Rejection builds character, dear

My mom used to parrot those words to me, as said by her mother, whenever I had to deal with the news that I wasn't wanted or I wasn't good enough. I wasn't rejected often, but when I was, it hurt.
I was rejected today. It wasn't the kind of rejection a seventh-grader fears days before a school dance. It was the type one doesn't expect, and then does really care about either. My car failed its inspection, and I now have a "Rejected" inspection sticker in my front window.

This is a first for me in my 13 years of driving. I've never had my car fail an inspection. Once, before the enhanced test I had a jalopy that was on its way to failing the emissions test, which was the only part of the test that couldn't be fudged back then because the car was hooked up to the computer that ran the diagnostic. The mechanic, however, cranked up the RPMs with the throttle and my car passed toot sweet.

This time was different. I had two burnt out tail lights (more on that in a minute). Already 16 days expired, I was really running the risk of being stopped for an expired sticker. I lived in fear every time I passed a cop that he would pull me over and issue a ticket. In my mind, anyway, there's no excuse except laziness for driving a car with an expired sticker. If I were a cop, I'd stop every single car with a lapsed window sticker. I also have the added risk of using timed, public parking for work most days in an area now patrolled by a uniformed police officer whose job it is to look for expired stickers among other things.

At the inspection station, they offered to fix the lights. Right. No thanks. I'll buy them myself and save money. What does a light bulb cost? $2? I won't pay labor on replacing a light bulb. Reject it. It's cheaper.

Mrs. Boston Crazy Driving got nipped in that scam a couple years ago when she went to our friendly neighborhood inspection station and was told her wipers wouldn't pass. I showed up a week later because our inspections expired in the same month. I had bought new wiper blades before I went and put them in the trunk. I figured I was going to be told they didn't pass, especially since the rubber on one was broken and carried the blade as a little tail. To my surprise they passed it without question. Hmmmm. I thought, "Did they scam Mrs. Boston Crazy Driving because she's a woman?"

So, I found out I had two brake lights out. The driver's side and the cyclops. I fixed them five minutes later, but my car still bears a scarlet R, by coincidence, this year's stickers are red. I let all who can see my sticker that my car is a social outcast. I am among the group of drivers at whom I had snickered and mocked under my breath.

It's not the rejection, or the scarlet R, that bothers me. It's the fact that I was among a large group of drivers who really bother me: People whose tail lights are out. More and more lately, I've noticed the cyclops brake lights are burnt out on dozens of cars (and now I realize why they were required by law in the 1980s). What's more, as I have sat in my car in traffic backup after backup, I have quietly called the person in front of me a derogatory name for having burnt out lights, all while announcing to the person behind me that I am braking with one meek little brake light.

Sidebar: For good measure, I replaced all seven bulbs on the back end of my car. As I was doing this (in the parking lot of the auto parts store), there was a man who was trying to change the wipers on his silver VW. Suddenly, he blurts out, "F---ing Germans!" I guess the wiper replacement wasn't going so well. He also threw the wiper packages and the old blades on the ground in anger as he finished each step, until he saw me. Then he whistled some tune, as if it were Zippity-doo-dah Day. There was no Mr. Blue Bird on his shoulder. I couldn't help but chuckle to myself as I was messing with the light bulbs in my trunk, and wonder if his pizza from Bertucci's is too burnt, does he say, "F---ing Italians!" Or if his Guinness is served too cold, does he say, "F---ing Irish!" You get the idea.


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