There’s nothing so humbling as a flat tire.
So I was driving my mother to the hospital (Don’t worry, not an emergency, just some elective surgery, but with cancellation fees and wait times being what they are, it’s a good idea to show up on time.) when the steering goes wonky and I hear that characteristic *fwap*fwap*fwap* that can only be one thing – a flat.
So I pull over to look and, sure enough, there it is. Now, I could have called for a tow truck, but being a Manly Man with all the necessary parts and tools (or so I thought), I was obligated to change it myself. I believe that is line three of the Manly Man oath:
“Wherever there are flat tires to be be changed, you must stop and change them yourself and never, ever ask for help.”
You get the idea. Besides, if I called a tow truck, I’d be stuck there for an hour standing by the side of the road, and every one driving by would stare at me and laugh. That, and I don’t have a mobile phone, but that is a story for another day. Anyway, I dig through the trunk flotsam to get down to the bottom and pull out the spare “tire” and “jack”.
My first car was a 1971 Chevy Nova. I loved that car. If some idiot hadn’t totaled it in a parking lot I might still be driving it today. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of nostalgic hyperbole. It was already old when I got it, and the floor was rusted out so badly you could stick you foot right through like Fred Flintstone if you weren’t careful. I’ll always remember it fondly, however. They say you never forget your first love.
The reason I’m telling you this is because when I used to get a flat tire, it would take me all of ten minutes to change it and be on my way. I’d never had to change a tire on this car, so I was unaware of the advances in tire changing technology. I knew it was a compact spare, which in my humble opinion is more closely related to a bagel than a tire. I’m sure that they are some kind of “Big Tire” conspiracy to steal your life savings, but whatever, that wasn’t the problem. When I looked for the jack all I could find was a little black bag that looked like more like an folding umbrella than a jack. So I turned to my mother and said, “This is going to take longer than ten minutes. You better take a cab.”
(She’s fine, thank you for asking. She went off and eventually got a ride from some nice students who were on their way to the university. She was already in and out by the time I got there, done an hour early. Yay, Canadian healthcare system. More on nice people in a moment.)
So there’s this screwy wedge thing, which I assumed is the bit that goes under the car, and then there was this other bit, that I guess is supposed to fit into it, somehow. I could read the instructions, but that would be a violation of the second line of the Manly Man oath:
“Never read the instructions; you already know everything you need to know.”
Now I remember when a tire iron was a right, proper hunk of metal. You know, something you could beat a mugger to death with. (I mean, if you had to. I’m not speaking from experience here.) But what they gave me to use looked more like something that comes with your Ikea furniture, with a fancy little flip down socket on one end. I tell you, it was just precious. So to the designers of that little beauty, I and my bloody knuckles thank you. It was about two feet too short so I couldn’t get any leverage, and it kept slipping off. As a consolation, I now hold the world records for swearing at an inanimate object, in both volume and frequency. (Those records won’t stand long however; it is an election year in the States, after all.)
So long story short, I’m almost done when I hear a car pulling up behind me. I figure it’s another Manly Man, because the fourth line of the oath goes something like:
“If you see another Manly Man doing Manly Things, you must stop and offer unsolicited advice.”
But it’s not. Instead, there is a lovely young woman who has taken it upon herself to buy a stranger a cup of coffee. Now don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate the sentiment and the intention but let’s think about this for a minute.
First off, I rarely drink coffee. I know that is sacrilegious to some of you out there, but I don’t like the taste. It’s bitter and acrid unless you dump a bunch of sugar in it, so I might as well be drinking soda. Okay, I have the culinary tastes of a five-year-old. So, sue me. Coffee…ewww. Next, it was McDonald’s coffee. Double ewww. Especially when there was a Tim Horton’s a hundred meters away. (Cultural note: Tim Horton’s is the coffee/donut shop. In Canada, you are always a hundred meters (yards) away from a Tim Horton’s. It’s a federal law, or something.) I don’t have anything against McDonald’s in particular; I just don’t have anything for it either. Their food is industrial grade cafeteria fodder.
And I don’t like talking to strange people at the best of times. Tired, cold, frustrated, and bleeding by the side of the road is definitely not the best of times. Maybe when my mother told me not to talk to strangers, I took it a little too much to heart, but if someone walked up to you on the street and offered you free food, would you eat it? So, Nice Lady, I hope your act of charity made you feel all warm and fuzzy, because it me feel awkward, anxious and a little annoyed. People, before you offer help to someone, make sure they want and need it.
Speaking of charity, a Winnipeg bus driver recently made international news when he gave his shoes to a homeless man. I must say that is certainly an improvement over the last time a bus from Winnipeg was in the news. At least there were no decapitations this time. That sort of thing is bad for tourism.
And speaking of tourism, CBS (the American television network) is flying the kindly driver out to New York so it can do a feel-good piece on its morning show. I can’t help but think maybe the money they are wasting on airfare, hotel, limo, meals, and sundries for a couple of minutes of daytime schlock could have been better spent. Perhaps they could have bought a hundred pairs of shoes and donated them to shelters around the city. I’m just saying.
I heartily endorse random acts of kindness, but you have to wonder about its overall effectiveness in this sort of case. If you are wandering the streets of downtown Winnipeg barefoot in late September, you don’t need shoes – you need counseling, a support system, and probably some serious medical attention. Things which are in short supply for the poor in every city. I’d ask the mayor about that, but he’s in New York, too.
I think that’s enough of a rant for one day, so I’ll say farewell for now.
Also, the first line of the Manly Man oath is:
“Never ask for directions; you’re always where you want to be.”