Thursday 27 October 2016

Working it out: Testing time, but car just got straight A's

John Masterson

Published 29/06/2015 | 02:30

NCT centre
NCT centre

Each year I feel a particular affinity with school leavers who are sitting the Leaving Cert. As soon as I hear the exam build up I am reminded to book my NCT as it falls due each year bang in the middle of the exams. There are many similarities. You do your preparation. You turn up at the appointed place and present yourself. You don't sleep a wink the night before. There the similarities end. For the NCT you sit and read glossy magazines and put your brain to sleep while on the other side of the window you see your vehicle put through its paces. You are helpless. The questions are the same each time.

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I used not worry too much about the NCT until some years back I failed. It was a bit of a mystery to me as I had just had the car thoroughly checked. So I was little short of furious when I was told that it had flunked because of the headlight alignment. The NCT man told me about it in a fairly dogmatic, rude manner but I just sucked it up and fumed as I went back to the garage that had checked the car to tear strips off them.

The garage man was equally mystified and took out the mirrors etc to check the lights as I watched. He called me over. "There it is," and he showed me the lines that defined proper alignment and sure enough it was bang on.

I went back to the NCT centre of my visual inspection. The same rude creature tested it, relieved me of more money, and passed me. I pointed out that nothing had been done at the garage and he told me in no uncertain terms that they must have done something. I went off with a new cert and a flea in my ear.

It wasn't long after when I watched the Prime Time Investigates on the NCT and, lo and behold, here was the very area where I had been tested. A suspicion dawned on me. If they were going to pass some bangers for money they had to fail some good cars to keep everything looking right. It also explained the attitude of the employee I had encountered because rudeness is not their norm. I was delighted to see that severe action was taken against several testers. I always think of this when people are concerned about how exam papers are marked. A senior politician once told me that the only things that could not be fiddled in Ireland were the exam points system and drink driving samples, and they had some doubt about the latter. So I have some vague sympathy for the teachers who are refusing to mark the papers of their own students. But not a lot. If exam papers are marked by two people and a third is brought in if there is a difference in grade I think it will work fine.

I trust, since Prime Time, that someone is keeping a close eye on the NCT. These days they are unfailingly courteous and incidentally work seven days a week.

Not only did I pass but the guy told me I take very good care of my car. I felt like I had just got 600 points in my Leaving.


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