DEL STONE JR.: I’m missing the change-a-flat-tire gene


DEL STONE JR. @DelSnwfdn

I stood in the bathroom, stymied by a bottle of foaming soap. The pump nozzle would not pop up and I could not figure out why. I had turned it this way and that, unscrewed it, twisted it, pulled on it, bashed it, cussed it — everything short of gnawing on it like a frustrated squirrel trying to chew its way out of the attic. In the end I unscrewed it and poured the soap into my hand.

There had to be a gene for knowing how things work and fixing them, I told myself. And in that gene pool I was at the kiddie end, splashing with the 4-year-olds while trying not to breath too much of the urine-flavored water. That was the case when the call came from a local medical clinic that Mom was there and she had a flat tire.

Mom had just bought a new vehicle and I was rejoicing. There would be no emergency “the-car-won’t-start” phone calls for the next three years. Her old car had served her well until one day when the fuel pump took a dirt bath. Then, the key refused to speak to the computer — probably some dirt there, too, though I refused to look too closely. I longed for the good old days when a key was an inert piece of metal that cost $2 to replace, not the chip-laden computerized small appliance we drag around in a wheeled suitcase because it’s too heavy to carry.

But now she had a new car, though why I thought it would be immune to flats, don’t tell me. Mom is the Nail Whisperer. Nails seek her out, find her tires and throw themselves into the rubber of Nail Nirvana.

I left the office and drove to the medical clinic. There was the tire, flat as the squirrel that had successfully chewed its way out of the attic and run into the road to celebrate. I had not changed a tire since they were made out of rock and powered by Fred Flintstone’s feet, so my expectations of success were the same as my expectations of becoming a decathalon athlete.

I managed to find the panels that had to be removed to get at the spare, one of those flimsy donuts that looked like an actual donut. The jack was nowhere to be seen.

That’s when a lady and her husband pulled up and asked if we needed help. I started to say, “No, dammit, I will figure this out or die trying,” but she was out of the car in a flash, along with her husband, who wisely stood off to the side.

I could not figure out where the jack was. She and I both looked at the hieroglyphics in the owner’s manual and it was she, not I, who stumbled onto the hiding place — a side panel where both the jack and tire iron were concealed, as if they were Tutankhamun’s gold.

I managed to pry off the wheel cover, which was not metal or hard plastic but a kind of soft, maddeningly flexible material that defied easy prying. The woman stepped in and got the wheel cover off as I backed away in cheering support mode.

And that’s the way it went. The woman stepped in and did the work when my genetic deficiency threatened to turn success into failure. At one point she actually jacked up the car, then lifted the spare into place and rammed it onto the threaded lug nut posts.

By the time we were done, i.e., “she,” the flat tire was in the trunk, along with the jack and iron, the spare was securely mounted to the wheel, and I was drenched in sweat from watching.

Our benefactress left without me getting her name, but she knows who she is, and I know she saved me at least an hour of sweating and cussing. Oh, and the white shirt I was wearing — it received nary a grease stain.

As for that bottle of soap, the next day I turned the nozzle and it popped up.

I did not need the lady’s help with that one!

Contact online editor Del Stone Jr. at (850) 315-4433 or Follow him on twitter at @delsnwfdn, and friend him on Facebook at dels nwfdn.