Sunday, February 22, 2009

21 days on the lam

I told myself that this year would be different. I was not going to go on the lam, hiding from the police and spending as little time as possible on the road. No, this year I was going to be an upright citizen.

I was not going to go around feeling guilty.

And yet, for 21 days that is exactly what happened. Worse than that, this year I dragged my family into it.

And what exactly did I do that lead to scurrying from place to place under the cover of darkness and overwhelming feelings of guilt?

I let my automobile inspection expire.

Every state is different but here in New Jersey we are required to have our registered automobiles be inspected by the state every two years. My 12 year old Honda Civic was due by January 31, 2009. Yet by time that fateful deadline came around, I found I had no registration card, no insurance card and my car would never pass with the muffler making the car sound like power boat. Three strikes.

I tend to procrastinate a bit but this was the worst shape I had ever found myself around inspection time. I had stuffed the registration information in my briefcase in November, thinking I would register online during lunch one day but had completely forgotten. I never seemed to have the time to get the muffler fixed in almost 2 months and I honestly had no idea that I had misplaced the insurance card until, of course, I was ready to get the car inspected.

This is not the first time this has happened. In fact I'd venture to say that my Civic has never-ever been inspected on time. The same holds true for the Accord I had before that.

It's not that my cars are unsafe and I'm running around on bald tires and such. I generally take care of the cars. Well, except for the muffler thing. It's just such a time sink to sit and wait in that line. I know I have to get it done, I just hate doing it and never get around to doing it.

And so I go into stealth mode. I go undercover. I drive a little better, being careful to observe the speed limit. I use my turn signals, don't talk on the phone and am generally courteous. I leave a little earlier for work so I'm driving in the dark. If it snows, I make darn sure the snow makes a great big pile over the expired sticker and keep the defroster low.

I know all the tricks. I lay low.

I'm pretty sure that at least part of the reason I get away with it is because I'm a January inspection. At least that's what I tell myself. In New Jersey, a colored sticker is placed on the windshield in the bottom corner when you pass inspection. Ever year the color is changed and for 2008 expiration's this color is yellow but for 2009's it is green. I think that having a green one is better that having a yellow one.

This of course is a lie. Both yellow and green, the damn stickers are expired and I would get a very expensive ticket.

2010 is an orange sticker. Last week I caught myself thinking "is there a color I could tint the windshield to make green into orange?" Luckily, I couldn't think of one.

I see you others out there too. I see you Mr. October 2008 and August 2008 with your brazen yellow stickers. I know who you are. If you look there are a lot of us out there.

Sometimes I really have no idea the inspection is expired. Last summer while we were both outside by the car, youngest son asked "what are those colored numbers for on the windshield?" I explained, with great civic pride, that those are automobile inspection stickers and the numbers are when the sticker expires. This one for example is ..... well .... ummm.... this one actually expired six months ago. And so I had to get the minivan inspected right away but of course it had a tail light out. I had to fix the tail light. But I digress.

So I needed to get righteous. First I sent away for my registration on February 3rd. Yes, Somehow I procrastinated two days before applying for my registration over the Internet, a process that takes 20 minutes at the most. Then I got my muffler fixed. When I picked up my car, the muffler technician told me "and now you can get you car inspected". Busted. Damn, he could see the inspection was expired! My green cloak of invisibility didn't work. I better hurry right over there since they have Saturday hours and get this done.

I searched my glove box for the new registration and most current insurance card. I found 4 years worth of battered insurance cards, none of them current. I went home and searched until the inspection station closed at 12 PM. Then I got on the web to see if I could just print a temporary at home. No such luck. Ancient Car Insurance company was lucky to have computers, let alone let you print things out over the Interweb. They did have a online request form for a temp card and so I did that. I honestly didn't have much hope of it working but I was pleasantly surprised when the card came in on Wednesday.

The Saturday I got the muffler fixed but was unsuccessful at inspection, Oldest son was home and wanted to use the car.

I told him the deal. I told him lay low.

I feel awful. Now I'm raising a new generation of inspections scofflaws.

Yesterday, I got my car inspected. I'm good until 2011 when I promise to get my inspection done on time. I really, really mean it this time. If not, I'm open to suggestions to make purple into some other color.

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