Still Not That Flated


I’d like to say how getting my tires replaced was a long merry series of silly incidents. But really, it’s been more of 2017. I mean, this year, you know? This morning they broke into The Price Is Right for the breaking news about Al Franken, and the station had to break into that with a news ticker about the Larry Nasser scandal, which is one of those local/state-level scandals that reading about leaves you feeling like you’re on one of the latter days of the flu, where you’re no longer contagious or even all that achy. Mostly you’re just tired of feeling tired and want to stay in a blanket bundle watching The Price Is Right and that’s exactly where the breaking news came in to break you.

So. I figured to go to a tire place that had served my love pretty well over the years. I’d expected it to go well, since I’d already built a reputation as a magician there. They put my love’s snow tires on and off. They could almost fit the four tires that were coming off the car into the Honda Civic’s trunk. But I know the trick to putting all four in. And, my love says, have astounded the people working there who realize, as they try fitting the removed tires back in, that they didn’t pay attention to just how I got all four in.

A tire (mine) with a maybe ten-inch gash where the sidewall's come apart.
Also while it turned out this was the worst of my tires, it wasn’t the only bad one, so, good grief.

With the help of the Consumer Reports buying guide that my love’s father gave us for Thanksgiving right before my tire exploded, because my love’s father does things like that, I picked out new tires. And ordered them, which I had to drive down to the tire place to put money down on because … I don’t know. But the next day they called to say the tires were in, and I could get them put on anytime. Great! … I went in and it turned out that while their web site figures my model car takes 17-inch tires, my actual car thinks it takes 18-inch tires, and my car won the fight, three falls to two.

I’d had to drive to their place to put down a deposit on the new tires, and I figured, might as well pay in full. Then had to come back the next day to find the tires were wrong. Also they found my tire pressure warning sensors had corroded to strange lumps of metal-like compounds no good for anything. So they refunded my tire purchase less the cost of replacement sensors. Also less the cost of the loaner tires they put on because I didn’t want to drive on the spare longer than I had to. And because another tire turned out to be maybe dozens of feet away from failing too.

I went back home to look up what tires were recommended in my size and learned the Consumer Reports Buying Guide had never heard of any of them. Picked some new tires anyway and had to go out to the tire place to put my money down on those. Also I appreciate that my credit card company finds nothing suspicious about a bunch of charges and reverse-charges, for ever-more-exotic amounts of money, going on from a place I’ve never had any dealings with before. I guess they’re just glad for the attention? Went back again Tuesday to finally get my tires on, and those seemed to work! Except that the tire pressure sensor was a solid light, interrupted by periods of being a blinky light. According to my owner’s manual, this is a signal for “pull off the road as soon as it is safe to do so, and flee the car, warning all within a 1,000-foot radius before the genetically engineered nanovirus is emitted and converts all nearby matter into locking lug nuts.”. Not what I’m looking for.

CBS News Special report on Senator Al Franken announcing his resignation is shrunk down for breaking news about Michigan's scandal involving Larry Nassar.
Fun Fact: of the 184 new episodes of The Price Is Right aired so far this year, only 23 of them have been shown in their entirety without a Breaking News update interrupting some part of them. Also a Fun Fact: nothing about this is the slightest bit fun.

So today in the latest round of this they said they could see me at 1pm, which turned out to be more like 3pm, in a quest that ultimately found the new sensors they put in were transmitting on the wrong frequency. Fair enough. I feel a reflexive skepticism toward mass agreement on stuff. If I were part of the tire pressure sensor community I’m sure I would want to see what those other frequencies were all about.

They didn’t charge for fixing this, of course. The guy at the tire place thanked me for coming back. I mean, they’d thank me for coming in anyway. But this was that service-apologetic tone you would get where, like, the Genius Squad at Best Buy admits, “I guess I see how every step in the situation built on the one before but I’ve still don’t understand how setting up an HDTV stereo sound bar resulted in your goldfish being on fire. Would it help if I gave you a discounted copy of The Nut Job 2?”.

The guy from the work bay pulled my car up. He said it was all in good shape now. And he’d left the keys in and the car running because the battery had died and they had to jump-start it, so, better leave it running some.

Deflated


First, I apologize if this piece is rougher than normal. I have to put several hundred dollars into my car, through the funnel in the armrest that normally swallows up the iPod Touch. But the servicing takes time. And I have to try to make myself feel better about that, ideally by eating eighteen McRib sandwiches.

We were driving home from my love’s parents after Thanksgiving dinner, with four bags of leftovers packed in the hatched back of my car. I didn’t think much about the tire-pressure warning sign on the dashboard because my car is always throwing off warnings when it gets cold. I’d checked the tire pressure the day before and everything was fine. Then it wasn’t. The rear passenger-side tire burst open and started rattling and my love, as passenger, warned me: “[ Something I didn’t make out because I was looking at the rear-view mirror with disapproval ]”. Fair warning, though. We were right at an exit so I pulled off the Interstate and followed the bright lights to the large, well-lit, spacious parking lot of what turned out to be the Lion’s Den Adult Superstore.

A tire (mine) with a maybe ten-inch gash where the sidewall's come apart.
Yeah, so, I guess when I got my oil changed the dealership wasn’t just fishing around to see if I could be upsold into buying a replacement set of tires, and by their “I should look at this soon” they meant more like “We’re not all that sure we can legally permit you to drive home on these tires” and maybe I was missing some cues because of the distraction of HGTV people having silly things happen to their remodel.

They were closed, possibly because it was 2 am, possibly because it was Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, while we were waiting for AAA, three different carloads full of people drove in, looked at the front door, turned around and left again. Apparently the Adult Superstore underestimates their 2am-after-the-holiday foot traffic. They’re leaving money on the table, and I feel like there’s some slightly morally judgemental joke I could be making about that.

I didn’t go calling AAA right away, by the way. I’m confident that I can change a tire in my car myself. Three decades of car-based experiences have not turned up any successful cases of my changing a tire myself. But I’m like 80 percent sure I know the theory. It’s the tires that won’t cooperate. The problem this time is I couldn’t get three of the lugnuts off. They wouldn’t budge.

So with two lugnuts off we had to call AAA. While my love walked to the front door of the Adult Superstore, to see if they had a posted street address, I found out the phone operator at AAA had a low-key Thanksgiving since her dog just got out of surgery. Well, she asked how I was, and I told her “pretty good up to a mile ago,” which I still think was a solid line. And I only felt weird not asking her how she was so I learned her dog needed surgery and it all makes sense, all right? Anyway, her system had trouble finding the Adult Superstore. My love reported there wasn’t any address listed on the building, but that they did have a Christmas tree in the vestibule. “Surely you mean an X-mas tree,” I answered. Since my love did not punch me in the gut and walk away never to be seen again, I know it’s true love.

I could see the AAA guy’s truck pulling off the Interstate. It stopped, though, and the guy called us to verify our location. I got out of the car and waved and he said yeah, he thought that was us. It’s like he had some reluctance to pull up to the lone car in the Adult Superstore parking lot, with the motor running and the headlights off, at 2:30 am the morning after Thanksgiving. Or something.

He had power tools to undo the lugnuts and I’m proud to say he couldn’t get the lugnuts unstuck either. So I’m not a lifelong failure in tire-changing, see? It’s the tires. He declared, in another great line, “I’m not done giving up yet,” and took out a couple wood blocks. With them he could set up a rickety, ad hoc scheme of blocks leaning against each other, to brace the axis of the tire iron while he jumped on it. He only had to do this one or two times for each lugnut, and he didn’t slip and break his neck doing so. Also I needed to offer him the adaptor to go from the tire iron to the lugnuts like four times before he realized what I was offering. I must have been saying something wrong.

Anyway, after we had that sorted out it was like two minutes to finish the tire change. And now the interior of my car smells like leftover caramelized onion mixed with burnt-out flat tire. The second part of that isn’t what I would pick, but we have to go with the life we have.

Overall, this seems to me like it was a weird flat-tire experience. But I also don’t see where I did anything to make this weird and I’d accept advice on dealing with this better in the future. Thank you and good night.