The story of the frustrating flat tire

The Frustrating Flat Tire

Or, What Is Worse Than a Flat Tire to Start the Day?

04/12/99

This story starts well before the tire goes flat, but I promise, I'll get there.

On Friday morning I got up and went to the gym. You may know I am not a morning person at all, but I have come to the conclusion that there will never be a day that I really control the car enough of the time to count on being able to go to the gym in the evening, so there you have it. I have to get up around about 5 to accomplish getting there, doing the workout, and getting home in time to shower and snag the last bus to work to get in by 8. Ick.

Anyway. So there I was at the gym. I came out of the gym and got in the car, and opened up my snack. I have discovered in recent years that if I work hard at the gym, I better have a small snack waiting inthe car, because I get kinda shaky and definitely hungry, and if there is no snack, there is also no chance I will drive by the McDonald's without stopping. Which kind of misses the point of going to the gym. So I had a snack. Usually I take a non-brand-name Nutri-Grain bar, but on Friday I had a "balance" bar; I'd bought a few assorted exercise-food bars to see whether they were actually any better. This one was an almond-brownie Balance bar. It was HORRIBLE. Atrocious. Nauseating. Disgusting. When they fortified that sucker with vitamins, they forgot that vitamins taste like crap. I might as well have been eating soft gravel. Ugh. Nevertheless, I kept taking these small bites and trying to drown them with the ubiquitous diet coke in the other hand, because A) I really was hungry, and B) I kept hoping the taste would grow on me. Nope. Anyway, there I was, driving home taking small bites of balanced crap with my soda, so I was already in a mood when, as I approached home, about 5 blocks away, I both felt and heard my car begin to shimmy in the rear. Uh-oh. I turned onto my street just because I wanted to not leave the car on a busier street if I was going to have to leave it. I got out and looked, and sure enough, my right rear tire was totally, irretrievably flat. By the way, if you have never had the opportunity to turn a corner on a totally flat tire, it's quite the experience. All the sense of control you tend to want when operating a device that weighs enough to squash a body flat? Well, you don't have it. It feels like you are skidding sideways, but you aren't so there's really no measure you can take to mitigate or correct. Ick. So I left the car 4 blocks down the street from home. At this point I realized that when it is 34 degrees outside and not really especially full daylight yet (6:25 am), cutoffs and a sweatshirt isn't the attire you want to be wearing.

I got home, woke Pete to tell him my story to here, took a shower, and caught the bus.

Now see, here's the "worse" part. The rest of the story is supposed to go: changed the tire, got a replacement at Les Schwab, set me back a few bucks but these things happen. BUT NO.

That evening, Pete told me he had been down to change the tire, but the spare was "stuck" in the trunk. Our trunk leaks, so it is perpetually damp in there, and the bolt which runs down thru the middle of the tire was rusty. So I went down there with Spencer while Pete first stayed with the sleeping Graham a while, then he took the Ford, which runs but does not start (has to be push-started) to bowling. I could see the front door of the house, and as Graham had only been down for some 30 minutes and usually he sleeps for at least 2 hours, I wasn't thrilled to leave him like that, but I wasn't too worried about it, either.

I took down there with me a medicine syringe and a hammer. I figured since my car loses oil and thus I always carry some, I did in fact have a lubricant for that damn bolt available in the car. I squirted judicious amounts of oil down along the bolt a bit at a time, and sure enough, this worked, but it also took a fair amount of sweat and banging with the hammer between squirtings. It's one of those wing-nut things, so whacking with the hammer from the right direction is useful for getting it turning.

I eventually got the sucker loose, so I set about changing the tire. I do know, in principle, how to do this, but have never actually had to do it before. I found the jack and the lug wrench, but then realized that the crank you turn the long screw in the jack with was elsewhere. But, I am a smart girl, and I determined that as long as I had something which would more or less fit in the hole of the turning part, that I could use for a lever, it would work. I used the long bolt I had just wrested from the spare. This was a huge pain in the butt, because the bolt, though 6 inches long, isn't really long enough to make the turning as easy as one could hope for. Plus, the piece that is supposed to be there, you can just sorta turn and flip; my cobbled-together device I had to turn 180 degrees, remove bolt, put back in other side, turn 180 degrees, etc, ad nauseum. On the plus side, this did provide an opportunity to explain about levers to Spencer. So I eventually got the car jacked up and the tire off. The tire was quite shredded in an area of about 1 by 3 inches. The wires inside the rubber were all torn up and poking at me. It wasn't very funny.

But, I got that off, and, feeling very Superwomanish, I got the spare out, and

and

and

and

discovered that, even though both the real wheel and the spare have 5 holes, the circle on which the holes lie do not share the same radius. Our spare does not fit our car. Crap. I was so flabbergasted, so utterly stumped by this turn of events I wasn't even able to cuss at it properly. Good grief.

So I put the real tire back on because I was afraid unsupervised youths on skateboards (we have a large selection of such youths zipping down our long hill most evenings) might fail to consider (or care about) the repercussions of doing something like finding a way to remove the car from the jack or vice versa. Put the jack back into the trunk with the (useless) spare. Trudged up the hill to the house. Called my mommy to whine about this experience to an inherently sympathetic listener. Spent the rest of the evening re-noticing how unaccustomed all (I think) of the muscles I used to do all this are to this activity. Nothing bad had befallen Graham, by the way; he was still asleep.

But the story doesn't quite end here. See, the other car, the Ford, as previously mentioned, runs but does not start. In the morning, we had to load the kids into that car, get rolling down the previously-mentioned skateboard-heaven hill, pop the clutch, go re-jack up the car, re-remove the tire, and take it to Les Schwab. They were as always very helpful, but since they did have other customers to help, it took probably 30 minutes to get the new tire, which meant that just leaving the Ford running was not an option. This meant that with entire families full of people watching, we got the privilege of push-starting the car in Les Schwab's parking lot. They stared. Some of them crouched down next to their young children and pointed. Nothing like sore muscles and a little public humiliation to start your weekend.



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