his emissions checked.

Know what that means?

No one really does.

And picture a giant auto shop with wide brick planters filled with red geraniums at the entrances.

Sound homey?

It’s not.

Upon arriving at the testing facility, you get to queue up your car in a line where you wait your turn until someone dressed in government-issued dark-blue pants and blue shirt with a name like Ned or Bert stitched to his shirt pocket walks up to your window and mumbles something unintelligible. The only thing that was clear on my recent visit was when Ned finally said, “That will be $27.75 and we take cash, Visa, or MasterCard.” That part was crystal clear; the other stuff he mumbled, not a clue.

And while you’re waiting your turn in line, a red sign on the building flashes the estimated wait time. It might give you hope except for one thing—it’s not accurate. Not even close. I waited 45 minutes with my car idling when the sign flashed 12 minutes in happy bright letters as I watched two guys in an empty bay next to mine having lunch while a third guy yawned and finally nodded off in his chair. I kid you not. My state government at work. Behind me, cars stretched down the length of two city blocks.

And it’s not like you can drive away and come back. Once you enter the facility, you get wedged into a line with no place to move except forward into the bay where your car will ultimately be tested for god knows what.

Think of the emissions test as a colonoscopy for your car.

Ned shoves a thingamajig into your tailpipe, gas tank, and then looks underneath your hood and shakes his head. Heck if I know what he’s looking for. And unless I’m driving a 1955 diesel school bus billowing out black smoke, my car is going to spit out whatever it is most cars spit out in their exhaust.

So, you go through this ridiculous exercise, you get a printout that shows all the stuff your car emits into the air and then you leave—after handing over the $27.75, of course. I guess you’re supposed to feel like you’re doing something positive for the environment.

Then you mail the printout to the Motor Vehicle Department with yet more money so that they can send you back this tiny plastic tag that you affix to the corner of your license plate. And if you don’t pay it, I’m pretty sure there’s a special cell block on death row for license tag deadbeats or something.

The good news?

You get to do it all over again next year. And the next. Until you buy a pogo stick.

It is such a farce.

Unless a decision is made that everybody drives a pogo stick in Phoenix, it doesn’t change anything except take more money out of your pocket. It’s even more criminal than the bad stuff that spews out of our cars.

::Writer X also writes at The 100 Most Annoying Things::

June 15, 2009 9:06 am

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