Full of Hot Air



January 27, 2000

I'm a smart woman. I graduated from college in 4 years. I was on the Dean's List. I have taken a fair number of postgraduate classes. I have taken nearly half the required courses to become a Landscape Contractor. I'm a wife, mother, friend, and lover. I hold a full time job. I can cook. I sew. I can fix things around the house and have my very own cordless drill and 24 inch level. I can even build things if I have to.

I can tell you how to get the most volume from heavy cream that you're whipping, or how to make a perfect roast. The mysteries of a perfect meringue are not lost on me. I know about reciprocating saws and hanging drywall. I could even change out a faucet or lay and grout tile if the mood struck me.

I know a lot of things abut a lot of different things, but I don't know anything about cars.

OK, I take that back. I can drive a car. I know it needs gas, oil, a battery, and even belts to get you from Point A to Point B, but the mechanics of it all elude me.

One of the best things I ever did was find a good, reliable, honest mechanic. The car makes little pingy noises when I turn right? Off we went. To the shop. Running hot, rough, or not running at all? I had a place to go. A place where I was confident that I wasn't going to be taken for every last dime I had and that the problem would actually be solved.

Two years ago I bought a new car. A Volvo S70 T5. It's red. It's hot. It's fast. It's safe. And it's still under warranty. So, when it makes a little pingy noise when I turn right off we go to the dealer. It's pretty cut and dried.

mine's red but looks just like this--even wipers on my headlights

Or it was until the other day.

I noticed that the right rear tire was looking a little low. I meant to have Chuck fill it with air when he was going out a little later on. I forgot. No biggie.

So on Tuesday I was driving to work. I had gotten a late start and my tardiness to the office was being compounded by the fact that it was raining.

For those of you on the East coast absolutely smothered in snow right now I know this does not elicit much sympathy, but it doesn't rain here much. This was the first appreciable rain we've had in Southern California since last winter. And adding insult to injury, people in Southern California do not know how to drive when it rains.

So now I'm 25 minutes late for work and I'm sitting at a stop light. The guy in the car next to me honks. I look over. He motions that my tire looks low. Thanks. Wow, what a nice person. I go to the office and figure I'll get settled in and then go back out and deal with my tire.

I pull into a parking spot and when I get out and look at the tire it's not what I'd call a little low. I'd call it a lot low. I'd call it on the verge of flat.

The thing is, the car was driving just fine. Gotta love that Swedish engineering.

Anyway, about 25 minutes later I head out in search of a gas station. I work in downtown Los Angeles. The thing about downtown is that there are not a lot of consumer services there. No big chain markets or 7-11's. There's commerce. Big commerce. But it's all ensconced in the walls of high rise buildings.

There are people who live in downtown, but not anywhere in the area of my office. For you fellow Angelino's I work on Bunker Hill.

So off I go. Turns out there's a gas station about 10 blocks from the office. I limp there and put air in the tire. Mental note to self: deal with tire problem.

When I leave the office at the end of the day it looks fine. My diagnosis: slow leak. I figure I can make it until the weekend to deal with it.

When I left for the office yesterday morning the tire still looked fine, but when I left the office to go home last night it was looking a bit low again. Back to the same service station and more air in the tire. I figure I am going to have to deal with the problem immediately. As in last night.

I call Chuck and ask him to find me a place where I can get the tire looked at that evening. By this time it's 6:00 so my pickin's are pretty slim. He said that I could drive his truck today and that he'd take care of the tire.

That's all well and good but I hate driving Chuck's truck.

I come home resolved to deal with it myself. Immediately.

I knew Pep Boys would be open.

Zoe and I load into the car and off we go. The Pep Boys is not exactly in the nicest area but I'm bound and determined to deal with this. Myself.

By the time we get there it's pushing 7 at night. I've been busy all day and I'm tired. Zoe is not being helpful. She felt compelled to bring both a Barbie and her ukulele with her and was strumming the uke with Barbie's head.

I should have known we were in for trouble when I walked up to the counter. I heard the tail end of a discussion the previous customer was having with the guy behind the counter. He was getting the manager's name so that he could talk to him the following day. Apparently he had had several hundred dollars worth of work performed on his vehicle and was still having the exact same problems.

Now why anyone would take their cars to Pep Boys instead of a proper mechanic for several hundred dollars worth of work eludes me, but that's not the point.

I explain to the guy that I have a slow leak and I want it patched.

Have a seat in the waiting room he tells me.

Off Zoe and I go.

We get called for service in less than five minutes. OK, maybe this won't be so bad.

I drive the car to the service bay. Julio looks at the tire. While it's still on the car. He tells me that he can't patch it. The tire is shot. I then asked if he wasn't even going to take it off the car to inspect it? Nope. No need. You need a new tire lady.

My car has less than 40,000 miles on it. I get it regularly serviced. I do not think I really need a new tire. But he's made it eminently clear from his attitude and overall treatment of me that I'm merely a woman and therefore can't possibly know what I'm talking about.

I do know that if there's a hole in the side wall of the tire you can't patch that but the side wall is clearly fine.

Well I didn't feel completely comfortable with Julio's diagnosis so Zoe and I left.

I was resigning myself to driving Chuck's truck to my seminar this morning.

Well, come this morning I can't get the truck started. Plus the brakes felt a little spongy. Since I knew I'd be driving over the canyons in rush hour I didn't feel all that comfortable about taking the truck.

I decided I fill the tire (now low again) with more air and that since I'd be home early this afternoon I'd let Chuck deal with it then.

Well, I got home really early this afternoon. I left the seminar at the lunch break. The guy teaching it was jerky and it wasn't what I'd hoped it would be.

So Chuck takes my car to have the wheel checked this afternoon. They found two of these in the tread:

the penny is there to show scale

Apparently it's a roofing nail. Where the hell on earth I would have had the opportunity to drive over one of these remains a mystery, but there it is.

The guy fixed it for Chuck for $15.

Yes, I will need a new tire soon-ish. Apparently I have an alignment problem that is causing excess wear and tear on that specific tire, but it was eminently fixable. Because a man brought it in.

Dollars to doughnuts, if I'd brought it wherever Chuck had, you'd be reading a journal entry about my adventure buying new tires today.

Until next time...

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