The day before we left on vacation three weeks ago, I tried getting my truck inspected. The NC DMV said it was due in July, so I made the short trip from my house over to the place I’ve had it inspected it for years. When I pulled into the station, which is little more than a one-room shack with two vehicle bays attached, I was greeted by a short white man in his late 20s who had the face of a fox. He was using hand gestures to try and tell me something. I turned off the engine and he walked up to my window.

“Sorry boss,” he said quickly and in a fox-like high voice. He was wearing a gray, long-sleeved shirt covered in oil stains, and a dark blue hat with ‘Earnhardt Engines’ emblazoned in red on the face of the crown. He rested his hands over the edge of my opened window. Before I could even ask him anything, he continued, “Sorry. Machine’s broke. I can’t help you, man (pronounced ‘main.’)”

“Oh no. Well, when will the machine be working again?” I inquired, as if I knew something about the downtime of vehicle inspection machines.

“Don’t know.” He answered sharply.

“Is there another place where I can do this?” After asking this, I thought about what an absurd question it was. No, Carolina Inspections 0n Central Avenue was the only inspection place in Charlotte. And because the machine is broke, the DMV must have been notified and are issuing mass waivers for everyone in town who has vehicle inspections due.

“Well (pronounced ‘wail’), We have another shop a couple miles up on Monroe right near -” and then he mentioned the name of a cross street that I don’t remember because at that point I shut him down. He was telling me I had to drive a couple of miles up a road. That was unacceptable for me. I was packing for vacation and wrapping up business stuff. The inspection would have to wait. Surely the DMV, on notice about his machine being broke, would understand.

When he stopped talking, I said, “Thanks. I’ll check it out.” He removed his hands leaving his DNA all over the glass. As I drove away, another patron was pulling into his lot. He approached them with hand gestures. “Sorry boss.” I heard him say.


I returned yesterday. There were cars in the bay getting inspected. Excellent. The machine wasn’t broke no more. I grabbed my registration stuff and walked into the tiny office. On the opposite wall was a window and under the window was a big sign that stated, “Do not ask for illegal inspections. If you ask for an illegal inspection, you will be reported to the DMV.” Fox-man entered from the shop area and nodded. He didn’t remember me.

“Hi. I’d like to have an illegal inspection.” I said, smiling. Fox-man didn’t smile. In fact, he didn’t blink. And I could have sworn I saw him reach under the counter where he no doubt placed his index finger on a blue button that alerted DMV in Raleigh. There would be no sirens. He’d just stand in front of me engaging me in a staring contest until the DMV patrol arrived to handcuff me and confiscate my old truck. “I was only kidding, man.” I said. I then put my registration paperwork on the counter. “I need an inspection.” Fox-man took my keys and papers and disappeared into the back.

I spent the next fifteen minutes sweating in the tiny lobby with a 68-year old woman who was reading, “The Amazing Therapy of Pets,” and a Spanish dude in his 20s who could text 500 wpm. A week before I was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. I passed inspection. It only cost $23.

Vacation over.


Jim Mitchem

The Death of Anonymity
Amy Winehouse and the Big Lie

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.