“Actually the Old Man loved it. He had always pictured himself in the pits of the Indianapolis Speedway in the 500. My old man’s spare tires were actually only tires in the academic sense. They were round and they had once been made of rubber.” – A Christmas Story (1983)
Monday started badly when I dropped my toothbrush in the toilet. At least I’d already brushed. Then I got outside and found that my tire was as flat as Sergeant Carter’s hair on a drive through Kansas. It was Monday all right, as in morning, as in the moment of the week they write songs about; the bluesy kind.
I walked back into the house and KM was standing in the kitchen. “Got a flat,” I informed her. She asked if I wanted her to give me a ride but I needed my car so I said I would fix it.
“Do you remember how,” she asked.
“Could do it in my sleep.”
“Well why don’t you call Triple A?” she persisted, probably remembering my battery changing experience a year or so ago.
“By the time they get someone out here I’ll be done. Besides, when I called them last month after tearing that hole in my fuel filter I think they told me I had used up all my free service calls.”
When you have four cars with a half million miles between them, Triple A is your friend.
“In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.”
The spare was of course one of those donuts, no doubt an idea devised by some GM exec to save money for their investors.
The lifting of the car on the jack was a slow process, but I finally got it high enough to remove the flat. The lug nuts came off like they were supposed to and I carried it to my trunk, spotting the culprit, a screw lodged deep into the rubber. I hefted it into the trunk and my lower back once again let me know how it felt about manual labor.
After the donut was secure, I lowered it to the ground. But once it got there it kept sinking, nearly to the rim. “Flat too,” I cursed under my breath.
I heard the back door open and KM came over and said, “That one looks flat too.” I counted to 10 before replying, but she had already gone back inside. A wise woman who knows, after 41 years, when to walk away. Miraculously, I found my old bicycle pump in the corner of the garage.
After replenishing the donut, I cleaned up and left the house, driving slowly on my way to Jett’s Gas & Services. The other drivers seemed to be staring at me and my donut with pity. I got to Jett’s and Charles told me to pull up to the third bay, and they’d fix it while I waited. The mechanic had it done in no time, telling me there were actually two screws lodged in the tire.
“That’s weird,” I said, wondering if I’d been sabotaged. I went inside and asked Charles what I owed him.
“Just a handshake,” he said with a smile. I gave him a big thanks and suddenly thought of the time I’d been there last summer and a cute girl had come in selling new toothbrushes to raise money for some school project. All the men that day bought one from her. Mine had met its end earlier that morning in our commode.
I told Charles about it, and he reached in his drawer and pulled out a whole box of toothbrushes.
“The same cute girl?’ I asked.
“Yeah, she came back later that day and I couldn’t resist. Have one on me.”
“And all was right with the world.”