Real Men Change Tires

The counter is that is why motor club service was invented.

I had not had a flat in years. Only once before with my VW and that was actually my son a few days after getting his driver’s license.

I left work that night at 9 with a 45 minutes trip home. On the usual highway when I hear a noise and then a constant thudding. It sounded more like I had rolled over something that stuck to the car than it sounded like a flat. I probably waited too long to exit. No, I definitely waited too long.

I pulled off into the parking lot of a small fruit store that was right off the exit. It was closed for the night.

History has taught me that you never know how long it will take for the motor club to send someone. It was late. I was tired. I had done this before.

Lesson One. Keep a working flashlight in your car. The lights from the store were of only modest assistance. After emptying the trunk enough to get to the spare  I struggled to find the tool kit and the jack. 15-20 minutes at least. The lack of light hampered the process several times.

My wife and I are all over our teenage son when he rattles off a litany of obscenities at the slightest provocation. My son could have learned a thing or two about spewing obscenities if he had been with me that night.

Lesson Two. Periodically check to make sure the spare has enough air. I got lucky, mine did. I have not checked in years.

I figure that the tire should have been changed in no more than 30 minutes. The whole thing took well over an hour. The lack of light and search time for tools contributed. So did the fact that VW includes one of the worst jacks possible.

I am accustomed to having the longest, widest part of the jack be on the ground. Such a design leads to stability as a couple of thousand pounds is lifted off of the ground. When after several minutes this clearly was not working, I checked the owner’s manual. Stupid me, I should have realized that the 2 sq. inch piece of metal at one end of the jack  would be what will ground the force of the two thousand pound car from slipping and crushing me. Of course.

The icing on the cake. I had the car up on the jack, the old tire off, the spare on the frame but could not get the lug nuts to screw in. I tried six times. By then I was sure that I was missing some crucial piece. Fortunately my brother had spent most of his adult working like as an auto mechanic. I called.

What he told me to do was exactly what I had been doing. Yet with him om the phone it worked. All I can figure is that his mechanic aura had come through the cell phone towers to my phone and made magic happen. Yes at 10:30 at night after a long work day and more than an hour struggling with the damn tire, it as MAGIC!

Admittedly at the end of it all  I felt a sense of satisfaction for taking care of something myself. I would not have felt this way if I had called the motor club. But I might have gotten home sooner.

When It Rains, It Pours or How I Spent New Year’s Eve

As we left our hotel in Maui I thought that the rain was my only nemesis. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong. Just the beginning of my personal growth opportunities.

The rain led us to need to change our flight because the 10 seat puddle jumper was not sure it could fly in the rain. So on to a more expensive and later flight. An extra 2 hours in the Maui (read small) airport. Then on to a shaky flight on a 30 seat prop plane. Our son’s friend Jon thought he was going to die.

At last we land in Kona. Sunshine, no rain. Oh, no luggage either. A fact that it took 45 minutes to discover. Four bags checked, zero make the plane. Don’t worry we are told. There is a 50/50 chance that if they are found we might get them yet tonight.  Fill out the lost luggage form and on to the car rental place.

National Car Rental has a neat policy. You go out to the lot and pick the car you want within the size category reserved. We had several different makes and models to choose from. My son picked a Chevy HHR. A cool looking car with leather seats, sun roof and XM stereo. Things seemed to be looking up.

Drive to the hotel. Check in. Park in the indoor lot. Turn off the ignition and pull out the key. Pull out the key. A not so funny thing is happening. The key won’t come out. I have owned several cars and rented hundreds, including a Chevy HHR. Never had a problem with a key before. I search for a button, I push in, I pull out and…nada. My son decides that he has the answer; I am just an idiot.  I continue to try everything I can think of for 20 minutes while my family goes up to our room. Aha, I will call the rental company’s emergency service, they will know what to do. I realize that I may not be the only one with this problem when there is a special “push 1 for key and tire problems” in the voice response system. Three different people at the other end later they admit that the Chevy HHR frequently has this problem.

Now what to do about this? Their first idea is to have me drive the car back to the airport. I decline their generous offer. Finally they agree to bring a car to me. I just have to wait over an hour for them to show up. That will mean two hours total out ripped out of our New Year’s Eve. Not to mention the added stress.

So here we are hanging out in our room in the clothes we have been wearing all day waiting for luggage and a car. The only good news of the day is that our room is phenomenal.

After our luggage was lost I had told our son that there were two ways to handle these situations. Be frustrated and angry or laugh it off. I laughed off the rain, the scary plane ride and luggage lost. At this point the best I can do is a forced smile. If  I was not trying to set a good example, I do believe that swearing would be how I spent the last of 2007.


Here’s a joke.  What do you get when you mix an exhausted dad with a new teen driver. Answer. Tired.

Ok, not much of a joke but a good description of my Friday night. After a long and stressful week I arrive home at 7:30 with no more ambition than collapsing. Leaving late meant I had to turn down an evening with my friend Paul which I had been looking forward to all week. My wife had made other plans and was out. The only one happy with the situation was my son. He now had access to my car.

I settled in with dinner in front of the TV. Not for long. I get a call from Son saying that a tire “blew” and that he was parked about a mile and a half from the house. So much for my relaxing night. First, let’s focus on the good. No one was hurt. These are the days of cell technology. If it had happened to me at his age I would have been searching for a pay phone. Remember those days?

On go the shoes as I run/walk to where Son and car are awaiting. Note to self. Get in shape. Painful and slow mile and a half.

I have changed many a tire in my day. We had 20 or so minutes of daylight left. In my mind this was to be one of those father/son teaching of basic skills night. Yeah right. After getting the tools, jack and spare out of the trunk I had Son start loosening the lugnuts. Some teen angst, a little swearing but generally the first 4 were no problem. He was struggling with the fifth. I, assuming that he just isn’t focusing, was getting angry as darkness was setting in. Wrong. The tool did not fit the fifth lugnut.

How many of you know about “locking” lugnuts?  None of my former cars had them and apparently I had not changed a tire on this one. After a phone call to my handy brother-in-law I learned that there should be another tool in the kit to deal with this. I found nothing. Here we were unable to get the tire off and out of ideas. That’s when Lady Luck strolled in. Actually this is when Lady Luck got up off the couch, went for a walk, turned left when we were to her right and then finally arrived in her own sweet time.

Let’s see if I can shorten the remainder of this story. Sent Son to friend’s house less than two blocks away hoping he had tools. The two arrived carrying nothing. Short banter. Friend has phone number of dad of son from Son’s baseball team who owns a towing business. Dad of baseball son agrees to come.

In meantime I find special little tool for locking lugnut hidden in special pocket of car tool kit. Get tire off but luckily do not cancel dad of baseball son. Car is on an uneven and rocky surface and twice the cheap jack that comes with the car slips. Second time the spare becomes pinned under the car and I wait for a hole to develop in the spare.  

Dad of baseball son shows up with a professional man’s jack and takes care of everything. Everything includes the special issues in putting a tire back on this particular car. He then drives off into the moonlight not accepting any payment. We have known him for years and he is one of those nicest guys you will ever meet. Gift basket coming soon.

I drive the two of us back to the house and Son tells me how nice it was spending the evening together. I do not think he was being sarcastic– at least not totally. He was genuinely appreciative that I came to help and I am sure that he thought I might be angry. No anger. These things happen with new drivers. It will probably cost me two new tires and a night. Relatively small price to pay.

For the record the tire blew because he was driving too close to the curb on a four lane street. He ran over the curb at a point that happened to have a jagged edge. A 4 inch square piece of tire ripped.

Tired. That says it all.