Cars and Corruption

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If you live and minister in Mexico City your vehicle needs to be inspected or “verified” to use the transliteration twice a year. A “0” sticker allows you to drive your car every day (what a luxury!) If, however, your car is over 10 years old, until recently the best you could do is get a “1” (one) sticker, which means you cannot drive one day a week, and two Saturdays. If your car is in really bad mechanical shape, you get a “2”, which means you cannot drive one day a week and no Saturdays.

Yes, this makes life more difficult.

About two weeks ago a law was passed that allows cars older than 10 years to get a “0” sticker if the contaminant level is low (which should be the whole point…but never mind). So last Friday I took our 2003 Astro Van in to get emissions inspection done, in hopes to get a “0” instead of the “1” it currently has. I was told that they couldn’t do the inspection because I had a leak in my exhaust system, and indeed I did. This morning I took the van to a friendly welder guy, and he told me that I had a leak in the system where the exhaust pipe goes into the catalytic converter. He told me he could fix it for 300 pesos, or about $19. Go ahead, I said. An hour later we were ready to roll.

While we were at the welder’s shop, a small, white personal car pulled up, with a policeman in full uniform carrying a machine gun in the driver’s seat, and his partner in all black policeman’s garb (but not in uniform) driving. The policemen obviously knew the welder, as he stopped fixing our van to take a look at the white car. My son David was fairly critical of how the policeman was pointing his gun all over the place. I noticed the driver, the younger man, taking long swallows out of a large, 16 oz. beer can. The question that comes to mind is…would you rather have the driver drinking or the guy with the machine gun???

David and I drove to the emissions inspection station, and after waiting a bit were able to pay the $22 U.S. and then waited while the test was performed. I pointed out to David that out of the 5 inspection lanes, some were lined up with cars, and others we empty. It is common knowledge in these stations that if you need a little bit of “help” with your car, 50 to 100 extra pesos ($3-6 U.S.) will get you a sticker. Some inspection lanes have doctored measurement systems.

But guess what? After waiting extra long for our van, and after seeing vehicles that literally were spewing smoke out of their exhaust pipe pass, we were informed that the van failed. And not only failed, failed big, with over 250 points of contaminants! At that rate, I wouldn’t have even received a “1,” even though last Friday the same men said that I probably could get a “0”! Alas, someone pulled a switcheroo.

“Did you get your van tuned up in the last year?” the attendant asked. Oh, just shut up. Just because I’m honest doesn’t mean I’m stupid.

I’ve almost calmed down now, after praying imprecatory psalms over the place, and reminding God to remember the people who perpetuate such a system.

So I went to AutoZone, and bought new spark plugs, a new fuel filter, stuff for an oil change. But I’m still not happy about it!


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