Saturday Adventure

Our 2003 Toyota Prius turns 15 years old this month. It’s holding up reasonably well. Then again, it has only 66,000 miles on it.

A letter arrived from the Department of Licensing last week. Yeah, big deal. I know the license tabs expire at the end of January. I know how to renew them. I’ve been through it thirteen times before. I tossed the letter, unopened, on the “later” pile.

On Monday, New Year’s Day, I sat down in front of our computer, to renew online. I opened the letter from the Department of Licensing. In the upper corner was a black rectangle, with white letters reading, “Emission inspection required before renewal.” It was nicely punctuated with an exclamation point inside of a triangle. Yeah, whatever. Our Prius, like all hybrid vehicles, is exempt from emission inspections, and always has been. (For one thing, hybrid vehicles don’t idle.) I proceeded with the online renewal.

I got as far as entering the vehicle information when I was stopped by an error message: “Emission inspection required before renewal.” I couldn’t go any farther. That letter was serious.

What had changed? Are hybrid vehicles no longer exempt? Was it because of our car’s age? Had no one ever seen a 15-year-old Prius still running?

Phillip and I talked it over, and agreed to take our car in for its first-ever emission inspection on Saturday.

Over the past week, I did some online research. I couldn’t find anything saying that the exception for hybrid vehicles had ended. The Washington State DOL web site said, “These vehicles never require emission inspections:” and it listed Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. There are more hybrid vehicles out there than that, so maybe the information was outdated.

I did searches for where the nearest inspection station is, and what we’d need to bring with us.

We got up early this morning, and headed out the door.

Phillip remarked, “I wonder how they’re going to inspect a vehicle that doesn’t idle.”

I replied, “It’s going to be interesting. It’ll be like an adventure.”

We drove to the inspection station in South Seattle. We got there 15 minutes before it opened. We were first in line. We played on our phones, and didn’t bother shutting the car off. A line of cars formed behind us.

A guy came out to remove the traffic cone, and opened the place up.

Before I put our car in drive, the inspection guy walked over to us and signaled to me to roll down my window.

“Is this a Prius?” he asked.

“Yes, it is,” I replied.

“You’re exempt,” he said.

“Not according to this letter.”

“No, you’re exempt.”

“We tried to renew online,” Phillip added, “But it said we couldn’t.”

“You need to renew in person, then.” The guy was quite friendly about it.

We got onto the freeway and drove to the licensing office in the University District. We got there five minutes before it opened, and took our place in line.

I handed the letter to the woman behind the desk.

“You need an emission inspection,” she pointed out.

“It’s a Prius,” I replied.

“Someone made a mistake, then. You’re good,” She began entering information in her computer.

“We drove down the inspection station,” I told her, “And they told us the same thing.”

“You did?” She looked shocked.

She seemed to have no trouble renewing our license tab.

When got home, I said to Phillip, “And that was our adventure for the day.”

“Not so fast,” replied Phillip, “We still need to do laundry.”

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