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Never let my son, David, look at your car tires.
Seriously. At first I thought he just had a sharp eye for details, being able to spot the head of a nail on the surface of the rubber at a glance. However, through the years the number of such occurrences has proven too much for coincidence. Most of my relatives and some of my friends are aware of it and they take pains to avoid his casting a fatal glance at their tires. I’ve even wondered if David has developed some rare form of subconscious telekinesis, unaware of his causing the destructive spikes of metal to materialize, embedded in the helpless treads of rubber.
Out of necessity, I’ve learned to keep my son occupied with conversation whenever we stop and get out of the car, distracting him with eye contact to keep his dangerous gaze from falling where it shouldn’t. However, a few days ago I must have let my defenses down. It was Monday night and after an enjoyable though exhausting day, as I snuggled beneath the covers I heard a soft knock at my bedroom door. It was David. “What is it?” I ask.
“Mom’s car is sitting crooked,” he said. “I think I saw something in one of the tires.”
Begrudgingly, I got out of bed and tiptoed in my PJ’s into the garage. Sure enough Kathi’s car was leaning hard to the left. I walked around the car and found the rear tire on the passenger side half flat. Deciding I was just too tired, mentally and physically to change the tire, I thanked my son for his diligent observation and headed back to bed, telling him and my wife that I would deal with it in the morning. If the tire was flat, I would change it. However, if it still had air in it, I would drive it to QT, put some air in it and deal with it during lunch break at work. The latter proved to be the case.
Due to the sharing of duties in taking my son to work and picking him up, Tuesday through Thursday I get up at the inhuman hour of 5:30 AM in order to get to work at 6:30. That morning, with Kathi’s car still drivable, I headed for the nearest QT to air up the tire. Finding the air machine I pulled up next to it, got out of the car, tripped over my own feet a few times, but managed to find and push the red button, which starts the machine. It’s quite dark at that time of the morning in October but I soon determined that there was no hose attached to the contraption. Compressed air hissed noisily though uselessly into the atmosphere. Rattled but determined, I climbed back into the partially crippled car and drove to the next nearest free air depot. Upon finding the next epitome of commercial convenience, I located the air device. Not wanting to waste my time, infringing upon being late for work, I looked first for a hose. Seeing that the machine did indeed have the proper fittings, I sprang from the car, hit the red button, grabbed the hose, and, feeling a twinge of pain fitted the air hose onto the air stem of the tire. With air now going into the tire, I pulled my hand back a bit to inspect the source of my pain. The metal sheathing around the end of the hose had become frayed, and now red, since I was bleeding upon it. Fighting through the pain, I finished airing the tire and sped off to work.
At 11:30 AM, I met Kathi – we work for the same company – at the car. With the establishment where we’d purchased the tires being a few miles away, we decided to use our lunch hour to remedy the situation. We’d drive over, get the tire repaired and that would be that.
The tire personnel were friendly enough, though so caught up in their work that it was quite difficult to get their attention. With the keys handed over, Kathi and I risked our lives crossing a wide and busy street and later dined on Mexican cuisine while our car was being expertly cared for.
After lunch and back at the shop, Kathi and I reclined with magazines in the waiting area. Two magazines later, exchanging an understanding glance, Kathi and I called our work to report that we might be a few minutes late. If only that would have been the case, my few degrees of lost sanity might still be intact. About an hour later, the shop worker who’d checked us in appeared in the waiting area. “I’ve got bad news,” he said. “We can’t fix the flat. In fact both of the rear tires on your car are shot.”
I wanted to ask him why it had taken him an hour and a half to come to that conclusion, but being the congenial guy that I am I said. “How much will that cost me?”
He quoted me a price that might take a few pumpkin pies off the table. “Go ahead and replace all four,” I said.
Another hour later, the man again returns to the waiting room. I jump up, quite relieved that it’s finally over.
He shakes his head. “We’ve just now put your car on the alignment rack. I see now why the back tires were so bad. The cars seriously out of whack.”
“What does that mean exactly?” I ask. He starts talking about toe-ins and cantors. Apparently my wife’s car is pigeon toed. To make matters worse, the car was manufactured without an adjustment device for the rear of the car. He’d have to order aftermarket parts, specifically designed to compensate for the manufacturer’s lack of foresight. “Just put it back together the way it is,” I said. “We need to get back to work.”
At that point, with Kathi and I being the only people left in the waiting area, Hotel California began playing over the intercom. There had been no music before. With increased trepidation, I paid special attention to the song lyrics: You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.
I ended up having to take one half day of vacation. I barely made it in time to pick up my son, David, from work, arriving a little after 4:00 PM. “Did you get mom’s car fixed?” He asked.
I muttered a soft, “Yes.”
“How about the tire?”
“We got new ones,” I whispered. In a louder voice I added, “Hey, I know you’ve been looking forward to decorating the house for Halloween. How about you and I get started on that when we get home?”