Friday, February 29, 2008

Ain't Too Proud...

So, I like to think of myself as a pretty autonomous and independent woman most of the time... but then, occasionally, I have to deal with the DMV. In those unfortunate instances, in the words of The Temptations, I ain't too proud to beg.

I had not changed my car tags since I moved back to Tennessee and my PA tags were set to expire at the end of February. I realized yesterday that "the end of February" was this Friday and I knew I was in trouble. I needed to get my car through emissions inspection, get a TN driver's license, and then go register and title my car at the county clerk's office. These three little tasks usually take about a quarter-century to complete, on a good day.

Things started off badly as, after an hour of waiting in line, my car failed the emissions inspection. Well, technically, it didn't "fail"-- the truth is, they wouldn't even inspect it. According to my friendly neighborhood civil servant, "the county don't inspect smokin' cars." (Then, he pointed at a huge printed sign that says "SMOKING CARS WILL NOT BE INSPECTED") The thing is, my car has not been smoking and, as far as I could see from inside the comforts of my "smoking" vehicle, it wasn't doing so at the moment, either. But he claimed that there was smoke coming out of my tailpipe and then hurried me along.

I got home and immediately checked it out myself. Here's what counts as "smoke" in Memphis: a tiny, barely detectable, bit of steam trailing out of one's tailpipe. I'm sure that in some universe that could be a serious concern, but it was like 40 degrees outside and I had obviously been sitting in an idling car for over an hour. The "smoke" was just "steam"... something that even a 6th grade science student could explain given the conditions. Argh.

What does a (Southern) girl do? Yeah, that's right, I called my daddy. (By the way, I don't actually call my father "daddy"-- it just seemed more poetic here.) And, of course, my dad just happened to know a guy ("Billy") who could help me. Dad said: "Call Billy, and tell him you're my daughter, and then tell him your problem." So, I called "Billy," who first asked me about everything having to do with how-my-family-is and then explained to me in great detail how he just so happened to have gone to church with my folks for the last 20 years AND how he sold my dad all of the cars my dad bought in that time. After the requisite niceties, Billy said that he knew a mechanic who could help me ("Kenny"). Billy said: "You don't call no one else but Kenny, ya hear?" So, I called Kenny.

Kenny is a fireman/off-the-books-mechanic who, as far as I can tell, has never met anyone in my family, ever. But I got to Kenny through Billy, and Billy knows my dad, and I am of course the eldest offspring of my dad... so all of that was enough to recommend me in Kenny's mind and persuade him to treat my problems like his own. To make a long story less long, Kenny gave me several tricks to do to help me get through emissions, as well as directed me to a different (his words "less full of bullshit") inspection station. He also told me to call him when I was 5 cars back in line and he would tell me how to rev my engine just right to get through the inspection. Everything Kenny said was right, and my car passed.

I rushed around for the rest of the day yesterday to finish everything and I am officially legal today. I also now have the cell numbers of Billy and Kenny in my phone, both of whom directed me to call them "if I ever need anything.... and it don't even have to be car-related."

Yeah, I know this is a textbook example of privilege, of the manner in which finding yourself in a network of people who have answers and connections can make life much, much easier. But, at least this time, I ain't too proud.


Brooke said...

I'm not so sure it would be considered "privilege" in the South, though. I mean, isn't the way you went about solving this issue the most logical way of handling it in our great state o' Tennessee? I mean, your story sounds like a day in the life of my town, where everyone (who is local, anyway) gets things done in that matter...

(I've decided that Tennessee and Russia are very much alike in that regard! :D)

bernadette said...

I'm not sure this is necessarily a Southern thing. Neither the calling one's dad or having a dad who has a more intimate relationship with his mechanic than you ever realized. I grew up with hellish cars and my parents' mechanic would just run into us broken down around town and help out. I think they thought we were crazy, or maybe that was because my dad insisted on continuing to drive a dodge truck that one needed to take the engine cover off to put a pencil in the carboreator to turn it over everytime she wanted to start the car for much longer than it should have been driven. In fact, my youngest sister was one day playing in the car and pretending to drive and she said, ok, who's going to put water in the radiator -- as if that was the normal thing to do in order to start the car. The prospect of having to buy a car if I get a job makes not yet having one seem not quite so bad.

Booga Face said...