Friday, January 15, 2010

Zen and the Art of Jetta Maintenance

While I continue to wait for my seething anger to subside about suddenly-former and down-right weaselly UT football coaches, I thought I would attempt to regale you with a story. It sort of sums up how my life has been lately.

To set the scene: we had one helluva cold snap here over the holidays and into the new year. It eventually got so cold that I was too cold. And that never happens.

In addition to the cold, we also were expected to get the Blizzard of 2010 two weeks ago. Instead we received a mere dusting of snow that Wednesday night. It then drizzled rain all day Thursday and that, combined with an 8-degree night, meant that Friday all of our side streets were skating rinks.

I still thought it wouldn't be too bad since I only have four blocks or so before I get to a main road that would be clear. So I bundled up and started the Jetta and headed out. Unfortunately there was a wreck blocking my short trip to the main road and I had to turn in the other direction. The noise beneath my tires was making that scrapey, crunchy, tires-on-ice sound, but they were also spinning a bit. And, despite all the complaining I do about dear Jetta Who Will Not Be Named, there is one thing it does well and that is drive on snow and ice.

But alas it was early and my brain was foggy and since I was already in the car I kept going down a short hill and then tried to turn left. That's when I realized that the scrapey, crunchy noise wasn't tires-on-ice, it was FLAT tire-on-ice.

I then vaguely recalled the guy at the oil change place maybe telling me I might have a slow leak in my front right tire that I should maybe keep an eye on. I can't remember. I mean, really. I wasn't listening that closely to begin with and, well, it's been several weeks since then... But I stopped, got out, and wouldn't you know it, a week of below freezing weather and a slow leak in your tire equals one very, very flat tire.

I tired to turn around and drive it back to my house until the weather warmed up enough to fix it, but going back up the hill was not an option. So I parked the Jetta on the street and trudged home.

Saturday came and it warmed up above 20-degrees so I walked back down to the car intent on changing the tire myself. I had a couple of offers of help from friends and family, and/or their AAA service, but it was too frickin' cold outside to put someone through that when, had I used any common sense to begin with, I would not have been in this predicament in the first place. Plus, it had been a particularly demoralizing week at work and I really just needed to complete something - that had some degree of difficulty to it - with my own two hands and one brain and not be scrutinized or berated about it.

So, I arrived at the Jetta and proceeded to remove the cute little tire-changing kit from the trunk and my very impressive-looking full-sized spare and went to work. Lemme tell ya - it was a gigantic pain in the ass and it was SO COLD. But I was determined. I took off the crafty German-designed hubcap cover thingy (that I had to look up in the damn manual how to remove). I loosened the bolts. I got the car all jacked up and was starting to remove the bolts when an SUV stopped. Inside was a kindly-looking Good Samaritan in his mid-to-late 50's. He rolled down his window.

GS: You need some help?

Me: Thanks, but I'm okay.

GS: [laughs] I wasn't expecting that answer. Here, I'll give you a hand.

He pulls his car off to the side and gets out. Part of me is really annoyed that he just assumed I would let him take over and change the tire. The rest of me is freezing its ass off. GS kindly finishes removing the flat tire and puts on the spare. Which turns out to also be flat.

Me: Good grief.

GS: Well, I think it's enough to get you to the gas station at the end of the street.

Me: Okay. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate your help. Have a nice day.

We shake hands and exchange names. I then drive on my slightly deflated spare to the gas station's air thingy, which is, of course, out of order. I curse, look up, and then realize that GS has followed me to the gas station.

GS: Is it out of order?

Me: Yes.

GS: Aw, man. Do you want to try the next gas station up the street?

Me: Sure.

I take off and he kindly follows behind me with his hazards on. We get to the next gas station's air thingy. Also out of order. I curse, smack my hand on the steering wheel and prepare to head down the street to the next station on what I'm sure is now a much more than a slightly-deflated spare.

GS: That one's out of order too?! Are you kidding me?!

Me: I know! Can you believe it?!

GS: I've got a buddy that works at the used tire place just up on the other side of the street if you want to go there.

Me: Okay! Thanks!

So we head up the street a short bit and turn into the tire place. GS goes inside for a moment and then emerges with a moderately scary looking dude named Mike with a cigarette dangling from his lip. He walks past me, mutters something I don't understand and then crouches down beside the car to find the leak in the spare. He finds it and goes about fixing it. I start to chat with GS again.

Me: Thank you so much - I really appreciate your help. But it's cold and I'm sure you have other things to do so please don't feel like you have to stay here.

GS: It's no problem.

Long pause.

GS: You married?

Me [to myself]: Who asks that question when they first meet someone?

Me [aloud]: No.

GS: Kids?

Me: Um. No.

Mike: It's fixed.

He then gestures gruffly to me to open the trunk. I hope it's because he wants me to get the flat tire out of it so he can fix that as well and not because he plans to knock me in the head and put me in it. But I decide to take my chances and quickly open the trunk. He pulls out the flat tire, fills it with air and then points to where I can hear air escaping from a little worn area in the side wall.

Mike: You need a new tire.

Me: How much?

Mike: Cash?

Me: Yes.

Mike: $27.50.

Me: Sounds good.

Mike leaves with my flat tire and mutters something to some other scary-looking dudes with cigarettes dangling from their lips. They look up at me, mutter back to him, and then take my tire inside.

Me [to GS]: Again - thank you. You've been very nice, but I'm fine now, I don't want to keep you.

GS: So you're not married?

Me [light bulb FINALLY goes off over my head]: Oh. Uh. No.

No-So-Good Samaritan proceeds to try and make small talk and no matter how many times I mention that he doesn't need to stay - HE WON'T LEAVE. I become annoyed. And am freezing. I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone and start to text one of my gays: "Plz come get me @ tire store by CVS. BTW - try to look big & scary when u get here."

NSGS: So are you single?

Me [finally with my wits about me]: No!

NSGS: Boyfriend?

Me: Yep.

I then cringe internally because I know the next questions will be "Well, if you have a boyfriend, why wasn't he out there changing your tire?" and because I know that if I do have to resort to calling in backup I will never, ever, ever be allowed to live down this little ordeal. Having Mike knock me in the head and put me in the trunk does not sound like such a bad alternative at the moment...

NSGS: Well, Mike will be finished in a minute so I guess I'll head on.

Me [internally]: Praise Jesus.

Me: Okay. Well, thanks again. Have a good weekend.

NSGS leaves and Mike returns shortly with a new tire. Well, a new used tire. And shoves a bill at me with $27.50 scribbled on it. I hand him two twenty dollar bills and he grumbles (dude, you just asked if I had cash - not if I had exact change. Let it go!). He digs around in his pocket and comes up with change. And then hands me the tire. I realize that $27.50 only covers parts. Not installation.

So I drive back to my house on my fully-inflated spare and then spend the next 30 minutes continuing to freeze my ass off while I change the tire in my driveway. Happily. Alone.


Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Wow--all those fish swimming in the sea and one takes a nibble and you SHUT HIM DOWN COLD.
But seriously, who knew a car tragedy would end up like THAT?
At least it wasn't Mike asking about your status... would have been waaaay creepier.

Glad you made it home safe, sound & ALONE!

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