Muskmelon - delicious

Saturday, June 10, 2006

No longer qualified to carry a tire iron

Sunday, June 4, 2006
By Tom Martin Copley News Service

It’s official.
I’m soft. I’ve become the guy who doesn’t change his own flat tires. I’ve grown from a kid who could work a bumper jack on an incline to a guy who now calls for help.
And that’s what I did a couple of weeks ago, when I found myself stranded on Interstate 55 outside of Lincoln, Ill. I was driving along in my 12-year-old purple pickup truck, listening to the Cardinals play the Nationals and thinking about getting home.
And then my left rear tire blew out. It was the moment I had been dreading for at least four years, which is when I had my last flat-tire fiasco.
That was also on an interstate highway, I-80 (kinda busy), and was my first tire-changing meltdown. With semitrailers whizzing past, I got my truck jacked up. My biggest fear was getting the air-wrench-tightened lug nuts off, which I finally did by using the entire weight of my body on the four-way tire iron.
But my defeat came when I tried to remove the wheel from the hub. It wouldn’t budge. I tried prying and banging. After nearly two hours of this, the sun went down.
No cell phone
With knuckles bloodied and ego bruised, I hitched a ride for help. My wife had insisted I carry along the cell phone. I waved it off. About the time I hooked up with the tow-truck driver, my “don’t-need-the-cell-phone” arrogance had landed in a different time zone and I pondered my plight. I’d been unable to do one of those basic guy things. Changing a tire is a staple in the guy handbook. Heck, as a driver’s ed teacher, my dad made high-school girls change tires, so they wouldn’t be helpless if they had a flat.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never been an under-the-hood guy, but I’d always been able to change a tire. Oh, it got a little more difficult for me when they stopped using the bumper jacks and went to those little jacks you have to twist to raise. I’m never really sure where they go, and I won’t read the manual. In fact, I changed a couple of tires by twisting the jack with the tire iron before realizing the jack handle was carefully hidden beneath the hood.
Back on I-80, my spirits buoyed a little, when the tow-truck guy explained to me that the aluminum wheels, like the ones on my truck, often become fused to the hub and are difficult to get off. He used a 6-foot iron pry bar to break the union between the wheel and my truck.
Stuck on the shoulder
From that moment I knew I’d need either help or to carry a really big tool to change the next flat.
And I would have carried a big tool, too, if someone had found one and put it in my truck. But no one did, and I found myself on the shoulder of I-55 late on a Thursday afternoon.
This time I had a cell phone. My first call was to my wife. I needed her to release my guilt and let me call for help. She did. A guy with a button-up, blue shirt with “Dave” above the pocket arrived 20 minutes later and had the tire changed in less than 10 minutes. Instead of a big pry bar, he used a hammer with a head the size of a muskmelon to remove the wheel.
I was back on the road quickly, my knuckles intact and my good clothes unsoiled.
But I lost something in the exchange besides the 35 bucks I paid Dave. Even with a really big tool, I don’t think I could turn back now.



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