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02/02/2005 Archived Entry: "Flat tire -- a humbling experience"

FLAT TIRE: A HUMBLING EXPERIENCE. Here comes that old adage about "the best laid plans" again. Sigh.

Came out of the house yesterday morning to find a flat tire on my truck. Well, no problem, right? A flat is a small thing and I'm prepared for it. Not only prepared, but redundantly prepared.

First thing, I decide to try that can of Fix-a-Flat I bought before I headed for the Desert Hermitage. Whoosh ... fizzle. Whoo ... fizzle. W ... fizzle. The instructions say the foamy, pressurized stuff won't work below 32 degrees. Well, it's 45 and hasn't been below freezing in days. And still nada.

I take the can in the house and after 15 minutes of room temperature, get a slightly larger whoo before the fizzle, but it becomes obvious that this method of flat fixing could take all day.

So out from behind the truck seat comes the trusty old jack -- Toyota's very good, cleverly designed jack, which I know well how to use. I assemble the parts needed to lower the spare tire from where it hangs under the bed of the truck, insert the hook into the mechanism that drops the spare to the ground. And ... push, push. Nothing. Nudge, nudge. Nothing. Turn, turn. Nothing. That spare ain't goin' nowhere.

Humiliated and assuming this is some "girl" problem, I finally give in and call the local garage. I've blessed myself a dozen times that the little town at the bottom of my hill has this garage. Its owners and mechanics are modern-day Knights of the Round Table, far as I'm concerned. And I truly felt like the stereotypical damsel in distress as I waited for the garage owner, who came dashing up the hill on his white charger ... er, red SUV, but you know what I mean. What a frickin' girly I must be, not even able to detach a spare tire. But he was nice enough not to mention that.

Good thing, too. Because when he stuck the hook thingy into the tire-release thingy ... push, nudge, twist ... he didn't get any further than I did. He ended up simply removing the flat, driving it back to the shop, fixing it, and driving back up to put it back on -- all for $15 "and pay me next time you come in."

I'll come in soon to have his mechanics de-rustify the release thingy -- although in the meantime I've attacked it with as much WD40 as I could squoosh into the narrow opening that gives access to the device.

I maintain that old truck very well, knowing it's got to last me many more years. But who'd have ever though to check for that particular problem? Toyota is a damn good running truck, but it has a few unfortunate design features -- like putting the spare on the underside and outside where every bit of road salt and grit pelt it year in and year out.

No harm done this time (and what a boon that the flat happened in my own front yard on a sunny day), but what if I'd have been where I often am, 12 miles up a deserted complex of logging roads? Then I guess I'd just have to hope I'd kept a good charge on my cellphone batteries -- and that the Knights of the Garage were once again ready to ride to the rescue. If not, I'd have a long, long walk.

Posted by Claire @ 09:52 AM CST

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