While my father is serving a stint at a skilled nursing facility (their definition, not mine) I am managing the occasional business that my mother either can’t, or doesn’t want to. For instance, Dad’s car was due for inspection and he was adamant that it be done before the month was over. In the past, I’ve missed my own car’s inspection date by several months so I know for a fact that the inspection stations don’t care. They slap on a sticker and you’re good for a year from the date of that visit, which means you’ve effectively bought yourself a few extra inspected months. What inspection stations do seem to care about is rust.
My father drives a 1988 Chevy Celebrity wagon. When a car hits twenty-five years old it is considered an antique and if you have a nifty ride that you want to draw attention to, like a ’65 Mustang or a ’61 Corvette, you can get a special, antique car, license plate. Most people with antique cars are enthusiasts who have worked hard to keep their rides in mint condition. My father is not one of them.
My dad’s car looks every inch its age, inside and out, but it keeps chugging along – just like him. The first inspection station I took it to, a young guy looked it over and suggested I not bother having them inspect it because the rust made it a non-starter (figuratively speaking). The kid explained to me that whoever is in charge of regulating inspection stations have taken to cruising around mall parking lots to look for cars with lots of rust. When they find one, they check the inspection sticker to see who passed the car and then they go shut them down for thirty days. This particular station wasn’t going to risk that. Grateful that I wasn’t going to be driving around with a failed sticker on the car, I pondered my next move.
I drove away, not sure where I was going, and found myself in front of the garage that my dad took his car to for repairs. I decided to stop in for advice. The very nice mechanic validated the story about inspection stations’ new-found sensitivity to rust, but commented that he sees lots of cars on the road that are in worse shape than my dad’s so, “Somebody’s givin’ out stickers.” He directed me to a likely station and sent me on my way with best wishes for my dad.
Primed for trouble, I arrived at my next stop. Rather than pull into a bay at the garage, I parked alongside and went in to confer with the mechanic. I told him I was worried that the car might not pass. He walked out with me and stared at the car.
“Because of the rust?” he said.
My grimace was my assent.
“I’ve seen worse. I can buy you a year. Long as it runs.”
I tossed him the keys and not ten minutes later I was on my way with a street-legal, 1988 Chevy Celebrity wagon.
I decided to hang onto the car for a few weeks. Dad doesn’t need it yet and I thought my daughter might like to have a car until school starts again. She did, mine. His she refuses to get into, much less drive. I don’t care. It is an ugly old thing, and the brakes are soft and the gas pedal sticks, but it’s still rolling along. And it’s not forever, because I know that when the time comes, Dad will want his old friend back.