The letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) arrived about a month ago. It was a notice reminding me to re-register my car for this year. That was the normal part. I also had to get a smog test done. That was not so abnormal either - it's been 2 years since the last smog test was done. The strange part was that it said that my car needed a smog test at a special test only station.
My poor car! It's not brand new - but it's not that old that it needs smog testing at some special station. I immediately did a search online and learnt that apparently California has a very strictly enforced eco program. One of the manifestations of this program is smog testing in a test only station which apparently makes sure that the result is unbiased. But all these are technicalities about which you can read to your heart's content here.
Anyways, after this intial burst of activity, I figured that I had a whole month's time to get the testing done and promptly forgot all about it. Till yesterday. Some vague memory of the registration deadline being sometime in the second week of August popped into my head. I checked the registration notice and yup - I needed to get the smog test plus registration before August 12th i.e. this weekend. Immediately, all panic alarms went off.
You should know that I am the kind of person who, whenever possible, gives buffers for all kinds of mishaps when planning for something. Given that, 5 days seemed too less a time. I immediately started doing all sorts of mental calculations. If I took the car to the smog test center on Tuesday and in case it flunked (yeah, I always think of the worst case scenario too), how many days would the mechanic take to repair it? Oh no, oh no, oh no - I would wind up paying a fine if the mechanic trip took more than 3 days to diagnose and fix the problem.
Sigh! Why couldn't I have done this earlier? Fortunately, before I could launch into full-fledged self-berating mode, it struck me that of the envisioned scenario, only step one, viz. taking the car to a Smog Test Center (STC), needed to be actually done immediately.
I have never done a smog test for my car (the seller had done it before I bought the car). So, I went to the DMV web site and found the list of STCs closest to my house. And then found a tip on another website that the car should have been running for at least 15 minutes before taking it to a smog center (don't ask me why that is so). So I moved the timing from Tuesday morning to Tuesday evening instead so that I could take it directly from work and hence not spend extra time driving around (waah, waah - what time management!).
Then, to prepare my car for this visit to the car "doctor", I took the car for a wash on Monday evening (you know, its a psychological thing - by seeing a clean car anyone would be tempted to give it the clean chit :-) - or so I reasoned).
Anyways, I left work early today and took the car to the STC. Once there, I was asked to park the car and wait. I chose a spot where I had a full view of the car (moral support for the car to do well, you see). The car doctor opened the hood and ran some tests.Then inserted some kind of apparatus into the exhaust and ran some tests. Then spun the front wheels and ran some more tests. All kinds of tests.
In between, the smog test doctor actually put on his spectacles to see something better. Then after staring intently at the computer screen, he took them off. For some reason, this reminded me of the doctors in Tamil movies, who always take off their specs when they have bad news! And I was like "Nooooo - don't flunk my car."
Finally, after some 20 minutes of suspense, the mechanic came to me, complete with a chart on a clipboard and a grave expression on his face and said (I am not kidding) "Congratulations! Your car has passed the smog test". I felt as though my car had come successfully through some major surgery or something!! After that I just had to pay for the certificate (that was full posh - they electronically transmitted the results to the DMV) and take my dear car and leave :-)!
That's all there is to the story. Really.
I need to get some award for over-dramatization :-D!