By The Bakersfield Californian
Call home. That's what the message said. The message said call home, so I called home.
"Did you know the front tire on your truck is flat?" Sue said.
Did I know the front tire on my truck was flat? I don't think she thinks I'm dumb. Maybe her comment was a gentle nod to the diminishing power of observation as one ages.
If you own a truck, you know when you have a flat. It's like having a child with a fever. They aren't sleeping well, and you aren't either.
"Yes, I knew the tire was flat," I said. "I saw it this morning. I plan to fix it soon."
If you have a flat, there is no better place than your own driveway. The ground is level. The fridge in the garage, stocked with cold beverages, is 15 feet away.
Usually when you have a flat, you are on a highway. A hot, busy boulevard. A place where people can see you and point.
"I'm sure glad I'm not that poor son of a ...," they think.
I know what "they" are thinking because I've been "they" before and that's what "they" think.
That tire was like cancer. Yesterday I had driven the truck and the tire was full and robust. Today it was flat.
I examined the tire. It looked like a plastic shiv was jammed into the tire. Either that or a shark's tooth.
The flat tire gave the truck the slumped-over look, as if it had given up and lost all hope.
Cheer up, old buddy. All is not lost. I will change your tire and, while I'm at it, pump up your attitude.
I have a theory about flat tires. If you don't fix them in the first hour, it might be days, weeks, or the rest of the year before you do. It's now or never.
"You know you have a flat tire," Bob said later that morning at work.
You don't say. My tire is flat? Well, I'll be.
"If you want, I can help you change it," Bob said.
What was Bob saying? Was he saying my skill set did not include changing a tire or was he saying he wanted a cold beer from the outside fridge and helping me change a flat tire might be a way of earning it?
"Don't worry, Bob," I said. "I'll probably change it tonight."
"Tonight" became tomorrow and tomorrow, next week. The days disappeared like leaves off a tree. The truck, sad, looked sadder.
"If you don't change the tire soon," Bob said the following week, "you might find a nest of raccoons taking up residence in it."
I understood. People are afraid if you don't change the tire, you might get discouraged and abandon the truck. No one wants to see an abandoned truck in their neighborhood. That means a guy has thrown in the towel. Next, he stops cutting the grass, taking out the trash and he's holed up in the house because he's watching reruns -- all of them.
I took out Big Red, my hydraulic floor jack. I wanted to avoid using the truck's jack, which I remembered as being flimsy the last time it was employed.
I couldn't get Big Red to elevate. If your jack doesn't elevate, you don't have a jack, you have a jill. I put Big Red back in the box and returned it to its place in the garage.
I removed the tire-changing tools from under the back seat. Good, I had a lug wrench. The lug wrench would permit me to unloosen the lug nuts, especially if I were as strong as the Incredible Hulk.
Half an hour later, the tire spun off. There was a pool of sweat on the concrete and I had bruised a nail. Not exactly the kind of performance that lands you a spot on Kevin Harvick's pit crew.
John patched the tire. I'm back in business. My attitude is better, and so is the truck's.
Bob, there is beer in the fridge. Open the gate. Help yourself.