Thank heaven it doesn’t occur often.
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When I come home at night after work, my wife and I typically talk about what we did that day. My wife gives me a journal description of her day from the time she got up until we finally meet at night. She’s quite articulate in her adventures of the day which may explain why she looks puzzled at me when she asks me how my day went and I respond by saying simply “Fine” or “Good.” Actually, I have a “Bad” day now and then, but not too often. I usually have but one a year, and I don’t mean a type of day where you run into some problems at work or a key decision doesn’t go your way. I’m talking about a day where everything consistently unravels before your eyes and you are powerless to do anything about it. Maybe a better adjective would be a “Rotten” day. I had one a couple of weeks ago.
It began on a cold Wednesday here in Florida, which may sound like an oxymoron, but on this particular occasion a cold Arctic blast came down from Canada. We may have not gotten
the snow or frigid temperatures that the Midwest received, but getting into the 30’s is still cold by my estimate. As I was leaving for lunch I noticed my car had a flat tire on the left-rear side. “Oh, great,” I lamented to myself.
A friend mentioned my mechanic probably had a spray can containing compressed air which may be able to inflate the tire long enough for me to drive it into the shop where it could be fixed. This sounded like a good idea, so he drove down and retrieved the can for me. The can was rather old and strange looking. Actually, it looked like a rusted and overgrown Jiffy Pop machine turned on its side and built around the time of the first World War. I had visions of Dough Boys using it in the Battle of the Marne to fill their gas masks. Nevertheless, I took the Jiffy Pop machine and hooked its hose to my tire stem. “Pffffst” and only a small puff of air came out of it before it died. I think I should have given it a military funeral in my dumpster right then and there.
I then resigned myself to the fact I would have to change the tire myself with the spare I had in the trunk. Now most people would call AAA or a local service station, but my masculine ego kicked into gear and I was determined to do it myself. After all, I had changed many tires over the years, “What is one more tire?” I said to myself. Unfortunately, I had never changed a tire on this particular vehicle, a Kia from South Korea. Dutifully I took out the tools packaged neatly in the trunk. So far, so good. There was a screwdriver and wrench, as well as a jack and tire iron. However, calling it a “tire iron” would be overly generous. It looked more like an overgrown silver Pixie Stick, approximately ten inches in length.
Before you jack-up a car to remove a tire, it is a smart idea to first loosen the lug nuts. I used the Kia screwdriver to remove the plastic lug nut cover from the wheel, a feat in itself as it stubbornly did not want to come off. I then took the Pixie Stick and tried to turn the lug nuts much to no avail, they were on simply too tight. It was about this time that I noticed sweat developing on my forehead and removed my jacket as I was becoming too warm even in the cold weather. After fifteen minutes of pushing and bending the Pixie Stick (which included some choice expletives on my part), I concluded this was a futile effort. Still determined to see this job through to completion, I borrowed a car and drove home to get an industrial strength tire iron I had in my garage. My house is only five miles from the office, but it wasn’t until I was halfway home when I realized I left my house key in my jacket back at the office. Not surprising, there were more expletives.
I turned around and returned to the office where I picked up my keys and headed for home again where I performed a frantic search for the tire iron in the garage. It was, of course, in the last possible place to be found in the garage but I was pleased nonetheless that I had found it. I then drove back to the office where I applied my tire iron to the lug nuts. Even with the considerable leverage afforded me by my tire iron, the lug nuts openly resisted my attempts to loosen them. By this time, I noticed my shirt was no longer tucked in my pants which were now drooping as I was bouncing up and down next to the tire like a pogo stick. Just when I was convinced the people at Kia had welded the lug nuts on to the wheel they finally started to loosen with a rusty squeak. One-by-one, squeak-by-squeak, lug nut-by-lug nut, curse-by-curse, they finally surrendered to me.
With the lug nuts loosened, I then went about positioning the jack under the car to raise the vehicle. Actually, it looked more like a toy than a jack. Years ago, cars came with jacks that were made of big hunks of steel you used to raise the vehicle, and it was actually fun to do so. My Kia jack though was no bigger than my two hands put together and was based on a screw mechanism which came with another Pixie Stick to turn it. This required me to use my first Pixie Stick tire iron to turn the other. Since the two were so small, I found myself kneeling on the ground spinning the two Pixie Sticks like you were rapidly peddling a bicycle. I’m sure it was quite comical to watch. Slowly but surely, the jack raised the car up until I could replace the old tire with my spare. I then lowered the car and tightened the lug nuts.
Afterwards I returned to my feet, straightened myself up and was sharply reminded of the arthritis cultivating in my back. I was sweating, my clothes a mess, and my hands soiled with tire filth. Did I mention it was still freezing outside?
After cleaning myself up, I put the tools away in the trunk, along with the flat tire and the Jiffy Pop air can from World War I. Finally, I drove my car to my mechanic’s shop to drop off the air can and have him replace the tire. Elapsed time: two hours, not to mention my afternoon was shot down as it took me some time to regain my composure. The experience: priceless.
The lesson here is that you should always carry a proper set of tools in your car, have a change of clothing, and wait for proper weather conditions to change a tire. Either that or lose the ego and call a mechanic.
As mentioned, I don’t experience “Bad” days often, but when I do it has been my observation they are defined by the domino effect that takes place whereby a series of interrelated screw-ups cascade from one to another. Such events are incredibly frustrating thereby testing your patience.
When I got home that evening, my wife as usual asked me how my day went. I answered “Fine” as I didn’t want to see the dominoes progress any further.
Keep the Faith!