Jamaica Magazine

Fitness Test by American Retiree in Jamaica

When I was told I had to have a fitness test every year, it made me a little nervous, to say the least. Thoughts of working out at a gym and eating healthy food made me nervous. That was when I found out it was for my car and not me! Let me tell you, I breathed a sigh of relief at that news.

A safety inspection, in Massachusetts, USA, is similar to someone having an EKG at the hospital. There are wires attached under the hood and a probe in the tailpipe. All of these things lead to a computer which measures many different things to see if your car is roadworthy. In Jamaica, it is nothing like that.

The first step was to visit the Inland Revenue Center to obtain a form and pay a fee for the test. Once this was done, I drove three or four miles to the only test facility in the parish. As I drove into the test site, there were two sets of manmade cement ramps in front of me. Tracks only! I was greeted by a man who told me to
drive to the top of the ramp and wait for the inspector. This part of the ramp was horizontal to the ground. Several minutes later, the inspector walked up the ramp and examined my paperwork. He then checked all the lights and turn signals. Then he went down the ramp and under the car to check who-knows-what. There wasn’t any tapping, wiggling, or shaking done to the car, just looking. Once he was done with that, he had me drive to the bottom of the ramp and open the hood. This was when he not only checked my “VIN” but also the numbers on the engine block. To this point, I hadn’t seen anything that remotely looks like a computer.

The inspector told me that he was going to drive the car to check the brakes. Up to now, this whole process has been what I expected in a third world country. Nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen! The inspector got behind the wheel of the car that I had learned to love so much in such a short period of time. He very carefully made a u-turn and came to a stop. The brakes worked fine from my vantage point but evidently, he wasn’t so sure. After revving the engine a few times, he popped the clutch and my car was screeching across the lot, going like a bat-out-of-hell. All I could think about was this man was in deep depression and decided to commit suicide using my car. Just when I thought he had gone past the point of no return, he slammed on the brakes. My heart was beating faster than the pistons going up and down in the engine. Yes! He stopped in time! I was so relieved. My heart was just getting back to beating normal again when he turned the car around and, without hesitating, floored the gas pedal again! My shock had now turned into anger. Why did he have to put my poor car through such drastic punishment? He once again stopped the car in the nick of time.

My hope was that the test was over. The inspector drove back to where I was standing and got out of the car. There weren’t any comments coming from my mouth, as much as I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. The last thing I wanted to do was antagonize this man. I would suffer through it just to pass. Before I could say a word, he asked me if I wanted to buy raffle tickets to support his football(soccer) team. I quickly surveyed my options and decided to bite the bullet and buy some tickets. Then he tells me the car passed the fitness test. But that wasn’t the end of it!

The next step had me in the office where the paperwork would be finalized. I must point out that so far, I had only been there ten minutes or less. All that was left was for the new 3×5 form to be completed. The one clerk in the office spent more time talking to other people than doing her job. She finally finished about ten minutes later. But wait, there’s more! It seems the inspector had to sign the form before I could leave. After waiting another ten minutes, he finally came in, signed the form, and off I went.

At the beginning I mentioned the test in Massachusetts. If my memory serves me correctly, the fee for the safety inspection was US $30.00. The fee in Jamaica is JA $1500 or US $25.00. The only thing I knew for sure when the test was over was that the lights worked and so did my brakes. Somehow I felt cheated that neither my ball joints were tested nor the emissions. What did I pay for? Is it any wonder people pay large sums of money on the black market to avoid the harsh treatment given to their cars by the inspectors?

It will be years before Jamaica sees test equipment like that of Massachusetts. At least there is something in place to find the most severe safety violations before someone ends up dead. One thing this experience has taught me is to pay attention to any unusual noise or vibration coming from my car.

Even though this experience was somewhat traumatic, I’m still enjoying living my life in paradise!

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About the author

John Casey