(NOTE FROM THE CDP: At 8pm last night, I suffered a serious tire blowout a few miles from my house. Me and the car are fine, minus a gash on my finger that bled like crazy and the couple hundred bucks it’s going to cost me for two new tires. I’ll be spending most of Friday morning at the repair shop, but more importantly, it should be noted that I changed the emergency tire flawlessly. This is due entirely to the following classic CDP essay from 2007, titled ‘A Life Without Tires.’ Please enjoy while I tend to my little incident; the conclusion to the CDP’s Top 30 Atari 2600 Games Of All-Time will arrive Monday. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your weekend.)
At 6 o’clock this morning, I heard my wife’s cell phone ringing.
Wiping the crust out of my eyes, I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming and rolled out of bed. Just seconds ago, I was celebrating my incredible and inspirational win at the PBA Championships, rolling yet another perfect 300 game; my 19th perfect game overall. This occasion was all the more historic, however, because I had been shot in the ankle by a rival bowler just prior to the tournament. I saw through the pain and persevered though, hoisting my trophy while “We Are The Champions” played and I was carried off by my legions of fans. This was all happening in slow-motion, of course.
Yes, this is what I dream about. But I was awake now, and the phone was still ringing.
We didn’t make it out to the phone in time, so the call was dropped. As we both goose-stepped around the kitchen, hypothesizing as to who it might have been on the other line, my cell phone began to ring. Clearly, someone was trying to get a hold of us now, and it couldn’t wait until after The Price Is Right. Hell, it couldn’t even wait until Regis & Kelly.
“I wonder who died,” I said to the Missus before I answered.
People don’t call you at 6am with good news. It’s always bad. Trust me, since the birth of the telephone, nobody has ever been rushed out of bed because their friend won a tin of jellybeans at the County Fair two towns over. That kind of story can wait until after brunch. Nope, I’ve never gotten a call between the hours of 2 and 6am that I’ve looked forward to, nor will I ever.
Naturally, I was cringing when I said hello. I was waiting for the sobs of a grieving relative on the other end of the line. Either that, or the sound of a Federal Marshall informing me that they were in my driveway, and I should just come out with my hands up before they put a large hole in me. I even checked my bare chest for the red laser dot.
“Hello!” chimed a voice far too cheery for an early-morning phone call.
“Um, hello? Who’s this?” I said back. I was so groggy and out of my element, it could have been my doppelganger on the other line, and I still wouldn’t have recognized the voice.
“Sherry who? Are you a telemarketer? Because if you are, you just ruined an awesome Bowling Dream, lady. You should be ashamed–“
“I hate you.”
As it turned out, it was our lifelong friend (we signed a contract) and new neighbor, Sherry. Apparently, she destroyed her tire on a pothole yesterday, and awoke to find it flat just before she was heading out to work.
I was quite aware of the pothole in question. We have a PetSmart on the East Side of town that has nothing short of a living, breathing sinkhole in the parking lot. I’ve seen ice cream trucks disappear into this thing, and Sherry thought she could just speed up and go over the top of it.
Now, her right front tire was shredded and she was late for work. It needed to be changed, but she didn’t know how. Ruh-roh!
Sherry’s husband Ben was working two hours north at the time, so she called me. I get the feeling that she must have called everyone she had ever met in her last 22 years on Earth before she settled on dialing my number asking for automotive assistance. I’d rather attempt to explain the ending of 2001: A Space Oddesey to a dog before even considering popping the hood on a car.
“Hey, do you know how to change a tire?“
So, there I was. Standing in the kitchen in my boxer shorts, six in the morning, approaching a huge crossroads in my path to becoming the least dependable person on the Goddamn planet.
Yeah, that’s right. I never learned how to change a tire. Oh, I know I should learn, you can save the lecture. It just has never come up until now. I always figured that when I finally got a flat tire, I’d just leave the car for dead and settle into whatever town I happened to be in at the time. Maybe get a job at the local grocery store; start a new life. A life without tires.
“You don’t know how to change a tire? But you’re a man!“
“Yeah, but just barely. Here, talk to my wife.“
My Father-In-Law could change a tire in his sleep, so we arranged to have Sherry call him up. If anything, he’d tell her to call a tow truck and shuffle back to bed, much like me and the Missus were about to do. Guilt and feelings of worthlessness were plaguing me, but I didn’t know how to change a tire, therefore I had no way of really helping her out.
Trust me, she did not want me to come over there and start tinkering with stuff. Within 30 seconds, I’d have a pulled groin, the bumper would be completely removed for some reason, and two other tires would be flat. I was actually doing her a favor by leaving her out to dry.
As I was getting ready to go to work, I was feeling like a real douche nozzle. I felt like I had let down a friend that had a certain amount of faith and respect in me. I mean, if you let someone down once, chances are they’re not going to ask you again if they need help. It may have been the easy way out, but I honestly didn’t want that. I may be functionless and lazy on the surface, but deep down, I want to be the person you call when you get locked out of your apartment. When you need a pickle jar opened. When you need to put your cat to sleep. I want to be that guy, but I refuse to take the necessary steps to be in that position of responsibility.
Looking in my bathroom mirror, I looked back at myself and scowled. I was a turd.
An hour later, I pulled out of my driveway and headed off to work. Down the street, I saw Sherry, still sitting in her car, looking pathetic and talking on her phone. Sure enough, her tire was still seriously flat; and sure enough, I still didn’t know what to do. I pulled in to let her know that I was a monolithic loser, and she shouldn’t ask me to do anything for her ever again.
As it turned out, she was waiting on a tow truck, and she would be charged a little for them to come out and throw the spare on. However, because she was a Saturn owner, they would replace and take care of all the other stuff at the dealership for free. I guess there are some perks to driving one of the worst cars on the road today (don’t tell her I said that; her car is way nicer than mine). In the end, she was just a little late for work, and probably out about 20 bucks.
This was a big deal for me, though. Karma isn’t good to me, and I knew that this meant that I was going to get a flat tire of my own…and soon. I’d probably deserve it, too.
Furthermore, this meant that I needed to start accepting more adult responsibilities now that, you know, I’m 25 stupid years old, and I’ve lived on my own since I was 18. How I’ve made it this long without crashing and burning is beyond me, and I realized that I didn’t want to find out.
I buy self-cleaning litter boxes because I’m too lazy to provide basic turd-scooping needs for my cats. I live in apartments and condos because I don’t want to do any lawn care or landscaping. If anything breaks in the house, I call a maintainence guy to come over and fix it. The last time I looked under the hood of my car, it was to change the brake fluid, and it took me over 5 minutes just to find the right hole to dump the liquid into. I have jumper cables in my trunk that still have the ‘Happy Birthday!’ tags on them, and my wife already knows not to call me when something goes wrong.
For God’s sake, is there anything more unappealing and sad than a guy who can’t do these things? I mean, it’s absolutely pathetic. This flat tire was the wake-up call I so desperately needed to function at the base level as every other guy in the world. Yes, it took a borderline-emergency situation to make me realize that I was completely unreliable.
Hey, if you need a Haiku or poem written, you know who to call! Can’t remember the name of that one guy that used to be on that one show? I’ll be there in a jiffy! For everything else, forget about it! You know I can’t get my hands dirty! So what if I only live 50 yards away! Hell, do you know how long it took me to write this entire story? An hour. I can yank a hilarious and meaningful essay out of absolutely nothing in less than 60 minutes, but I can’t work a freaking wrench?
Yes it was just a flat tire. Sure, it wasn’t even my flat tire. But it made me a better person.
After work tonight, I’ll hit the gym for an hour. Then I’ll spend an hour in my garage, forcing myself to become a tire-changing machine.
It’s the least I can do.
HOW TO CHANGE A TIRE:
1. Find a safe spot to pull over. If you’re on the freeway, pull over as far onto the shoulder as you can. Don’t park in the middle of a curve, where approaching cars can’t see you from far away. Also choose a flat spot; jacking up your car on a hill can be a disaster. If you have a manual transmission, leave your car in gear. Be sure to set your parking brake!
2. Turn on your hazard lights. Get the jack, wrench, and spare tire from the trunk of the car and bring them over to the tire that is flat. Use other tools or supplies if needed.
3. Use the wrench to loosen the lug nuts. You may need to remove the hubcap. Don’t remove the lug nuts at this point; simply loosen them by turning the wrench to the left (counter-clockwise). If the lug nuts are really tight, try placing the wrench on the nut and standing on the wrench arm to use your full weight on it. You can also try hitting the wrench arm with a rock.
4. Use the jack to lift the vehicle off the ground. Different car models may have different places to put the jack; consult your owner’s manual for specific locations. Once the jack is securely in the correct spot, jack up the car until the tire is about six inches off the ground.
5. Remove the lug nuts and pull the tire off the car. Make sure to place the lug nuts in a pile that won’t get scattered, and pull the tire straight toward yourself to remove it from the wheel base.
6. Place the spare on the car. Line up the lug nut posts with the holes in the spare, and push the spare all the way onto the wheel base until it can’t go any farther.
7. Put on the lug nuts. Don’t put them on tightly, just make sure they’re on enough for the spare to stay on the car for a moment.
8. Lower the car back to the ground. Use the jack to bring the car back down to ground level. Remove the jack from underneath the car.
9. Make sure the lug nuts are tightened. With the car back on the ground, you can now tighten the lug nuts. Rather than tightening them one by one in order, start with one lug nut, tighten it about 50%, move to the opposite nut (across the circle) and tighten that one about the same amount. Keep tightening opposite lug nuts gradually in turn until each lug nut is as tight as it can be.
10. Put your flat tire and tools back in your trunk. Make sure you don’t leave anything on the side of the road.