It’s funny how an everyday task can drive home how we now live in a very different place.

Our creaky old 2007 Honda needed its annual safety inspection and I had no idea how to get this done here in Wirtz. In northern Virginia, just about every gas station not only performs safety inspections, but has a line of cars in front of it waiting for one. But the gas stations here all seem to feature little grocery stores and no inspection signs in sight.

Our new neighbors, Richard and Kathleen, came to our rescue. Along with a bag of home-grown vegetables, they offered a recommendation for a car inspection place and also a warning to call first, just to make sure that there would be an inspector available.

Sure enough, when I called the shop they suggested, no one could inspect an older car this week. But the man on the phone recommend I check in with Liquid Lube, also in Wirtz, to see if they could help me out. I called and made an appointment for the first thing this morning.

Liquid Lube is immediately noticeable. An art-deco building with teal neon lights, I mistook it for a restaurant the first couple of times I drove by. Inside, it maintains a ’50s diner kind of decor, but what you notice more is that it’s sparkling clean and an unexpectedly comfortable place to hang out.

And to make an already long story short, in the course of waiting for the car to be inspected, I enjoyed a conversation with a retired coal miner from West Virginia (who has been living at the lake for 5 years and loves it), a lady who has chickens and three dogs at her house, and a guy whose Sheltie, Ginger, also joined us. Having a car inspected in Fairfax involved sitting in a waiting area that was just a little too close to the gas station bathroom, where you read a book and kept to yourself.

This was more fun.

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