Last week, I complained about the high cost and aggravation of driving but I didn’t mention the scourge of vehicle emission testing. Lately, I spend my days in testing lanes, vainly trying to pass the test, so that I can renew my license plate sticker. I’ve had the car serviced. The check engine light is off and no codes are popping up. I still can’t pass.

Like many of you, I’m just trying to keep my car going, now that it is paid off. I’m hoping for a few more years of use, without major repairs. My car is so decrepit, the company that manufactured it, Pontiac, is no longer in business. Shortly after I bought it, the check engine light went on and remained as steady as an eternal flame. 

Even though it ran well and wasn’t spewing black smoke, I scrambled to pass the emission test every year. Only 17 states require emissions testing, thanks to the Clean Air Act of 1977. Illinois only requires testing in the Chicago area and suburbs of St. Louis. So, it’s just our luck we have to spend our time at testing stations.

I used to go to the friendly, neighborhood spot, on Forest Preserve Drive, now permanently closed. The next closest one was in Skokie. I was confident I would pass but some minor thing popped up. I guess my evaporative system and my EGR flow were not ready. It’s usually something minor and maddening, like the gas cap not being twisted tight enough.

My mechanic encouraged me to keep testing. Next, I failed in Addison, where large numbers of cars were idling in the testing lanes, spewing emissions into the atmosphere. I couldn’t pass in time and had to buy a seven-day permit. 

The whole thing makes me mad. I thought we elected Donald Trump president to do away with all of these namby-pamby environmental protections. I thought we did away with the Clean Air Act and restrictions on water pollution. Wasn’t he going to gut the EPA and stop their job-killing enforcement of stupid tree-hugger regulations?

The Illinois EPA was certainly killing my job. I was stuck in testing lanes, instead of out earning money. I don’t get it. I thought we were converting to coal-fueled cars, yet these bureaucrats, all they care about is my EGR flow. I understand the testing stations provide jobs but think about the older white males, without college educations, who must waste their time in long lines.   

When President Trump withdrew the US from the Paris climate change accord, I thought I was home free. Didn’t a memo go out: Stop testing that old Pontiac, we could care less what it’s doing to the environment? I don’t want to sound selfish but if it takes melting the polar ice caps and flooding coastlines so that my car can pass the emissions test, I’m willing to make that deal. 

Besides all of this environmental nonsense killing my bottom line, I thought of Illinois’ bottom line. Didn’t the state desperately need my hundred dollar license renewal fee to keep the lights on in Springfield? Now that the state’s credit rating is lower than a tattoo parlor in a strip mall, you’d think they’d be anxious to take my money.

I don’t know how this nightmare will end. President Trump is doing all he can to put America first and make our country great again. Why can’t he help a small business owner like me escape the clutches of bureaucrats? If only I could speak Russian.   

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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