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This is the fifth installment of the Rust Bucket story arc from master storyteller Lee “SeaKnight” on ih8mud.com, where all good Land Cruiser things happen on the internet.

Finessing the Damn License Plate Illumination Light

It’s 5:30 PM, April, and already dark. The inspection station closes at six, but it’s only minutes away and I’ve fixed the horn issue. I’m thinking this should be a simple in-and-out. I’ll honk the horn, get the new sticker, and mush on. I drive in and there’s no sign of clipboard guy. Instead, there’s only chain smoking cheap beer guy. If he’s not ripped, he’s gettin’ there, kinda weaving around and slurring his words..for all I know, this is his normal state. I don’t know if this a a good thing or a bad thing, but he’s the only one there. I remind him that I was in earlier, got dinged on a horn discrepancy, show him the doorbell button, and demonstrate that it works. He gives me an incredulous look and says, “You have got to be joking.” I assure him that I’m not joking and invite him to take a turn honkin’ the horn. “Knock yourself out,” I say. He says “Dude, that horn button has to be mounted on the steering wheel.” Quick thinker that I am, I say “No it doesn’t. I’ve read the Texas code and all that’s required is a functioning horn. That’s a functioning horn.” Which is complete BS. I’ve never even seen the official safety inspection requirements, and I have no idea whether it stipulates the horn button location. But he has no comeback, shrugs his shoulders, and drops the subject. Maybe I’m correct?

He says “Dude, that horn button has to be mounted on the steering wheel.” Quick thinker that I am, I say “No it doesn’t. I’ve read the Texas code and all that’s required is a functioning horn. That’s a functioning horn.”

It’s 5:50, 10 minutes to quittin’ time, and I think I’m home free, But nope. evidently I’m not. He starts looking at the rear of the 40, where the license plate is zip-tied to the Jerry can carrier. I know that’s an acceptable means of fastening, but then he says “You don’t have a license plate light. That’s required by law. I can’t pass this vehicle.” While I’m thinking he adds, “We offer complete auto electric service here. We can splice into your tail light wiring and add a light back there for $100, maybe a little more, maybe $150. Leave it with us and I’ll have it out by tomorrow noon.”

I’m thinking Jesus, can I just catch a break here?

Clipboard guy didn’t say anything about this damn license plate light. I explain to chain smoking cheap beer guy that I have no intention of driving after dark (it’s already after dark but I don’t think he’ll notice), that I’ll be out of Texas within a day and the vehicle will soon be retitled and relicensed. I just need to get an effing sticker. In his most official voice, he says “Sir, I cannot pass this vehicle until the “prescribed license plate illumination light” is in place.” To do so could cause him to lose his inspection license. He goes on to say that it would be irresponsible of him, and he just won’t do it. He tells me that no inspector worth his salt would let this slide. I happen to look at the name patch sewn over his chest pocket, and have an idea. I look at the old inspection sticker and there it is, bigger than hell…it has this guy’s signature. I decide to try horse trading.

In the back of the shop area, earlier in the afternoon, I spotted a 55 gallon drum overflowing with empty cans. Not automotive fluid cans, but Old Milwaukee and Red Dog cans. The cheap beer smell. There’s a 7-11 several blocks down the street. I tell this guy that I think I can resolve the missing light problem. If he’ll give me 10 minutes, I’ll be back with something that’ll fix everything. He looks perplexed, and says OK but make it quick. I haul ass to 7-11 and what do I find but suitcases of Old Milwaukee on sale. 24 cans, $10.99. If you want good beer, you have to pay for it, right? I grab a case and just for insurance, I also pick up a 6 pack of Red Dog tall boys. That’s another $2.49. I return to the shop and it goes something like this. “Sir, I know from last year’s sticker that you have already passed this truck, in exactly the same condition it’s in now. There’s the proof, right there on the windshield. I’ve told you that this truck is leaving the state, and it’ll never be back. Not ever. I also told you that I don’t plan to drive it after dark, and I don’t. In the unlikely event that I’m stopped in Texas, and someone notices the “prescribed license plate illumination light” is missing, I’ll swear that it was there when the truck was inspected and must have somehow fallen off.” He’s pondering what I said, probably trying to calculate how much of that $150 he’ll net if he holds me hostage, and just as he clears his throat, probably to say no, I open one of the rear half doors and show him the beer.

“I’ve told you that this truck is leaving the state, and it’ll never be back. Not ever.”

“How about this? Let me have the sticker, I’ll get out of your hair, and you can have this special beer that I bought just for the road trip. It’s my favorite and I hate to give away expensive beer but if you do me this favor, it’s yours.” For a drunk guy he moves pretty fast. He sprints into the office, fills out the sticker so fast his hand is a blur, slaps it on the windshield, looks all around to be sure no one is watching, heaves out the suitcase and tall boys, runs back into the inspection bay, and slams the door. He doesn’t even tell me Goodbye. I’m hurt. I thought we’d bonded. But I’m not too hurt. I’m stickered up, locked and loaded, and I’m off.

 Me and The Turtle are off to Hawaii.

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