Since 1999, Ontario has had a program called Drive Clean. It’s designed to stop people from driving cars that spew out a ton of pollution. Older cars have to get checked every two years just to be registered.
So, every two years, I take whatever relic I’m driving into town for this test. And every time, my car passes.
This time, my car failed. Horribly, miserably, dramatically failed.
How could this happen? I rarely drive, I don’t speed, I get the oil changed regularly…I was baffled.
The mechanic sent me off with instructions: Stay calm, drive 40 kilometers (25 miles) in two days then come back for a retest.
Right—40 kilometers. I’m a recluse with a home office. It takes me months—not days—to drive that far. But I did it. I drove the long way home. I drove to the mailbox, I drove to the corner store and (since driving stresses me out) I drove to the wine store. I drove 40 kilometers in two days, then went back for the retest.
My car failed. Again.
That’s when things got tense (and expensive). The mechanic attached something to my car’s tailpipe, poked around on his computer, printed out a bunch of papers…
“Your car’s just fine,” he announced. Fine? Then why, I asked, did it fail the first two tests?
“You probably drive like an old lady,” he said (while avoiding eye contact).
Yes, turns out you can fail a Drive Clean test simply by driving too slowly too often—gunk builds up and confuses their testing equipment.
His parting words: “Next time, get your grandson to drive the car for a day before you bring it in.” My grandson hasn’t been born, yet. I guess I won’t be registering another car for at least 16 years.