This past weekend, I finally got up the outside Christmas lights. I also cleaned the bathroom from top to bottom. Now, that may not seem like a lot of activity, but apparently, it was enough to tweak my back a bit. By Tuesday morning, I was finding it extremely difficult to move or bend.
I must have also pissed off the gods of nature because I was delivered a car-mic blow coming to work. I have about a 35 mile commute which can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. Now, I leave in the dark and get to work in the dark, so noticing any potential problems with the car when I leave is somewhat hard. As it was, I didn’t notice anything while driving for about 25 to 30 minutes.
In fact, it wasn’t until I entered the Squirrel Hill tunnels that I noticed something wrong. As I was exiting, the car felt and sounded weird. My first thought was a tie rod went. So, I pulled off to the side of the road and looked. The back passenger tire was flat and smoking. Apparently, I’d been riding the rim pretty good for awhile. Yet, somehow, I never noticed it until then. Realizing I had no room or light to change the tire on the side of 376 West, I limped into Oakland and stopped at a Sunoco. I was hoping to just fill the tire with air. Hopefully, it would be enough to get me to the office and I could deal with it when it was light out.
As I hooked up the air, I could hear it hissing out from somewhere else on the tire. This was not going to be enough of a patch. So, I dug out the donut and jack. Now, over the course of 10 years, I have changed a few tires, using the supplied jack. It’s a pain in the ass, but in a pinch, it gets the job done. However, the jack on my ’05 Malibu Wagon was not one I had ever seen and harder to get disassembled. Realizing I was probably fighting a losing battle, I called my dad (A.K.A. my insurance agent) to ask him if my insurance covered towing back to my place or the local garage I use..
So, I sucked it up and fought some more with the jack until I thought I had broke it. Then, if there was any more proof needed that there are still good people out there, I was saved by a random stranger. He was there getting gas and saw me struggling with the jack. He came over and managed to figure it out and we began changing the tire. Unfortunately, the iron they supply to remove the lugs wasn’t exactly great and a few of my lugs felt like they were rounded off, slipping as we tried to turn the handle, probably from over tightening at the garage I usually get tires put on at. My savior apologized because he had to leave and go pick up his wife. He did say that he would swing back around and if I was still there, he’d continue to help.
I struggled with the last two lugs, resorting to smacking the end of the iron with the bottom of the jack to get a snug fit. Stepping on the handle and applying the equivalent of my full body weight in torque nearly dropped me to my knees when the iron slipped off the lug. Random stranger returned and we both worked on the last two lugs, getting them off and pulling the tire. The inside of the tire looked as if Edward Scissorhands had put it on in the first place. The inside was completely shredded and smelled of burnt rubber. We laughed at the sight and I told him that if he wanted a real laugh, know that my last name was ironic. He said something to the effect of “If I was a girl, I’d have a whole pit crew out here changing this thing.” Unfortunately, it was hard for me to get any torque or even bend over to work on the car. My back was making it hard to breathe. The stranger did most of the work, which made me feel like an invalid, but I was thankful.
During the whole ordeal, I offered to buy him and his wife coffee for their trouble. He declined the offer. I then realized I had a $100 bill in my pocket. Our department meeting was going to be at the Casino later and afterwards, I was going to do a little gambling. Hard to fathom, I had been gambling with my life on this tire.
After the donut was on, I thanked the stranger, named Matt, repeatedly and made a last ditch effort to compensate him for his time. I tried to give him my $100 bill, but he declined, again. I tried hard, but he wouldn’t take it. He was a decent person, selflessly helping a stranger in need. Gave me a good feeling. I hope to pay it forward, as long as someone doesn’t need tire changing help.
As a side note, I drove to work, on the donut, with the hazards on, going around 40 mph. Even with my four ways on, I still had plenty of people honking and flashing me with their high beams. Turns out, the same side as the blown tire had a blown turn signal bulb. So… I looked like that one jackass, driving 40 on the highway with his blinker on for 10 miles. During my lunch, I went to a local shop up the street and got two brand new winter tires. They were probably both due, anyway. Merry Christmas… again. After all, I wasn’t about to drive downtown, to the casino, on the donut and I wasn’t going to just ride with someone else and come back to a donut at six o’clock in the evening, still needing to change out the donut. Then, today, I stood out in the cold and fixed the bulb. Did wonders for my aching back, standing there without a coat.