Tuesday August 21, 2012

What's up with my car?

car scar

So, this happened. I walked out of my work the other day to go to lunch and saw that the left rear tire on my car was flat. It actually wasn’t too much of a surprise, because I had a flat on the right rear a couple of months ago. I live in Edgewater across the street from a construction site, and they love sprinkling nails and screws into the street. I guess what happens is that I drive over one leaving the house and cause a puncture that drains the air over a couple of hours, so that I have no trouble getting to work, but after a few hours it’s flat. Point being, I know the drill.

I bust out the works: under the floor of the trunk there’s a toolkit with a screwdriver, a peculiar jack contraption, and a bunch of other stuff. The spare is attached to the bottom of the car in a peculiar German-engineering sort of way, and is actually removed from the inside of the trunk. I pop off a little circular piece of plastic by the rear wheel where the jack attaches by plugging into a semi-circular hole (again: German engineering). Before jacking up the car I set the emergency break and loosen the bolts on the wheel by inserting the tire iron into each one and jumping up and down on it, because it’s considered best practices at any place that works on your car these days to overtighten the bolts.

Then I jack the car up and take the bolts all the way off to discover that the (aluminum) wheel has bonded itself to the (steel) hub. I dealt with this exact situation a couple of months ago when I had the other flat, at which point I tried tapping it around the rim, banging on it with a 2-by-4, putting the bolts back on — but loosely — and lowering it and driving back and forth a few feet, all to no avail. Ended up calling the three A’s that time, who arrived and got the wheel off before I had a chance to see what the proper technique. The point being here, is that I’m officially screwed.

This is the point at which my mind officially went soft. I’ve had the chance to process this and try to figure out what the hell I was thinking, and as best as I can figure it’s that, ok, this is an automatic, right? It’s in fucking park, which means you hardly ever even use the emergency break because, like, the fact that it’s in park means the front wheels don’t move, and all the emergency break is doing is keeping the rear wheel from being able to be turned, which right now is totes not helping.

So, I reach into the vehicle and disengage the parking break.

Well, you know how this movie ends: the front wheels roll, the jack gently bends, and the left rear wheel comes gently down, which hallelujah unsticks it from the hub and causes it to pop off. It sort of gets wedged underneath, so that the wheel and tire, now sticking out at a weird 45-degree angle, are the only thing between the bottom of the car and the ground. This is the, what do you call it? The oh-shit moment.

But actually the way out of this is clear: you just need another (a real) jack to jack the car back up, and you can put the spare on and drive off in victory to World Wide Tire up the street.

(An aside about World Wide Tire: these people are kings among men. They’ve got a divey little shop next to like a creepy halfway house on US-1. Years ago I had a slow leak in a tire and I took it to Firestone, where they told me I needed a new tire because the puncture was was in the side of the tire. I had them fill it up and told them I’d be back later in the day and went to World Wide, where I explained that I needed a tire because I had a leak in the side of mine. They waved off Firestone’s assessment and patched it in about five minutes. $10, and that tire is still fine a year later. I went back a few months ago because my tires are almost bald thinking I’d get a news set, and they refused to sell me anything. “You’ve got six months left on those tires, minimum.” I’d kill for a mechanic that was as honest and good. (King Automotive in Wynwood may be close?))

But where do you find a jack suddenly in the middle of Hollywood? Well believe it or not, I look across the street and in the parking lot of the Publix I see one of those flat-bed trucks pulling through. I run over just as he’s ready to pull out back onto Hollywood Boulevard heading towards the beach and I wave at him with both arms. Do tow trucks even stop if you wave them down, if they have someplace they’ve already been summoned? This one did, and rolled down his window. It was a really high truck, and really loud, and I couldn’t really hear what the guy said back to me as I explained what happened (and he had on these wrap-around sunglasses with the multicolored reflective lenses, so maybe he wasn’t even looking at me) and that I just needed a quick jack. But I gather that he had just gotten a call and needed to be somewhere pronto and where was my car. I pointed across the street, and he said he’d come back if he couldn’t find the call(?) (maybe meaning after he was done?).

But so I thank him and I’m walking back over across the street but then I see him pulling in behind me. Which is totally awesome. He pulls in, and he’s, like, perpendicular to the row of cars, with the back of the truck just barely clearing the back of my car, and he busts out the jack. And admires my handiwork, by the way. All I can do is shrug and laugh. Whatever. He jacks the car and pulls my jack, which is twisted and useless now, and I run inside to grab a twenty to give him, and when I get back out he’s got the spare on there and discovered that it’s flat too, which is odd considering I just used it recently for the other flat. “I’ve got air,” he says, sighing, and adds that he’ll just tell (his next call) them he had to stop and use the crapper. He busts out this brand-new looking, perfectly coiled orange hose and attaches one end to something on the truck. It’s leaking from the valve, and pretty fast. I tell him I just need to get down the street to the tire place. “Ok, I’m going to fill it up as high as I can, but you’d better hurry,” he says. We throw the flat wheel, the jack, and all the other crap into the car and I thank him and he’s telling me to hurry. I jump in the car, and he opens the passenger seat and throws in the big metal contraption that holds the spare to the bottom of the car. “Alright, thanks!” I yell as he slams the door, and back out. Huge metal scraping sound, and I have no idea what that just was. I pull back forward and hop out the car to survey what just happened, and I don’t really remember what my exchange with the guy was. There’s like an extra bar at the back of the flatbed that can come down and out and tow an extra car when there’s another one on the bed itself, and the way he parked it stuck out just far enough that the side of my car scraped against it as I pulled out. There’s of course no damage to the truck at all, so the parameters of the situation haven’t really changed, and I’m back in the car and off.

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