Monday, February 23, 2009

I Miss The Probe Up My Tailpipe!

It's that time of year again (actually every two years again) - I took the drive down Redland Road to the vicinity of the Shady Grove Metro Station to have my car's state mandated emissions test. I, like many of you, have been taking my cars to be tested for the past 20 years or so, and like you, I have seen these tests evolve.

Back in the day, the technician used to stick a long probe up the car's tailpipe, and I would be instructed to press the gas pedal. I always found it was a bit easier if I turned my head and coughed first.

Later on, the probe exam was replaced, briefly, by the treadmill test. My car would be put through a workout and have its wheels rolled by a couple of large cylinders embedded in the floor. This test didn't last for very long, because people felt squeamish watching their cars on that contraption... like it was going to fly off the cylinders and into the wall or something.

In recent years, the probe and the treadmill have both been replaced by a cable that is plugged into a spot underneath my dashboard. The cable hooks up to a computer, which magically reads the emissions. 30 seconds later, a piece of paper is printed out, telling me my car has passed inspection, and I'm done for the next two years.

20 minutes of waiting. 3 minutes of testing. "Fourteen dollars, please. See you in two years."

Something is fishy here. Back in the good ol' days, the score sheet at the end of the inspection would give me a read out of numbers. I had no ideas what those numbers meant, but I found some comfort in having them... some value for my fourteen dollars.

Now, there ARE no numbers. It's pretty much just "PASS" and "see ya". Makes you wonder if your car is really being tested for anything at all, doesn't it?

This IS the State of Maryland, after all. The state of Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandel. How do we know the cars are really being tested for anything?

I'm not sayin'... I'm just SAYIN'!

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