Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Life School: Tire Store campus

No tires were harmed in the stalking or
posting of this sign on Facebook.
I'm pretty sure that at some point, a science teacher stood in front of a classroom, miles from the back row where I sat, and informed all of us that  a molecule is the smallest particle in a chemical element or compound that has the chemical properties of that element or compound.
In response to this news, I'm pretty sure I constructed a cootie catcher and asked "my neighbor" to pick a color and receive a fortune in return. 
I think of this when I have to talk to Harry, a specialist at our local tire store, because no place makes me feel, and therefore act, as stupid as this place with its garage smell of tread and wall hangings of actual tires. 
If it's a simple deal – changing out of snows for example – we do okay. But if there's an "issue" – a  shimmy, a pull in some direction – Harry and I know we'll have to put on our patient hats because my comfort level with his language ends with "I'm fine, how are you?" 
A month ago, my husband noticed a serious scrape in my tire and asked me if I'd been driving anywhere lately where sharp metal might have been come in contact with the tire, like a construction site. 
Here is a helpful sign 
that explains itself.
I told him that no, I'd not driven through any construction sites and that my driving route is the same as it's been for months: I drive to Granite to see friends for wine every now and then, I drive to the supermarket, I drive to Concord to run errands, and sometimes I stalk signs to post on Facebook. 
"You should call Harry. It's kind of deep, it might be dangerous to be driving on it."
"Can it blow up?"
"Let Harry tell you that." 
Had that blowing up question brought an "Oh, I doubt it!" there would be no call with Harry until much later in the future. But I had to go to Boston soon, so I dialed him up. 
"Hi Harry, it's Susan Bonifant."
"Oh, hey Susan!"
"I have a problem."
"Oh no," he said, "what's happening?" 
Here is where my brain wants to lie down.

"I've done something to my tire."
"It has a gash."
"How did that happen?"
"I don't know."
"Can you describe it for me?"
"It looks like a check-mark."

"Is it in the sidewall?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well," begins Harry, "the sidewall  sjdyfhfhy uuiir. Alskjdhfughhh and vbvhg can mean rsddwq. And cqpmkk, and also jg dfreeaa."
"So," asks Harry, "is it like that?" 
Here is where Harry adjusts the pace of his speech and length of his words. 

"Do you want to come in and let me take a look?" he asks.
"That would be great," I say. "When is it quiet over there?"
"Usually 3 or so. We're pretty busy at lunchtime."

"Okay. It's noon. If I come over in twenty minutes, will that work?"
"Sure," says Harry. 
It is, as Harry predicted, packed because it's lunchtime, and so I signal, I'll come back, and Harry nods in agreement from the counter. 

At three o'clock, Harry follows me to the car and squats to get a close look at the tire. 
"Yeah, that's what I thought," he says in a sad voice. "And how did this happen?"

"I have no idea. Can it be fixed?" I ask. "Patched, maybe?" 
"Nope." He looks at me. "It's in the sidewall." He points to what is the sidewall before I can ask, and says, "See, the thing is, ynfhy uuiir. Alskjdhfughhh and vbvhg can mean rsddwq. And cqpmkk, and alos dfreeaad. Vb." 
I want out of the deep end of this tire talk pool, now. I want to take my napping brain and go where I will not be this way, but I need to know. 
"Am I in any danger if I drive to Boston this week?" 
Harry is uncomfortable with this question. He sighs, makes a  tsk tsk tsk tsk sound, tilts his head left and right and says, "It's really not a good idea." 
"Will it blow up?" I ask. 
"Oh, Heavens! No. I'm sure your car has a pressure warning." 
"What will it do if it does?" 
"A light will come on and tell you if there's a leak."
Back inside, Harry processes an order for the new tire and asks, "What is the best way to reach you?" 
"Home or cell?" I ask.
He looks at me. 

"Either one. You tell me. Whichever is easier."
Every single question he asks brings a response like that from me as my brain slumbers.

Two days later the tire is in, and I arrive for my appointment. Harry writes up a ticket,  takes my keys and says "Okay, you're all set." 
"Oh, did I already pay?" 
"No. I mean you can have a seat while they care of the tire." 
"Oh, okay." 
Later, I will google "stupid behavior of smart people." 

Three weeks later, it's as if it never happened at all.  My tire is replaced, and I am happy as I drive past the tire store en route to meeting my father for lunch at our usual spot.  
I'm a little late. The parking lot is crowded and I don't want him to think I forgot about him and so, I pull into a space between the curb and a dumpster next to an area that is under construction. I feel a little bump, and then hear what sounds like someone dragging the edge of a metal shovel along the pavement.
 Please. I hear myself say. No.
I can't stand to get out of the car but I do, and rest my eyes on this new checkmark. It's a deep one. A piece of rubber is lying on the ground  and I pick it up. 

That's how.
It's three o'clock, the best time to drop by. I pull into the parking lot and carry the small rubber strip from the sidewall in with me. Harry is on the computer and looks over. 
 I hold out the piece.
"Oh, no."
"I was hoping you could just put this back on."
"Nope. Anytime you damage the sidewall..," he doesn't finish. 
We go out to the car together.
"Wow," says Harry. "You got the rim, this time.  That's interesting, because these tires protrude beyond the surface of the rim to protect it."
It is a week later and I arrive for my appointment. 
"Just the one tire this week?" asks Harry. He snickers.
"Harry, that's really funny," I say. But. I like him more for having a sense of humor, because I do speak that language.
The job is finished. I pay and am signing off on my service when Harry says, "Now remember," and makes a wide sweeping motion with his arm, "wiiiiiiiiiiiiide turns." He cracks up. 
"Ha ha ha. You know what, Harry? If you'd suggested that the first time, I wouldn't be here, now. Would I?"

But now we have a joke in common, and he laughs, "Just trying to save you a few bucks, that's all. Just trying to save you a few bucks." 
I leave the tire store and I'm happy.  My brain is up from its nap now, and lighter for already having dumped the tire details.  It asks me, what should we do now, that we are really, really good at? 
I tell my brain we should go stalk strange signs that are not located anywhere near a construction site and post them on Facebook. Off we go.

Here is a resourceful sign that uses backwards 2's for S's,
inverted P's for d's, and doesn't fuss with decimals
because who would ever think kids eat for $199.00?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. You
    Susan, I couldn't stop laughing. Really, guys go through the same thing and that is why your husband (chicken) deferred to Harry. Sometimes smart is knowing what you know, and having fun with, and admitting to what you don't. Are you close to a book yet? I would like to preorder please.

    1. Funny you say that...I wouldn't say close-close, but not far-far either. Thanks for the comment, Dale, and you're right. One must embrace one's cluelessness. We can't know everything, or want to.