Getting smogged

Pub date June 7, 2013
SectionPolitics Blog

Spent part of yesterday doing that peculiarly California-ized ritual, the smogging of the vehicle. As it had a bad v-tec solenoid, it had flunked initially and so the re-test was a little nerve wracking, deadlines and all.

The car passed. But as I watched them slap gizmo and wand about the car, I started to feel the BP rising. What a scam this bullshit is, smogging a car made in the last decade. Another way to wring cash out of the already overtaxed and over regulated public and as always, not squat can be done about it except pony up and pony the hell out of there. Nice racket the state and the smog stations have.

Around four minutes into this silent seethe, I flashed on something from my adolescence. Standing in my dad’s kitchen watching the tiny telly and the news coming in from the distant and exotic promised land of Southern California. Seeing kids filing out of schools or empty schools themselves because of “smog days“, CA’s snowless version of a Boston school day off.

Thing is, snow days in Wellesley were because you couldn’t get to school, not “don’t go outside lest you choke”. We watched in fascination as the announcers intoned whatever the poisonous numerical benchmark was and then in amusement as the cameras would pan to the tobacco-stained skies over the San Fernando Valley. It looked positively awful–the Beach Boys and Mamas and the Papas never sang about this, hell, even the Doors hadn’t! (Love did!).

Fifteen years later, I moved to LA and the “smog day” was somewhat in the past. The skies, in mid-July, did have that same yellow-y hue though. When we’d come back from SF, you’d still puncture the low level grossness descending from the Grapevine. So, it was still there. But now? LA doesn’t have spotless air and the quality is dicey, but even the Spaniards that conquered the place observed that hundreds of years ago–we’re a basin. Now, generally clear, mountains far more visible than they were when I arrived in ’89, sky a bit bluer.

All because of more stringent regs on emissions. Period. The filthy air fouling clunkers of the past rest and rust in junkyards. Our eyes don’t water and our throats are no longer sore. And not–never–because of the deep and abiding concern for our respiratory health among automakers, but because the state forced them to do it. And this is what really separates the adults from the overgrown children that are chronologically grownups but are mentally babes. We know that the purpose of private business is to make money and widen profit margins and if the air and water turn to shit, well, tell it to Wall Street. They aren’t your friends and they don’t care about you except as consumer, if even that. And you need look no further than the world’s new business powerhouse, China, with its skyrocketing cancer rates to know what really matters most.

I used to huff Biotin like Pez when I first moved here, as it was the “natural remedy” for pollution sickness. Not in 15 years though. Smog away!