Smog Check in Sunnyvale
$19.95 isn’t such a bad deal for my biennial
Inspection, especially with a chance to sun
Myself in white chair while waiting for emission
Approval from Smog Man. It’s somewhere
Between lounging at outdoor bar and waiting inside
Doctor’s office, without Margarita or magazine
In striking distance. Coke machine beckons.
Only 10 minutes more, Smog Man says.
Nissan ahead of me runs in neutral with hood open,
Exposing what makes it tick. Detector’s up tailpipe–
Anal tool measuring carbon dioxide, monoxide,
Hydrocarbons. I sit in exhausted air. This might be
My final smog. Nissan chokes, gasping for oxygen.
You’re next, Smog Man says, records my serial
Number on dash. Everything’s clipboard, red ballpoint,
Carbon copies, pushing down hard. I leave chair
During engine hook-up to smog machine. Water and
Compressed air share a metal box around the corner,
25¢ gets you 2 minutes, your choice of elements.
Phone sounds. Mechanic bending over Honda
Responds, slave to rings, rent, bimonthly paycheck.
Honda’s bumper instructs, Plant a Tree, Cool the World.
Dissembling engine–that compact’s in for a bum thermo-
Stat, guilty of overheating, steaming the planet.
Lucifer in the machinery? Strange how minor things
Seem to riot, corrupt major functions, freeze the
Synchronous wheels in place. You fail, Smog Man says,
Signs his name in red on the inspection report.
My problem’s an overabundance of hydrocarbons.
Some parts speak a different language, challenge
Their assignments, break down mortal orders to go.