I have a confession to make (though it will come as no surprise to my parents and long suffering husband): I am a slacker of a car owner. While I love the idea bucking gender stereotypes and changing tires and tinkering under the hood, I am yet to embrace the act of actually doing it, (or, for that matter, more basic tasks like checking my tire pressure or getting my oil changed). When I stop to think about it–which is sadly infrequent–I am always a bit pleasantly surprised that our cars run as smoothly as they do (all credit goes to Andrew)
Which brings us to last Thursday, at farmers market. I was just finishing a conversation with one of our customers when he looked behind me and frowned slightly. He was staring at our Volvo wagon, which I had parked jut behind our market tent.
“Your back tire looks a little low,” he commented to me. I turned to look. I’m pretty terrible at judging anything between completely full and disastrously flat, so I just nodded.
“Do you have far to drive?” he asked. I shrugged. “About an hour–I can always stop at a gas station to fill it up” I breezily replied.
His brow remained furrowed. “You might want to check it again, half way” he advised. “If there’s something in the tire, it could become flat again before you get home.”
In my head, I was calculating the time commitment of topping up the tire and then potentially topping it up again. This seemed a little overly cautious. I figured I would probably be fine. But clearly, I needed to convince this good Samaritan that I would be responsible and take all necessary precautionary steps. “Good idea,” I nodded. “I’ll stop and check it on the way back.”
“Do you know what a flat feels like?” This guy was persistent! “Err…won’t it feel like it is pulling on the flat side?” I lamely supposed.
“Oh, that’s only once it has gotten really low!” he looked positively alarmed now. “If it is low, the back will feel sluggish, not as responsive as normal. Hmmm…” He continued to eye my tire.
“Do you have a spare?” he asked. “Yes!” I exclaimed, happy to have found a solution. He would feel reassured that I had a spare and be satisfied in my vehicle’s soundness, I thought. “Can I see it? Sometimes spares can get low, sitting around as long as they do. I wouldn’t want you to end up with a flat tire and a flat spare.” This was taking far longer than I had expected.
But I gamely opened the back hatch and began digging through the various compartments in the back. He felt the spare. “Yeah, like I said, this is a little low also. You should get the spare filled too.” Then he brightened. “I have a little pump in my car–it plugs into the cigarette lighter and we can get your spare good and full. Can you change a tire?” My face must have been answer enough, as he quickly added “Then you just need to find someone to help you change the tire and you’ll be all set.” He returned a few minutes later with a small pump and I held his 9 month old while he hooked everything up to my spare.
By this point, I was attracting a crowd. Two other vendors, noticing that I was digging around in my car and running small appliances, had walked over to make sure that everything was alright. My customer explained the dilemma. “…so she just needs some help with that spare…” Jason and Corey, the other vendors, looked at one another, laughed, and rolled up their sleeves.
Unfortunately, my ignorance was about be be put on display for all to see. “Where is your tire iron?” Jason asked. I riffled through the junk that had sunk into the spare tire compartment. No tire iron. I looked under the seats. In the back side compartments. No tire iron. There was one small plastic compartment on a sidewall, but I couldn’t get it open, so I ignored that.
Meanwhile, as I opened compartment after compartment, Jason and Corey began speculating about my side job as a drug runner.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed customers walking by, looking quizzically at the huddle around the Volvo, and moving on.
Finally, having determined that it was there or nowhere, Corey succeeded in opening the small plastic compartment. He was rewarded with the tire iron and an assortment of other tools the precise use of which I still don’t know. He and Jason quickly jacked up the Volvo, swapped out the tire, and tightened everything down again.
Then everyone stopped to admire the nail that was now revealed as the source of my troubles. Sheepish, I gave thanks all around, to Jason, Corey, customer Adam (and his very patient baby). Any sales I might have missed were clearly outweighed by the massive inconvenience of a flat that I had been spared.
It rained all the way home.